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"The President's Own"


"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
Unit News
The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa: Vol. 5

By Staff Sgt. Chase Baran | United States Marine Band | April 10, 2019


On April 10, 2019, the United States Marine Band released Volume 5 of The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa. This multi-year recording project offers a wealth of free, in-depth educational resources for each piece, including full scores, individual parts, historical notes, recordings, performance practices, and scrolling score videos. These materials are available for download on the Marine Band’s website. Click here.

With the release of this fifth volume, materials for 20 additional Sousa marches have been added to the collection, bringing the total number of available marches to 95 out of the 136 that Sousa composed. This particular installment includes pieces from the years 1917 through 1922, and based on the pieces written during most of these years, it is evident how pervasive the war effort was in the United States—even influencing music of the World War I era.

“The diversity of the marches in Volume 5 perfectly represent this important time in Sousa’s life and career as he transitioned back to civilian life with the reverberations of the war still very much on his mind,” said Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director of “The President’s Own.” “Nearly all of the marches in this volume from 1917 and 1918 are war marches, either written to support the war or composed in honor of certain military organizations and troops. Many of these—U.S Field Artillery, Bullets and Bayonets, Sabre and Spurs, and Solid Men to the Front—are among his finest marches and he would perform them regularly for the rest of his life. After the war ended, Sousa continued to pay tribute to those who sacrificed so much, including on this volume the funeral march, The Golden Star from 1919, composed in memory of Teddy Roosevelt’s son Quentin. The rest of the marches in this volume from 1919-1922 represent some of Sousa’s masterpieces, most notably Comrades of the Legion, Who’s Who in Navy Blue, and The Gallant Seventh, all three of which are also military-themed marches. As has been the case with all of these volumes, there are also several somewhat lesser-known gems that deserve renewed attention; the marches that particularly stand out in this volume are The White Rose, The Naval Reserve, The Volunteers, Wisconsin Forward Forever, and On the Campus.”

“After the War,” Fettig continued, “Sousa left his Navy service and returned to touring with his Sousa Band. Although the near-universal thread of patriotism in his music subsided a little bit after the war, those themes continued to be a major part of his repertoire and concerts, and many of the marches he wrote during the war became a core part of the repertoire of the Sousa Band, mixed in with the standard fare of light classics, solos and dances. Sousa was very proud of his service in the Navy during WWI, and continued to wear his Navy uniform on many occasions for the remainder of his life.”

Each score was carefully edited and annotated by Col. Fettig and Music Production Chief Master Gunnery Sgt. Donald Patterson, and then performed and recorded by musicians of “The President’s Own.” 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.


The Marches:

Considered an act of patriotic duty, the purchase of war bonds played an important role in funding the United States’ involvement in the first World War. Much like the clever use of poster advertising used to promote buying bonds, it is no wonder that music, too, was employed to support the effort. Written by request for the Fourth Liberty Loan campaign of the World War I, Sousa initially struggled to find a melody for the “Liberty Loan” march, but inspiration overtook him while traveling from Kansas City to Chicago, and was able to produce the piece after two tireless nights of writing. The march was eventually dedicated to the officers and men of the 40th United States Infantry. Sousa also later wrote “Flags of Freedom” at the request of Joseph W. Gannon, Division of Associated Flags chairman of the Fourth Liberty Loan drive, but it never saw the popularity of “Liberty Loan” because it was created shortly before the war’s end.

Other marches in this volume were solely dedicated to those individuals who were directly serving the country. USAAC March, for example, was written at the request of Col. C. P. Franklin, the commanding officer of Allentown, Pa.’s U.S. Army Ambulance Corps. Volunteers of this group were highly decorated for their bravery in the war, so Sousa was greatly pleased to honor their work through a march. In a similar manner, Sousa wrote “Sabre and Spurs” for officers and men of the 311th Cavalry, “Bullets and Bayonets” dedicated to the U.S. Infantry, and a piece named “Solid Men to the Front” which suggests its general support for service members.

Additionally, Sousa fulfilled Army Lt. George Friedlander’s request to compose a march for the 306th Field Artillery, suggesting that the march be built around an artillery song then known by such names as “The Caisson Song,” “The Caissons Go Rolling Along,” and “The Field Artillery Song.” Sousa liked the song and used it as a launching point for his own version. Among other changes, he altered the key and harmonic structure, and gave it a more refined, snappier rhythm. Published as the “U.S. Field Artillery” march, Sousa’s craftsmanship transformed the little-known artillery song into the army’s most popular melody. Eventually it was adopted by the Army’s artillery units and later by the Army as a whole.

From 1917 to 1919 Sousa served as Navy bandmaster, and as a result of his brief tenure in that position, some of his other marches reflect his ties with that branch of service. In letters, it was found that “Who’s Who in Navy Blue” was requested by the 1920 class president of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. At that time, each class had its own new song or march performed at graduation exercises. Though there was disagreement about what the piece should be called, Sousa and the soon-to-be graduate came to a compromise on this name.

