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United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
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Summer Concerts Feature Music from the Golden Age of American Popular Song

By | United States Marine Band | August 20, 2019

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The Marine Band’s outdoor summer concerts on the west steps of the U.S. Capitol continue this week featuring several works composed or made popular in the 1940s, often referred to as the “Golden Age of Popular Song.” The concerts will be conducted by Assistant Director Captain Ryan J. Nowlin, including the Brazilian song “Tico-Tico,” made popular by the 1947 Carmen Miranda film Copacabana; “Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night),” a song made popular in the 1940s by Frank Sinatra; and Nowlin’s own arrangement of three popular songs from the World War II era. The evening performances are the perfect outing for families and people of all ages to listen to great music on the front porch of American history, with the National Mall as backdrop. The concerts will take place at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 21 and Thursday, Aug. 22. Both performances are free and no tickets are required.

In traditional Marine Band style, Capt. Nowlin will kick off the concert with a march, specifically Sousa’s “Sabre and Spurs.” A military march composed during World War I, the work was originally intended to be titled “March of the American Cavalry” and was dedicated to the officers and men of the 311th Cavalry commanded by Colonel George W. K. Kirkpatrick.

Next, the band will perform Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian’s Suite from The Valencian Widow, composed in 1940. The Valencian Widow was a late sixteenth-century play written by Spanish playwright, Lope de Vega, who was one of the most famous playwrights of Spain’s Golden Age and was credited with writing over 1,800 plays.

While Frank Sinatra may have popularized July Styne’s “Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night),” the Marine Band will perform an arrangement of the song featuring bass trombone as the soloist. Master Sgt. Karl Johnson will showcase the bass trombone’s abilities as a jazz instrument as the band lights up the night with this popular hit from the 1940s.

“This arrangement gives the bass trombone and the upright bass a chance to sing the tune,” Johnson said. “It’s a fun tune to play and, hopefully, a fun tune for the audience.”

Following Johnson’s solo, the band will head south to Brazil to perform Zequinha de Abreu’s infectious and rhythmic “Tico-Tico.” Those watching the concert will find it hard to not tap their feet, and move and groove along with the choro style of music.

Popular song has given voice to Americans’ greatest joys and deepest sorrows, their most personal longings and paralyzing fears. This has been especially true during times of war, and it was never more evident than during World War II. With the advent of radio and the phonograph, popular song became more readily available in the homes of the American people. Mezzo-soprano vocalist Gunnery Sgt. Sara Sheffield will sing three songs from this era that helped uplift American spirits during a depressing and difficult time. Nowlin’s arranged medley, titled Sentimental Journey: A World War II Hit Parade, features the popular tunes “Stormy Weather,” “That Old Black Magic,” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

The concert will conclude with James Barnes’ Finale from Symphony No. 3, Opus 89, originally commissioned by the United States Air Force Band. According to the composer: “The work progresses from the deepest darkness of despair all the way to the brightness of fulfillment and joy. … The finale (fourth movement) represents a rebirth of spirit, a reconciliation for us all.”

The concerts are free but are weather permitting and programming is subject to change. Inclement weather announcements will be made by 6 p.m. on the band’s Concert Information Line at (202) 433-4011 and on the Marine Band’s website and social media pages.

Complete program and notes


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