Washington DC -- style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">The Marine Band Library’s mission is to support the full range of musical commitments tasked by the White House; the Director of Public Affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps; and the Director of “The President’s Own.” The library is one of the nation’s oldest and largest performing music libraries, with holdings exceeding 100,000 music titles for band, orchestra, chamber ensembles, dance band, and piano. But what many don’t know is that the Marine Band Library also houses hundreds of historical artifacts and archival items, including some personal items of John Philip Sousa and treasured Sousa encore books.
In addition to supporting the Marine Band with sheet music, books, periodicals, and reference recordings, the Library serves two other functions. It is an archive where thousands of photos and documents related to the unit’s storied history are preserved and used daily for research. The librarians are also curators, in conjunction with the National Museum of the Marine Corps, of hundreds of Marine Band artifacts, including uniforms and instruments, that help depict the band’s history. Some of the most cherished historical items in the collections include the manuscript scores for Sousa’s marches “Semper Fidelis” and “The Liberty Bell,” as well as Marine Band uniforms dating back as early as the 1870s.
“We credit Sousa with establishing the Marine Band’s permanent library collection; assigning his brother George, a percussionist in the band from 1877 to 1908, as our first librarian in 1898,” notes Chief Librarian Master Gunnery Sgt. Jane Cross. “Research has shown that previously it was common for bands to use music that was either the personal property of the director or the musicians.”
Over the course of many years with his Sousa Band (1893- 1932), the famous director developed his own large library collection and a unique programming style. One aspect of that style the showman was famous for was including encores throughout his performances. During an interview with the Washington Star newspaper in 1900, Sousa said: “If I can please my audiences with more, I am willing to please them. It is the work that I was put in the world to do.”
It was tradition in the Sousa Band to play two or more encores after each program selection, meaning that a program with 10 pieces on it could expand into 25. These encores were announced to audiences by placing a large card on an easel at the front of the stage.
According to the late Sousa scholar Paul Bierley, “Upon sensing the need for an encore, Sousa would indicate his choice to the bandsmen close to him. The word was rapidly passed through the band, because he was quickly up on the podium again and ready to begin.”
The encores contrasted with the preceding piece and could be popular songs or short classics, but most often they were Sousa’s marches. The music was pasted into ledger-sized books. Older members of the band played from memory, while new members relied on the encore books.
The Sousa Band library was likely the largest privately owned collection of its time, and when not used for touring, it was stored in warehouses in New York City. It is believed that this collection ultimately ended up in five segments.
In 1931, Sousa gifted a portion to Victor Grabel, a bandmaster at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station during World War I. These titles dated from 1892-97. Grabel eventually sold part of the collection to Louis Blaha, who left the music to J. Sterling Morton High School in Cicero, Ill., and is now at the Library of Congress. The remaining portion Grabel later donated to Stetson University in Deland, Fla. In 1969, Stetson transferred it to the U.S. Marine Corps where it was stored with the Marine Band.
Also during 1931, Sousa gifted a small portion of his library to Albert Austin Harding, the first Director of Bands at the University of Illinois in Urbana–Champaign. This collection contained a few dozen works that were mostly Russian.
Following Sousa’s death in 1932, his widow gave what was thought to be the remaining portion of her husband’s collection to the University of Illinois in Urbana–Champaign. This lot, the bulk of his personal library, contained 40 trunks and 18,000 pounds of music. But unbeknownst to the family, there was still a portion of the collection unaccounted for, including a set of the precious encore books.
These encore books were considered missing until about 1940, when they were discovered in two trunks in a warehouse in New York. Since these items were considered unclaimed articles, they were purchased for the minimal cost of the storage price. The buyer was Reginald Walker, a neighbor of the Sousas. Walker left these possessions to his son Charles Hyde Walker, who used the music from the encore books while playing in his high school band in Port Washington, N.Y. In 1967, he donated the music to the U.S. Marine Band. The gift included 100 compositions and a set of encore books.
The encore books contain 91 tunes and 30 complete band arrangements (marches), concert programs, and sheet music. The most valuable part of the collection: the original manuscript of “The Liberty Bell.”
Until May 2016, the fragile encore books have only been available to researchers and scholars able to visit the Marine Band Library. In an effort to make these materials more accessible and to help preserve the content, the librarians had the books digitized to make them available online to a much wider audience.
“There are 44 books,” explains Cross. “The books include occasional notes from Sousa Band members and many pieces are the earliest known editions of these marches. The books have helped us understand Sousa’s performance practice and instrumentation choices, which have proven invaluable as our production team works on ‘The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa’ recording project.”
The complete set of Sousa Encore Books can now be accessed for free here: http://www.marineband.marines.mil/About/Library-and-Archives/Encore-Books/