In a surprising final outcome for Sousa’s March Mania 2023, the funeral march “The Honored Dead” laid to rest “Nobles of the Mystic Shrine” with a score of 8,356 to 7,157. The United States Marine Band paid tribute to this championship victory with a live performance of the piece on March 28, 2023 in John Philip Sousa Band Hall in Washington, D.C.
In this 10th Anniversary of Sousa’s March Mania, a special lineup was selected featuring only marches by the legendary composer and Marine Band director John Philip Sousa. The bracket included works spanning Sousa’s entire career and featured some of his most highly regarded marches facing off with some deep cuts by the March King.
In the end, “The Honored Dead” outlived its competitors with overwhelming support from voters. On its path to victory, it took down regular strong contenders like “The Liberty Bell” and “Semper Fidelis,” as well as “Revival March” which stood no chance during its first March Mania appearance.
The continued success “The Honored Dead” saw in the competition ruffled some feathers – especially those of Gunnery Sgt. Charles Paul and Gunnery Sgt. Tilden Olsen who co-hosted the video series “March Mania Update,” which tracked the progress of the tournament.
“Like any good Marine, I had Semper Fi winning it all this year,” Olsen said. “My bracket is busted!”
“[The Honored Dead] is really one of Sousa’s most obscure and least-performed marches,” Paul said. “I think that anyone who wants to vote for The Honored Dead should have to listen to the entire thing first – all five minutes of it.”
Not much was known about “The Honored Dead” before entering this season’s competition. The march analysts only had the following information gathered from the band’s historical archive:
The date of this march, as inscribed on the manuscript of a piano arrangement by C. H. Hattersley, is 1876. The occasion for the march’s composition is not known. When President Ulysses S. Grant died in 1885, Sousa arranged the piece for band, apparently at the publisher’s request. It has rarely been performed but was fittingly used by the U.S. Marine Band in Sousa’s funeral procession.
What started out as a clear underdog with questionable pedigree, turned out to be an undertaker, burying its competition one after another.
March Mania fans turned to social media to air some of their grievances:
Elise Curran commented, “I stayed up all night Friday voting for Liberty Bell, until 6 am, because I saw it was behind. I guess The Honored Dead rose up at the last couple of hours and got those 286 votes they needed. But I don't understand....can someone tell me how this funeral march is better than Semper Fidelis and Liberty Bell? Anyone?”
Michael Basilone said, “It was hard for me to listen to The Honored Dead in its entirety. I can say this ‘march’ is among my least favorite of all. To believe this work was favored over Semper Fidelis is unacceptable.”
These folks will be happy to know that as reigning champion, “The Honored Dead” will now be retired from future March Mania competitions.
Others shrugged off their busted brackets:
Krista Lane shared, “That’s the great thing with this competition. We can discuss our likes and dislikes about the music and realize that we can have different opinions.”
Christian Salak said, “While some of my favorite marches have gone down to defeat, The Honored Dead strikes me as thoughtfully constructed. The A strain is in three sections and transitions-modulates from dirge to apotheosis. The trio is a very tuneful and dignified elegy contrasting with a dirge-like breakup strain, and as it repeats the trio grows grander. Most importantly, the return of the A strain in a grand manner concludes the march with a feeling of closure. This is moving.”
Sara Swords mentioned, “Wow! Was not expecting this winner! But my voting classes were evenly divided!”
In the end, it shouldn’t come as a shock that the march you picked might not have become the champion. Odds set at a 1 in 32 chance of picking the winner aren’t that high. And a perfect bracket? Forget about it.
However, for all of those honorary March Kings who picked “The Honored Dead” as their winner from the start, congratulations! Like the Marines, you’re part of the few and the proud. Wear your crown with pride!
This year, the Marine Band reached over 125,000 students at nearly 1,000 schools across the U.S. who signed up to participate in March Mania. To all who voted this year, and to those who have been with us from the start, thank you for your support of this fun and interactive educational program.
Keep the votes coming in 2024!
Read more about Sousa's March Mania
2023 Sousa's March Mania Results