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"The President's Own"


"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
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Marine Band Gala Concert Celebrates Walt Whitman

By Gunnery Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali | United States Marine Band | March 6, 2019


This year marks the 200th birthday of the great American poet, author, and patriot Walt Whitman. In celebration of this special anniversary, the Marine Band, directed by Colonel Jason K. Fettig, will present a free concert titled “Anthems” in collaboration with the Choral Arts Society of Washington and Artistic Director Scott Tucker. The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m., Monday, March 11 at The Music Center at Strathmore. Though all tickets have been distributed, empty seats will be filled by patrons in the standby queue which forms at 6:45 p.m. The concert will also stream live at www.youtube.com/usmarineband.

The essence of much of Whitman’s work may be captured within the word “anthem.” His language was one of praise­—for music, heroism, nature, or the human spirit. Whitman observed and elevated common events around him as defining elements of the American experience and celebrated them as virtues in his remarkable prose. In celebration of his bicentennial, the Marine Band has partnered with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation and the Choral Arts Society of Washington to commission a new work for chorus and band from American composer Dominick DiOrio based on Whitman’s works. Silent Moves the Symphony True takes its name from Whitman’s seminal collection of poetry, “Leaves of Grass.”

“Dominick has written an original and very powerful piece. He took text from several different Whitman poems and the common thread is a celebration of music,” Fettig said. “He has done a remarkable job capturing so many different emotions and angles and aspects of Whitman’s work in this 11-minute piece. It’s a celebration of life and music in this very rugged way that only Whitman could capture, and Dominick has really painted that beautifully.”

“When Colonel Jason Fettig and Scott Tucker approached me to write a new work for the joint forces of ‘The President’s Own’ United States Marine Band and the Choral Arts Society of Washington, I knew that I wanted to create a work that combined the best sounds of both genres,” DiOrio said. “I’ve known of ‘The President’s Own’ as one of our country’s preeminent ensembles for years, and so the chance to write this work is truly a dream come true. When I told my family, they were so ecstatic and very proud. In addition, I’ve known Scott Tucker since my time as a student at Ithaca College when he was teaching across the way at Cornell, so the chance to collaborate with him and the Choral Arts Society is the icing on the cake. I’m truly excited to hear what these outstanding musicians do together to bring my piece to life!”

Along with the world première of Silent Moves the Symphony True, the program includes substantial works that also serve as anthems in diverse and interesting ways, including Morton Gould’s Star-Spangled Overture from American Ballads and William Schuman’s American Hymn. The Choral Arts Society of Washington will perform “The Last Invocation” by Randall Thompson, one of the foremost composers of choral music in America during the 20th century. The text, also from “Leaves of Grass,” depicts the hour of death and release of the soul. The performance culminates with one of the very first symphonies composed for wind band, Hector Berlioz’s monumental Symphonie funèbre et triomphale, Opus 15.

“Berlioz’s Symphonie funèbre et triomphale was one of the first symphonies for wind band in the 1840s,” Fettig explained. “It’s interesting to note that the piece is 35 minutes long and the chorus only comes in for the last four minutes. But when they do, it is incredibly dramatic. It’s really a stunning piece of work and a challenge—a massive band with exotic percussion, six field drums, and a really heroic choral finale which brings the whole thing to a grand conclusion.”

In addition to streaming the concert live at youtube.com/usmarineband, the Marine Band will record Symphonie funèbre et triomphale and several other pieces on the program to be released in December as the band’s annual educational recording.

“The concept is to capture this idea of odes to something, whether it’s heroism or revolution,” Fettig said. “What ties all of these pieces together from Whitman to some of the other pieces on the program is the concept of praise of something notable through music. Many of Whitman’s poems could be considered anthems, and Berlioz’s symphony is an anthem to heroism and the sense of heroic action, so hopefully it will be a project that will resonate for years to come.”

Concert Program and Notes

Directions and Parking

Learn more about the Choral Arts Society of Washington

Learn more about the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation

The concert will take place at The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Md. The concert is free, but tickets are recommended. All tickets are valid until 7:15 p.m., at which point any remaining seats will be filled with patrons from the standby 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.

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