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"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
Unit News
The Marine Band Sends Postcards to Bowie

By Master Sgt. Amanda Simmons | United States Marine Band | March 21, 2016


At 7:30 p.m., March 24, the Marine Band, conducted by Assistant Director 1st Lt. Ryan J. Nowlin, will deliver “Postcards” to the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts in Maryland. In addition to a number of domestic stops, this free concert will transport patrons internationally to France, Italy, England, and Scotland.

“On April 1, 1891, John Philip Sousa embarked on the Marine Band’s first national concert tour, launching a tradition of travel that has continued for the past 125 years,” notes Nowlin. “Sousa also toured internationally with his civilian group, the Sousa Band, formed after his departure from the Marine Band.”

In the programming tradition instilled by Sousa, “Postcards” will open with a march. “The National Fencibles” was composed in 1888, while Sousa was the Director of the Marine Band, for a popular Washington, D.C. drill team and was featured on the Marine Band’s first tour. Before hopping across the Atlantic, Nowlin sets the mood for a New England vacation when the band visits a seaside resort in Rhode Island with Ron Nelson’s Rocky Point Holiday, his first major work for wind band. 

The Marine Band will spend the remainder of the program touring Europe, making two stops in Italy with Ottorino Respighi’s The Pines of Rome and the contemporary Italian Rhapsody by Julie Giroux before a quick jaunt through Scotland with Sir Malcom Arnold’s Tam o’Shanter Overture. 

The practice of featuring virtuoso soloists on a concert program was developed and perfected by Sousa and two will be featured on this program. Cornet soloist Staff Sgt. Brandon Eubank will perform Carl Höhne’s Slavonic Fantasy. Composed in 1899, the solo is in the style of those presented by Sousa’s soloists such as Herbert L. Clarke, Frank Simon, and John Dolan. Written as a series of Hungarian-like dances, the work includes both soft, expressive melodic passages and rapid scalar passages that span the entire range of the instrument. Mezzo-soprano Gunnery Sgt. Sara Sheffield’s talent will be showcased with two selections about London: George and Ira Gershwin’s “A Foggy Day in London Town,” which was composed for the film “Damsel in Distress” and performed by Fred Astaire, and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” a popular British song by Manning Sherwin and Eric Maschwitz.  

Next, Nowlin will hop from England to France and treat audiences to a transcription world première of George Gershwin’s An American in Paris. Not long after Gershwin composed the piece in 1928, he provided the following commentary in an interview published in “Musical America:”

    This new piece, really a rhapsodic ballet, is written very freely and is the most modern music I’ve yet attempted. The opening part will be developed in typical French style, in the manner 
    of  Debussy and the Six, though all the themes are original. My purpose is to portray the impression of an American visitor in Paris, as he strolls about the city and listens to various street 
    noises and absorbs the French atmosphere. As in my other orchestral compositions, I’ve not endeavored to represent any definite scenes in this music. The rhapsody is programmatic only 
    in a general impressionistic way. . . . The opening gay section is followed by a rich blues with a strong rhythmic undercurrent. Our American friend, perhaps after strolling into a café and 
    having a couple of drinks, has succumbed to a spasm of homesickness. The harmony here is both more intense and simpler than in the preceding pages. This blues rises to a climax, 
    followed by a coda in which the spirit of the music returns to the vivacity and bubbling exuberance of the opening part with its impression of Paris. Apparently the homesick American, having 
    left the café and reached the open air, has disowned his spell of the blues and once again is an alert spectator of Parisian life. At the conclusion, the street noises and French atmosphere 
    are triumphant.

“Postcards” will conclude with some familiar notes from home. As Sousa returned from a European tour by ship in 1896, he was profoundly homesick. In his autobiography Sousa wrote that, as he paced the deck, an insistent melody kept reappearing in his mind throughout the entire voyage. It was not until he reached the shores of the United States that he set this music to paper and it served as the basis for what would become his most famous march, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

The Bowie Center for the Performing Arts is located 15200 Annapolis Road in Bowie, Md. The concert is free and no tickets are required. Free parking is available.

Complete program

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