Washington, D.C. native and legendary bandmaster John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) wrote a dozen operettas, six full-length operas, and over 100 marches, earning the title “March King”. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at an early age and went on to become the conductor of the President’s Own Marine Band at age 26. In 1892 he formed “Sousa and his Band”, which toured the United States and the world under his directorship for the next forty years to great acclaim. Not only was Sousa’s band hugely popular, but it also exposed audiences all over the world to the latest, cutting-edge music, bringing excerpts of Wagner’s Parsifal to New York a decade before the Metropolitan Opera staged it, and introducing ragtime to Europe, helping to spark many a composer’s interest in American music.
From the Oklahoma City University Band Program Note Archive:
Hands Across the Sea was composed in 1899 and premiered during the same year at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Although a number of ideas have been presented concerning the title, Paul Bierley believes that Sousa was inspired by a line credited to John Hookham Frere: ”A sudden thought strikes me — let us swear an eternal friendship.” In the Great Lakes Recruit of March 1918, Sousa discussed the justification of the Spanish-American War, quoted Frere’s line, and added, “That almost immediately suggested the title Hands Across the Sea. Sousa’s music and his musicians had the ability to affect people in many lands. Extensive European tours were made by Sousa’s band between 1900 and 1905. In December 1910, a world voyage was begun, which included England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Canary Islands, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji Islands, the Hawaiian Islands, Canada, and the United States. The tour lasted one year, one month, and one week.
You can find out more about Hands Across the Sea at Wikipedia and Classical Archives. You can also download free, public domain sheet music at the IMSLP (piano score and another recording) and the Band Music PDF Library (full set of parts).
Read more about the Sousa Band and its history at naxosdirect.com. Click the link that says “Read more about this recording.”
Hands Across the Sea performed by an anonymous band:
The Library of Congress has this recording of Sousa’s band playing the piece in 1923.
Hands Across the Sea is a senior choice for Sam Alexander ’13, trombonist and co-leader of Making Music Matter.