Marine Band Director Col. Michael J. Colburn will celebrate the “Waltz King,” Johann Strauss II, with the Marine Chamber Orchestra’s “Happy Viennese New Year!” at 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 12. “We’ve saluted the March King for more than a decade,” he said. “So I thought it was high time to salute the Waltz King as well, especially since his music has been part of our Chamber Orchestra’s White House repertoire for more than a century!”
According to Elise Kirk in her book “Music at the White House,” President Benjamin Harrison was very fond of dancing and passed that interest onto his daughter Mary McKee. Mrs. McKee hosted one of the few White House balls that took place in the mid to late 1800s. “Mrs. McKee’s ball” was attended by more than 300 people and given a favorable review in the Washington Post on April 24, 1890: “Such revelry by night has not been known at the White House for many a long year as filled the hearts of the elect brimful of joy last night. Mrs. McKee says that ever since the days that her father was in the senate and she used to hear the tantalizing waltzes that the Marine Band would play she has wanted to dance in the East Room. Last night her wish was fulfilled…The Marine Band was stationed in the small hall, and when they played the waltz…Mr. and Mrs. McKee with a turn about the room started the ball.” Kirk went on to say that, “The dances were similar to the ones listed for President Andrew Johnson’s ball twenty-two years earlier, except that, in addition to Johann Strauss, the composers included Jacques Offenbach, Emile Waldteufel, and John Philip Sousa—names familiar to every Marine Band devotee who had attended the popular White House receptions and outdoor concerts.”
Today’s Marine Band devotees will be treated to an afternoon of music not just by the Waltz King, but his father Johann and his brother Josef as well. This concert is a nod to the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual tribute to the Strauss family, which began on Dec. 31, 1939. Conductor Clemens Krauss initiated the tradition of showcasing the talents of the Strausses and Austria itself with waltzes and polkas at the onset of World War II. Seventy-five years later, these New Year’s concerts remain popular not just among the Viennese, but to the more than 80 nations who tune in each year to revisit the enduring charm of the Strauss dynasty.
The free concert will take place at 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 12 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va. No tickets are required. For more information, please call (202) 433-4011 or visit www.marineband.marines.mil.