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The President’s Own” United States Marine Band is pleased to announce the release of its fourth volume of “The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa.” This multi-year recording project, initiated by Director Col. Jason K. Fettig, is the Marine Band’s first comprehensive collection of Sousa’s marches since the 1970s. The collection is in chronological order, and Volume 4 contains 20 marches, covering the years 1899 to 1916, a period that produced such popular marches as “Hands Across the Sea,” “Hail to the Spirit of Liberty,” and “The Fairest of the Fair.” Volumes 1–4 are currently available for free download exclusively on the Marine Band website, along with full PDF scores and parts, scrolling videos, and historical notes about each piece.

Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Brian Rust

The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa Vol. 4

10 Apr 2018 | Master Sgt. Kristin duBois United States Marine Band

The U.S. Marine Band released Volume 4 of The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa on April 9, 2018 available here The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa is a multi-year recording project with an added bonus educational element. In addition to the recorded marches to download and listen to, users will also be able to download for free full scores, parts, historical notes, and performance practices for each march, as well as listen to the marches with scrolling scores on YouTube. Marine Band Director Col. Jason K. Fettig and Music Production Chief Master Gunnery Sgt. Donald Patterson edited and annotated each score, and Col. Fettig rehearsed and recorded the band in each selection. The culmination is now four volumes of freshly restored Sousa marches that are available to educators, community bands, and fans alike. The musical decisions included in these editions were influenced by the work of several outstanding Sousa scholars combined with many decades of Marine Band performance tradition. These editions would not be possible without the exceptional contributions to the study of Sousa’s marches by Capt. Frank Byrne (USMC, ret.), Jonathan Elkus, Col. Timothy Foley (USMC, ret.), Loras Schissel, Dr. Patrick Warfield, and “The March King’s” biographer, the late Paul Bierley. 

Volume 4 covers marches composed from 1899-1916. “A few things happened during this part of Sousa’s professional life,” Fettig explained. “The first is that the Sousa Band began to hit its stride performing regularly across the country and Sousa’s fame as a composer grew in tandem with his substantial notoriety as a band leader. A steady stream of requests for new marches poured in, and the more Sousa composed, the more polished his pieces became. By this time, in the years that followed the composition of ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever,’ he had truly mastered the march forms that became his signature, and many of the marches in this collection are among the finest of his career. The other major event that occurred during this period is the beginning of the First World War and America impending entry into the conflict. At the end of this particular volume, there are hints of the fact that Sousa’s marches will soon begin to take an even more patriotic turn as he looks to serve the War effort both personally and through the inspiration found in his music.”     

“As we have continued this project—and having just passed the halfway mark on our way to documenting Sousa’s 136 completed marches—we have really hit our stride recording this music, much in the way Sousa completely found his way as a composer during this period,” Fettig said. “The Marine Band knows many of these marches intimately, but some are performed far less frequently and are new to many members of the band. However, as we have spent more and more time with Sousa’s music through these recording sessions, the band has begun to intuitively understand exactly how to bring each of these marches to life without needing much direction. Work on every successive volume has brought me increasing joy as we have dug deeply into these miniature masterpieces in an effort to document the amazing expressiveness and drama built in to each one of Sousa’s wonderful marches.”     

The Marches

The United States was fully engaged in the Spanish-American War by 1899 and it was this conflict that inspired two of Sousa’s marches that year: “Hands Across the Sea” and “The Man Behind the Gun.” In the March 1918 issue of the “Great Lakes Recruit,” Sousa explained, “After the Spanish war there was some feeling in Europe about our republic regarding this war. Some of the nations ... thought we were not justified while others gave us credit for the honesty of our purpose. One night I was reading an old play and I came across this line, ‘A sudden thought strikes me,—let us swear an eternal friendship.’ That almost immediately suggested the title ‘Hands Across the Sea’ for that composition and within a few weeks that now famous march became a living fact.” Sousa wrote “The Man Behind the Gun” for his operetta “Chris and the Wonderful Lamp.” According to his biographer Paul Bierley, Sousa explained to a reporter why he has found success in writing marches: “A composition in march tempo must have the military instinct, and that is one reason why so few of the great composers have written successful marches. They lived in an atmosphere of peace. The roll of musketry had no meaning for them, so that quality is entirely absent from their work. The Spanish War was an inspiration to me. ‘The Man Behind the Gun’ was a musical echo of it.”

Sousa was on a European tour with his band in 1900 and performed in Paris for the World’s Fair. On July 4 the band performed for the unveiling of a grand statue of Lafayette. Bierley explained, “It was presented on behalf of the children of the United States by Ferdinand W. Peck, commissioner general of the Paris Exposition, as President Loubet of France looked on. The monument portrayed Lafayette on horseback offering his sword to the American cause in the Revolutionary War and was draped with a huge American flag. At the unveiling the Sousa Band gave the first performance of the march composed specifically for that moment: ‘Hail to the Spirit of Liberty.’ Immediately after the ceremony, the band made one of its rare appearances in a parade as it marched through the main streets of Paris.”

