April 11, 2014 -- Throughout March and April, “The President’s Own” hosted “Sousa’s March Mania,” a tournament pitting 32 marches against each other for the Marine Band online community to determine which one is the favorite. Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen’s “Entry March of the Boyares” destroyed every march in its path, ultimately winning the tournament.
On March 2, the directors of the Marine Band chose 32 marches accessible on the Marine Band website. The pool of competitors included several composers and different styles of marches, all hosted in the spirit of the band’s 17th Director John Philip Sousa, also know as “The March King.”
Early in the competition, Sousa proved worthy of his title. In the first round, his march “King Cotton” easily defeated Francis Scala’s “The Union March” 217 to 14, “The Thunderer” skunked Ollie Zinsmeister’s march “The President’s Own” 307 to 29, and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” trounced George Chadwick’s March of the Pasha’s Guard from Tabasco 211 to 20. Marine Band Facebook fan Jason Arnold cheered: “Stars and Stripes all the way!”
Marine Band Director Colonel Michael J. Colburn wasn’t cheering, however. His bracket was busted in the first round when “Boys of the Old Brigade” by William Paris Chambers defeated “March of the Women Marines” by Louis Saverino.
In the second round, fans followed closely when Julius Fucik’s march “Entry of the Gladiators” faced Sousa’s “Fairest of the Fair” saying, “Today’s is a dead heat.” It’s “neck and neck!” “Fairest of the Fair” ultimately tumbled to the Gladiators 199 to 187.
Throughout the competition, participants were introduced to marches they had never heard, suggested marches and composers to include in next year’s March Mania, and lamented over the difficult voting decisions. “Oh man, this one hurts,” Lydia Tate posted on the Marine Band’s Facebook page when two of her favorite marches went head to head in the second round. And when “The Stars and Stripes Forever” faced “The Glory of the Yankee Navy” (also a Sousa march), Vladimir Kernski commented, “How dare you make me vote between these two. Man this is tough.” Upon seeing the results of an upset, James Bauchert demanded, “Recount!!”
Band Director Erin Smith utilized Sousa’s March Mania as an educational resource: “I held a daily game with my [junior high] band kids to expose them to some great music while having fun doing it. It got very competitive at times!”
When “Boyares” beat Sousa’s march “The Washington Post” to solidify its position in the final four, Jim Cosgrove said, “Boyares? Really? Well that puts the last nail in my bracket. I had Washington Post and National Emblem in the final, with National Emblem to win.”
The final four marches included Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis” and “Stars and Stripes,” “National Emblem,” and “Boyares.”
Active duty and former Marines pushed “Semper Fidelis” as far as they could, but an active voting group from Norway rallied behind “Boyares” and overtook the unofficial march of the Marine Corps, winning 688 to 434. Jon Heaver summed it up with a hashtag: #cinderellastory.
“We in Norway love this competition. Great Norwegian march,” Arne Rist commented.
The Norwegian musicians and friends of the Marine Band played along heartily, pushing through the march written by Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen, who was born 150 years ago.
Halvorsen composed the march in 1895 when he was fascinated with the story of the Boyares, elite members of Bucharest, Romania’s aristocracy from the 10th through the 17th centuries. His march depicts the regal Boyares in procession.
After three weeks of competition, it came down to two marches: Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes” and Halvorsen’s “Boyares.” The Marine Band’s Norwegian friends rallied behind “Boyares” and overtook “Stars and Stripes” with a final score of 1,265 to 966.
“A great competition and a worthy champion!” Stephen Liljegren posted.
According to Gro van der Meeren of Norway, “I guess the Norwegian Championship for wind orchestras these days, gathering 5,000 musicians together at one venue, keeping each other awake and well informed day and night, may have had something to do with this result. We do enjoy the Bojarenes [Boyares] over here!”
Håvard Hinsverk, music advisor and event manager for the Norwegian Band Federation in Trondheim, Norway, commented, “The March Mania is great and the U.S. Marine Band is now even more popular in Norway!”
“This has been so much fun,” Marine Band patron Beth Fair said. “Not many of my friends understand when I try to explain this march bracketology.” And Mary Righos is “Looking forward to another competition! This was fun!! Thanks for organizing!! Will there be more?” she asked.
Yes. Sousa’s March Mania will return in March 2015.
Even though he had selected “The Stars and Stripes Forever” to win, Col. Colburn posted on the Marine Band’s Facebook page, “Congrats to all the fans of Halvorsen’s Entry March of the Boyares, which has always been one of my favorite marches. I just couldn’t imagine it winning the entire contest, but as they say in sports...that’s why they play the games!”