“Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company” (1924)
“I have always found a great deal of inspiration in these old songs. … We cannot improve simple straightforward melodies, but we can give them a more adequate, full-throated expression….” Sousa made this statement to a newspaper reporter in discussing the new march he had just build around “Auld Lang Syne.”
“Auld Lang Syne” happened to be the marching song of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston, the oldest military organization in the United States. When the Sousa Band visited Boston in 1923, a delegation from the “Ancients” requested that Sousa compose a march incorporating the song so dear to them. He gave them his word. Formal solicitation by Governor Cox of Massachusetts and the commander of the company, Capt. Clarence J. McKenzie, followed shortly.
The Sousa Band’s strenuous thirty-second annual tour lay ahead of Sousa, but he wasted no time in penning the new march when the tour ended, and it was promptly published. “Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company” was the featured march of the next tour, and a formal presentation was made to the “Ancients” at Symphony Hall in Boston on September 21, 1924.
Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 40. Used by permission.