While Sousa’s talent for crafting a march was evident, his process was less so. However, Bierley explained in his book, “The Works of John Philip Sousa,” that the Sousa Band’s soprano vocalist Blanche Duffield provided a rare written account of Sousa composing his next march, “The Invincible Eagle,” during travel between engagements in 1901:

It was [on] a train between Buffalo and New York. Outside the coach the lights of towns along the route flashed by like ghosts fluttering at the window panes. The night was dark and the few stars above twinkled fitfully. Mr. Sousa sat in his chair in the dimly lit Pullman. At the further end of the car a porter diligently brushed cushions. At intervals the engine whistled as if in pain.

Suddenly and without previous warning Mr. Sousa began to describe circles in the air with a pencil, jerking back and forth in his seat meanwhile. Gradually the circumference of his pencil’s arcs diminished and Mr. Sousa drew a notebook from his pocket, still humming to himself.

Notebook and pencil met. Breves and semi-breves appeared on the page’s virgin surface. Quarter notes and sixteenth notes followed in orderly array. Meanwhile Mr. Sousa furrowed his brow and from his pursed lips came a stirring air—rather a martial blare, as if hidden trombones, tubas, and saxophones were striving to gain utterance.

Now Mr. Sousa’s pencil traveled faster and faster, and page after page of the notebook were turned back, each filled with martial bars. [I] looked on from over the top of a magazine and listened with enthusiasm as Mr. Sousa’s famous march, “The Invincible Eagle,” took form.

I tried to attract Mr. Sousa’s attention while he was supplying the accompaniment of flutes, oboes, bassoons and piccolos, but it was not until he had picked out the march on a violin on his fingers, put his notebook in his pocket, his [imaginary] violin in his case and his cigar back in his mouth that he finally turned toward me and casually remarked that it was a very dark night outside.”

In 1901 Sousa also composed a march for the rededication of the Music Hall at the Pittsburgh Exposition and employed melodies from Pittsburgh natives Stephen Foster and Ethelbert Nevin. The title of the march, “The Pride of Pittsburgh,” was chosen from a newspaper contest, but Sousa also referred it to it in performances as “The Belle of Pittsburgh,” “Homage to Pittsburgh,” and “Homage to Nevin and Foster.”

His next two marches, “Imperial Edward” and “Jack Tar,” were no doubt inspired by his band’s tour of England and its royal family. Upon the death of Queen Victoria in early 1901, her son Edward VII immediately ascended to the throne but wasn’t crowned until August 1902. In December 1901 Sousa met with King Edward VII and asked to write a march in his honor. He received permission and premièred the march in Montreal in 1902. Bierley wrote, “A beautiful illuminated manuscript was made by the John Church Company, publishers of the march …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.” Sousa received a thank you letter from General D. M. Probyn, the Keeper of his Majesty’s Privy Purse. Probyn wrote, “His Majesty has commanded me to ask you to convey his thanks to Mr. Sousa for the march and to acquaint you with the fact that his Majesty has given directions for the music of the march to be transposed so that it may be played by several of the principal Military Bands of England.”

Although he didn’t get to perform “Imperial Edward” for the King, he did premiere “Jack Tar” at a special command performance at Royal Albert Hall in London in 1903. Bierley wrote, “The King, Queen, and the Prince and Princess of Wales were present as the new march was played by the combined bands of the Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards, Himenoa Band of New Zealand, Sousa’s Band, and the Queen’s Hall Orchestra.” Sales from the sheet music were given to the Union Jack Club in London, a service club intent on assisting British soldiers and sailors.

His next march, “The Diplomat,” was composed in 1904 in Mitchell, S. D., and according to Sousa it was inspired by, “a good tenderloin steak, German fried potatoes and plenty of bread and butter.” He went on to say that while he mentally dedicated the march to the unseen cook who prepared the tenderloin he officially dedicated the March to then-Secretary of State John Milton Hay, a widely admired statesman and diplomat.

“The Free Lance” was a lengthy march written in 1906 and was derived from his operetta of the same name. A year later Sousa wrote “Powhatan’s Daughter” for the Jamestown Exposition, which marked the 300th anniversary of its settlement. And in 1909 he wrote “The Glory of the Yankee Navy” for the musical comedy “The Yankee Girl.”

Although Sousa’s march “The Fairest of the Fair” has the distinction of being inspired by a pretty girl, it is also one of Sousa’s most popular compositions. The events leading up to its premiere, however, make it the stuff of legend. Bierley explained the near-disaster with happy ending:

The Boston Food Fair was an annual exposition and music jubilee held by the Boston Retail Grocers’ Association. The Sousa Band was the main musical attraction for several seasons, so the creation of a new march honoring the sponsors of the 1908 Boston Food Fair was the natural outgrowth of a pleasant business relationship.

