MARINE BARRACKS WASHINGTON, D.C. --
Very few American institutions are nearly as old as the country itself. The Declaration of Independence celebrated 242 this year, the Constitution turns 231, and the USS Constitution Navy warship turned 220 last year. The U.S. Marine Band is also a member of this exclusive club. On July 10, “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band will celebrate its own 220th anniversary. The Marine Band traces its founding to an Act of Congress signed by President John Adams on July 11, 1798, which reorganized the U.S. Marine Corps and called for 32 drummers and fifers and established the Marine Band as America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization. This special anniversary will be celebrated in concert at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 10, at The Music Center at Strathmore with guest conductor, composer, and piano soloist Bramwell Tovey. The concert is free, but tickets are required. Although all tickets have been distributed, empty seats will be filled by standby patrons. The concert will also stream live at www.youtube.com/usmarineband.
Marine Band Director Col. Jason K. Fettig’s vision for this concert honors the past with an eye on the future. “All season we have been honoring the legacy of the Marine Band with concerts that help tell the story of different chapters in the band’s history,” he said. “That evolution has made the present Marine Band one of the great concert ensembles in the world and I wanted to craft a program that celebrated that important status—including some of the finest concert repertoire conducted by an internationally lauded guest conductor, Bramwell Tovey.”
Described by Musical America as “one of the most versatile and charismatic musicians in the world,” Bramwell Tovey is a GRAMMY and Juno award-winning conductor/composer and music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) from 2000-18. Under his leadership the VSO has toured China, Korea, Canada, and the United States. Tovey is also the artistic adviser of the VSO School of Music, a state-of-the-art facility and recital hall which opened in downtown Vancouver in 2011.
An active composer, Tovey won the 2003 Juno Award for Best Classical Composition for his choral and brass work Requiem for a Charred Skull. Past commissions include the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Toronto Symphony, and Calgary Opera who premièred his first full length opera The Inventor in 2011. In 2014 his trumpet concerto, Songs of the Paradise Saloon, was performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Alison Balsom as soloist, and was subsequently repeated by the same soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in December 2014. A talented pianist as well as conductor and composer, Tovey has appeared as soloist with many major orchestras including the New York, Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Toronto, and Royal Scottish orchestras. In the summer of 2014 he played and conducted George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and in Saratoga Springs, New York, with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has performed his own Pictures in the Smoke with the Melbourne and Helsingborg Symphonies and the Royal Philharmonic.
While Tovey has primarily worked with orchestras in recent decades, he began his career steeped in the brass band and military band traditions of his native England, and he continues to maintain an affinity for the wind ensemble medium. “I had long been aware of Maestro Tovey’s brilliant work with many of the world’s finest orchestras, as well as his history and strong connection with bands,” Fettig said. “He seemed like a conductor with the perfect combination of interests and experience to work with our musicians. When our former Assistant Director Major Michelle Rakers ended up meeting him in person, it presented the opportunity to invite him.”
Maestro Tovey and Fettig collaborated on the anniversary program selections. “From the beginning, we knew that the music should be largely American as a nod to the Marine Band’s identity as an important American organization,” Fettig said, “but it also seemed fitting to include some English music as a tip of the cap to some of America’s original roots as well as those of our guest conductor. The result was a program rich with masterpieces by some of our most revered American and British composers, and a showcase for the band, the Marine Chamber Orchestra and even the incredible versatility of our guest, who will also serve as composer and piano soloist!”
The program includes Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide; Tovey’s Manhattan Music for brass quintet and wind ensemble; George Gershwin’s 1924 jazz band version of Rhapsody in Blue, with Tovey as the piano soloist; Edward Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro, Opus 47, for string quartet and Marine Chamber Orchestra; William Walton’s Coronation March, Orb and Sceptre; Aaron Copland’s Suite from The Red Pony; and John Philip Sousa’s March, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
“It’s fair to say that Tovey is very excited about the opportunity to work with us,” Fettig said. “Upon receiving our invitation, he worked hard to make this specific anniversary date fit into his incredibly busy conducting schedule that takes him all over the world. We are grateful for his enthusiasm in helping us to mark this very special anniversary for ‘The President’s Own.’”
The concert will take place at The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Md. The concert is free, but tickets are required. All tickets are valid until 7:15 p.m., at which point any remaining seats will be filled with patrons from the stand-by queue. Free parking is available in the Grosvenor/Strathmore Metro parking garage. The concert will stream live at www.marineband.marines.mil and www.youtube.com/usmarineband.