Unit HomeNews
"The President's Own"


"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
Unit News
“Anthems” – A Conversation with the Director

By Gunnery Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali | United States Marine Band | December 18, 2019


This week the Marine Band released its annual educational recording. Recently, Assistant Communication Strategist Gunnery Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali sat down with Colonel Jason K. Fettig to learn more about this year’s CD: Anthems.

Ghadiali: How was this project conceived?
Fettig: Since we worked together on the Percy Grainger recording several years ago, I have been looking for another project on which we could once again collaborate with the exceptional Choral Arts Society of Washington. Two significant artistic anniversaries coincided this year; the 150th year of the death of the great French composer Hector Berlioz and the 200th anniversary of the birth of the inimitable American poet Walt Whitman. Berlioz' incredible Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale is one of the first true symphonies written for band, and it has an amazing choral finale, so re-recording this major work provided the anchor for the album. We then had the opportunity to have the chorus also sing something of Whitman's to commemorate his bicentennial. There are a number of wonderful musical works that set Whitman's prose, but Scott Tucker and I had the idea of pulling together several selections of Whitman's poetry about music and finding a composer with which to collaborate on a new work for chorus and winds. He suggested Dominick DiOrio, and I couldn't be happier with the amazing work Dominick wrote for us to commemorate this special anniversary.

Ghadiali: Why was it titled Anthems?
Fettig: The title arose from the pieces I chose, rather than the other way around. When I thought about the connections between the Berlioz symphony and Whitman’s work, I was struck by the idea that each artist was, in his own way, creating an anthem, both in a musical sense and a literary one. This was art in praise of something meaningful about the human condition. There are many pieces of music that celebrate similar themes, and all of the pieces on this album reflect a different aspect of what it means to create an anthem, from our traditional understanding of the label to the deeper meanings of the concept.

Ghadiali: How did you determine which pieces to record for the CD?
Fettig: As is the case with all of the Marine Band’s educational recordings, it was also important to me to highlight the diversity of the band repertoire in this collection. There are excellent transcriptions for band of pieces originally written for orchestra in Gould’s Star-Spangled Overture and Shostakovich’s October; a lesser known but very important original work by a significant American composer in Schuman’s American Hymn; we have a world premiere of a new work written for the Marine Band in DiOrio’s Silent Moves the Symphony True; and the recording is completed by one of the most significant works in the classic symphonic band repertoire with the Berlioz.

Ghadiali: What was it like working with Dominick DiOrio and Jonathan Elkus on the project?
Fettig: It is always a great joy for me and for our musicians to have the opportunity to work with artists from outside of our organization. In addition to the creative collaboration between the band and the singers of Choral Arts, the experience of bringing Dominick DiOrio’s new work to life with him was truly enlightening. Since music is itself a living art, it can morph and change in real time, and such was the case as we worked together to transform this new piece from notes on the page to a living, breathing work of art for this first recording. Hearing Whitman’s text along with Dominick’s music was very moving, and reshaped his words in some very unexpected ways for me.
     Along with Dominick, we also had the great pleasure of working with Jonathan Elkus on the Berlioz Symphony. He is a longtime friend of “The President’s Own” and frequent collaborator, and Jonathan’s unparalleled expertise and guidance regarding this piece was invaluable to this recording.

Ghadiali: What do you hope listeners will take away from the Anthems CD?
Fettig: I certainly hope that people from all backgrounds--both educators and musicians and everyday music-lovers--enjoy the Marine Band's stellar performance of these exciting works. Most of all, I hope this collection of music illuminates the power inherent to the title of the album. We have great reverence for the musical anthems that represent our country, our schools and organization, as they represent something uniquely noble and proud about our nation and about our individual communities. In a larger sense, an anthem praises something worth celebrating and worth preserving, and I can think of no better medium for communicating those special emotions than the music featured on this new recording by the Marine Band and the Choral Arts Society of Washington.

Anthems on YouTube

From the CD liner notes:
The year 2019 marks two centuries since the birth of the great American poet, author, and patriot Walt Whitman. The heart of much of Whitman’s work may be captured within the word “anthem.” His language was one of praise; whether praise for music, for heroism, or for nature, Whitman observed common happenings around him as defining elements of the American experience and celebrated them as virtues in his remarkable prose. The essence of the anthem runs through the diverse collection of works on this recording. Beginning with the most familiar musical association with the word represented in Morton Gould’s creative homage to our own national anthem, the thread then diverges to a celebration of American anthems in written word by Whitman and Langston Hughes and the revolutionary and patriotic fervor in major works of Dmitri Shostakovich and Hector Berlioz. The Marine Band has proudly partnered with The Choral Arts Society of Washington on this special recording that aims to highlight the inimitable power that music holds to praise the human spirit.

Download the Liner Notes

Unit News Search