Because of an oversight, the march almost missed its première. Nearly three months before the fair, Sousa had completed a sketch of the march for the publisher. He also wrote out a full conductor’s score from which the individual band parts were to have been extracted. The band had just finished an engagement the night before the fair’s opening and had boarded a sleeper train for Boston. Louis Morris, the band’s copyist, was helping the librarian sort music for the first concert, and he discovered that the most important piece on the program—“The Fairest of the Fair”—had not been prepared.

According to Morris’s own story, the librarian, whose job it had been to prepare the parts, went into a panic. There was good reason; considerable advance publicity had been given to the new march, and the fair patrons would be expecting to hear it. In addition, the piano sheet music had already been published, and copies were to be distributed free to the first five hundred ladies entering the gates of the fair.

Morris rose to the occasion. He asked the porter of the train to bring a portable desk, which he placed on a pillow across his lap. He worked the entire night, and the parts were nearly finished when dawn broke. Both were greatly surprised by the appearance of Sousa, who had arisen to take his usual early morning walk. When asked about the frenzied activity, they had no choice but to tell exactly what had happened.

There were many times in the life of John Philip Sousa when he demonstrated his benevolence and magnanimity, and this was surely one of them. After recognizing Morris’s extraordinary effort and remarking that it was saving the band from considerable embarrassment, he instructed him to complete his work and to take a well-deserved rest, even if it meant sleeping through the first concert.

With no one the wiser, Louis Morris—hero of the day—was asleep in his hotel as Sousa’s Band played “The Fairest of the Fair” for the first time on September 28, 1908. Sousa did not mention the subject again, but Morris found an extra fifty dollars in his next pay envelope —the equivalent of two weeks salary.

In 1910 the Sousa Band departed on a world tour but not before Sousa composed “The Federal” in honor of the people of Australia and New Zealand. When the band returned after the year-long tour, Sousa relaxed with horseback riding and trapshooting and taking a three year hiatus from writing marches. He composed an operetta in 1913 called “The American Maid (The Glass Blowers)” from which Sousa extracted a march he called “From Maine to Oregon.” He composed two more marches in 1914: “Columbia’s Pride” and “The Lambs’ March.” “Columbia’s Pride” grew from Sousa’s 1890 song, “Nail the Flag to the Mast” and was only heard on the piano because he never arranged it for band or orchestra, according to Bierley. Another of Sousa’s operetta’s inspired “The Lambs’ March.” “The Smugglers” was not a commercial success so he repurposed the music for a march he dedicated to the Lambs Club of New York, America’s first professional theater club with such members as Fred Astaire, Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, Cecil B. DeMille, and other such luminaries from stage and screen.

The next two years were a busy time for Sousa. When he wasn’t composing he was leading his band for nine months at the New York Hippodrome and later at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Sousa dedicated his march “The New York Hippodrome” to its manager Charles Dillingham who may be credited with creating the first nationwide flashmob. According to Bierley, “In a salute to Sousa on his 61st birthday, Dillingham arranged to have over 200 theater orchestras around the country play the [The New York Hippodrome] at precisely the same time.” When Sousa arrived in San Francisco a local reporter requested a march for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition so Sousa penned “The Pathfinder of Panama.” The Panama Canal had just opened the year before and it shortened the distance from San Francisco to New York by 8,000 miles. Later that year Sousa wrote another march he was inspired to call “America First” after a speech President Woodrow Wilson gave at the 25th anniversary of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Wilson said, “Our whole duty for the present is summed up in the motto ‘America First.’” Sousa dedicated the march to then-president of the DAR, Mrs. William Cumming Story and included quotes from such songs as “Dixie,” “Maryland, My Maryland,” “We’re Off to Philadelphia in the Morning,” and “Yankee Doodle.” Toward the end of 1916 the Sousa Band was engaged in a number of performances for the Hip Hip Hooray show in Philadelphia. On his 62nd birthday, the Boy Scouts of America presented him with a silver cup in appreciation of his latest march which he wrote for them. According to Bierley, “Dr. Charles D. Hart, president of the Philadelphia scout organization, had asked Sousa to compose the march. Sousa responded with a march that ‘absolutely breathes the boy; it visualizes the supple step of the boy marching, and not the heavy tread of the man.’”

“In my opinion, some of the very best marches Sousa ever composed are in this volume, including ‘Hands Across the Sea,’ ‘The Invincible Eagle,’ ‘The Diplomat,’ ‘The Fairest of the Fair,’ ‘New York Hippodrome’ and ‘The Pathfinder of Panama,’” Fettig declared. “Among the lesser known marches, there are a few gems that I have particularly enjoyed getting to know better through this project, most notably ‘The Man Behind the Gun,’ ‘The Federal’ and ‘The Lambs’ March.’”

The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa: Volume 4 is now available for free exclusively on the Marine Band website, including MP3s, full PDF scores with parts, and performance practice notes. All tracks are also available for listening, with scrolling scores, at


Download Volume 4

Volume 4 Playlist on YouTube

John Philip Sousa Biography