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The music on this program explores such themes as politics, patriotism, religion, and art from a uniquely American perspective and includes the world première of a major new symphony for band by Jacob Bancks, written specifically for “The President’s Own.” Also, Philadelphia Orchestra principal clarinet Ricardo Morales will perform Jonathan Leshnoff’s stunning new Clarinet Concerto, originally written for Morales. Rounding out the program are works by John Philip Sousa and Samuel Barber that give a nod to our nation’s original capital city. The concert will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 19, at Northern Virginia Community College's Schlesinger Center in Alexandria, Va. Admission and parking are free. A string quartet will perform pre-concert music in the lobby at 1:15 p.m.

Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Brian Rust

Marine Band Concert: An American Parable

15 Mar 2017 | Gunnery Sergeant Rachel Ghadiali United States Marine Band

The American story is rich with tales of politics and patriotism, religion and art, and the birth of a culture unlike any other on Earth. The Marine Band will perform a concert with those themes called “An American Parable” at 2 p.m., Sunday, March 19, at Northern Virginia Community College’s Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria, Va. Conducted by Director Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig, the concert will feature a guest solo performance by Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Clarinet Ricardo Morales, as well as the world première of a new work by composer Jacob Bancks, written specifically for the Marine Band. The performance is free and no tickets are required. Free parking is available in the adjacent garage.


The concert will begin with two selections that both give a nod to America’s first capital city, Philadelphia: John Philip Sousa’s march, “The Liberty Bell,” followed by Samuel Barber’s Overture to The School for Scandal, written while Barber was finishing his studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. As for “The Liberty Bell,” Sousa was composing music for an operetta, and when an agreement on money could not be reached, he pulled the partially finished manuscript to publish elsewhere. It was one of the Sousa Band’s managers, George Hinton, who recommended Sousa title the march “The Liberty Bell” after Hinton saw a huge backdrop painting of the famous bell. Coincidentally, the next day Sousa received a letter from his wife mentioning their son had marched in his first parade in Philadelphia honoring the return of the Liberty Bell. Thus, the name stuck and the march was re-christened.


Following Barber’s Overture, the Marine Band will welcome Morales to the stage to perform Jonathan Leshnoff’s Clarinet Concerto, Nekudim, in a new transcription by the composer. Leshnoff originally composed the work for Morales and The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the work hearkens to a connection the composer discovered between the Hebrew alphabet and the clarinet. Leshnoff explained that the clarinet is connected by breath as is the Hebrew alphabet, whose written letters are just consonants. “In order to give the letter any type of direction, it needs a vowel, which are notated by lines and dots, called “nikkudim” in Hebrew,” Leshnoff said. “The letter itself is like a dead body, it just exists on its own but doesn’t do anything. It requires the breath to make that letter alive.” Leshnoff subtitled his concerto Nekudim – the lines and dots in the Hebrew alphabet – that represent the vowels and breath to bring both words and music alive.

On performing the piece Morales said, “What I hope that the audience will hear is the essence of what it is to have fun playing the clarinet.” Morales and The Philadelphia Orchestra premièred the piece in April 2016. The Marine Band will première the new transcription for wind ensemble.


The concert’s final selection is Jacob Banck’s Occidental Symphony, written for “The President’s Own” and inspired by Vachel Lindsay’s 1919 poem “Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan” about William Jennings Bryan’s remarkable 1896 presidential campaign. Nicknamed “The Great Commoner,” Bryan was an American orator and politician from Nebraska who ran three times as the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States of America. Although Bryan gave 500 speeches in 27 states during his first campaign and had a strong populist following, he ended up losing the presidency to William McKinley who won the electoral college but had a very narrow marginal win with the popular vote.

Prior to the performance, a string quartet will offer pre-concert music in the lobby beginning at 1:15 p.m. Immediately following the concert, Lt. Col. Fettig, Ricardo Morales, Jonathan Leshnoff, and Jacob Bancks will be available in the lobby to chat with patrons about the program and performance.

Complete program and notes