Sousa also crafted “Anchor and Star” while leading the U.S. Navy Battalion Band at Great Lakes Naval Training Center. He dedicated it to the U.S. Navy and named it after its recognizable, nautical emblem. Due to its similar musical devices, it is often compared with the Marine Corps march, “Semper Fidelis.” While at the training center he also wrote “The Naval Reserve” for its namesake officers and servicemen, and in a study of sea chanteys made a medley-type tune called The Chantyman’s March. The latter was a combination of songs sung by sailors when performing physical labor. The eight chanteys from which this song pulls inspiration include: “Knock a Man Down,” “Away for Rio,” “Haul the Bowline,” “The Ballad of Billy Taylor,” “It’s Time for Us to Leave Her,” “Put up Clearing Gear,” “Hoodah Day,” and “A-Roving.”

In a more unconventional context, Sousa was also led to write “The Volunteers,” a march written for Edward N. Hurley, chairman of the U.S. Shipping Board and to ship-builders working on the United States’ emergency fleet of vessels. At the request of Robert D. Heinl, chief of the Department of Patriotic Service, the song included sounds present in a shipyard. Audiences were confused by the use of sirens, anvils, and a riveting machine as musical instruments, an obvious departure from Sousa’s traditional style, but in this instance the march-writer was merely fulfilling a request. 

Sousa even had the privilege to honor those killed in combat through his work. “The Golden Star,” written in 1919, was dedicated to Mrs. Edith Roosevelt in memory of Theodore Roosevelt and his son Quentin who was killed in aerial combat above France during the war. “Taps” was included in one section of the march, and this brought about several sorrowful reactions from audiences. At one concert in Reno, Nevada, for instance, women burst into tears and the band could scarcely hear itself play. “It will not be a monetary success,” Sousa said of “The Golden Star.” “One cannot write from his heart and write for rewards. I was thinking of those fine young boys who will never return.”

After World War I, requests for new marches came pouring in—so many that Sousa could have never fulfilled each one.  One stood out to him, however. The executive staff of the newly formed American Legion wanted a march for its own veteran’s group. Sousa was largely supportive of the cause and obliged the request promptly. The result was “Comrades of the Legion,” a march whose recording sold over half a million copies before it was even released.

It may seem that most of his time during these years was spent creating only patriotic tunes in reaction to the Great War, but Sousa still took the time to create other marches during this era (although it was difficult to not be influenced by the pervasive touch of the war).

Though it never became popular, “The White Rose” was one of Sousa’s works during this time. Written for a flower festival in York, Pa., the song was to commemorate the symbol of the House of York in England, from which the town took its name. Although the White Rose Day celebration was cancelled due to priorities of the war, Sousa still played the piece at a public concert, after which it has been all but forgotten.

While anti-German feelings were still high in the U.S., Sousa was called upon by the American Relief Legion to compose “Wedding March” to replace the traditional music of Richard Wagner and Felix Mendelssohn. It was short-lived, however. It was written close to the end of the war and was soon thereafter left largely unused.

“Wisconsin Forward Forever” may have been intended to salute Wisconsin’s contribution to the war effort, but press reports also referred to the march as “Wisconsin to the Front” and “Wisconsin at the Front.” The idea of “Forward” apparently took precedence as a title word, because that was the Wisconsin state motto. Words to the march were written by the poet Berton Braley, a 1905 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, and the march was dedicated to the faculty, students, and alumni of the university. In the same vein, “On the Campus,” was dedicated “to collegians, past, present, and future.”

The inspiration for “Keeping Step with the Union” likely came from an 1855 address by American congressman Rufus Choate. On the sheet music an excerpt from this speech was included: “We join ourselves to no party that does not carry the flag and keep step to the music of the Union.” The composition was dedicated to then First Lady Mrs. Florence Harding.

“The Gallant Seventh,” written in 1922, takes its title from the 7th Regiment, 107th Infantry, of the New York National Guard. The conductor of the 7th Regiment Band at the time was Major Francis Sutherland, a former Sousa Band cornetist who was made bandmaster in the U.S. Field Artillery when he decided to join the Army during World War I. After the war, he did not rejoin the Sousa Band, but accepted his position with the 7th Regiment. The regiment’s commanding officer, Col. Wade H. Hayes, requested Sousa write a march for the conductor, so Sousa happily agreed, commemorating one of his band’s outstanding alumni. When the march was first performed, the Sousa Band was augmented by Sutherland’s 7th Regiment Band on stage.

Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 40, 44, 45, 46, 52, 54, 58, 66, 68, 73, 76, 82, 84, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97. Used by permission.

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John Philip Sousa Biography

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