“Imperial Edward” (1902)
On December 1, 1901, while on a tour of England, the Sousa Band played a command performance at Sandringham. In a conversation with the royal family after the concert Sousa requested and received permission to dedicate a march to His Majesty the King. The first draft was completed the following April while Sousa was vacationing at Hot Springs, Virginia, and the new march was premiered by the Sousa Band in Montreal on May 21, 1902. A beautiful illuminated manuscript was made by the John Church Company, publishers of the march, and this was carried to England by George Frederick Hinton, manager of the Sousa Band. This manuscript is now at the British Museum in London. Hidden in the trio of the march is a trombone solo consisting of a fragment of “God Save the King.” When the piece was performed by the Sousa Band, it was customary for the trombone section to rise at this point, play the brief solo fortissimo, and then be seated.
For some reason, Sousa revealed his displeasure with the march almost twenty-two years after it was written. In the 1923 Sousa Band programs at Willow Grove was the following quotation:
I have never written a piece of music that I did not feel the inspiration. I have never turned out but one piece that I consider in any manner mechanical. That was “Imperial Edward,” the march I dedicated to King Edward on my second [sic] command to play before him—and that had to be finished in a hurry. For a part of it I felt an inspiration. For the rest, instead of digging down to the vein of gold, I struck a vein of ashes and used it.
Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 43. Used by permission.