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Category Archives: Storm and Sea Concert

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 United States 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.

Sousa wrote The Thunderer in 1889.  The origin of its title is unclear.  According to Marcus Neiman, the march was dedicated to Sousa’s Masonic organization, so it may have some connection to part of the Masonic symbolism or a person within the organization.  The title may also refer to the thunderous trumpet and drum parts in the first half of the march.   Whatever the case may be, it has stood the test of time as one of Sousa’s most accessible, easily playable marches.  For more, look at Wikipedia, Answers.com, and the Band Music PDF Library (which also has a full set of performable parts.)  You can get even more free editions of The Thunderer at IMSLP.

Read more about the Sousa Band and its history at naxosdirect.com. Click the link that says “Read more about this recording.”

Sousa shrine – including biography, complete works, and much more – at the Dallas Wind Symphony website.

John Philip Sousa on Wikipedia

The Thunderer in a modern performance by the US Marine Band:

And again by Sousa himself and the US Marine Band in a vintage 1890 recording:

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The 2008 revival of South Pacific was a Broadway sensation.  The production won seven 2008 Tony awards (out of eleven nominations) and enjoyed great popular and critical support in its run at the Lincoln Center Theatre.  The musical tackles issues of racial prejudice against the backdrop of the American war effort in the South Pacific during World War II.

The original Broadway production premiered in 1950 and won all ten Tony Awards for which it was nominated.  It also received the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1950.  It was the fifth collaboration between composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II.  They based their work on two short stories by James A. Michener from his book Tales from the South Pacific.

This video of Harry Connick Jr. introducing the 2008 Tony Award performance pretty much sums up the show’s cultural and musical value:

Now some other links:

Richard Rodgers biography on Wikipedia.

Oscar Hammerstein biography on Wikipedia.

Rodgers & Hammerstein on Wikipedia.

Arranger Robert Russell Bennett biography on Wikipedia.

South Pacific on Wikipedia

Broadway revival homepage

New York Times review of Broadway revival.

Finally, a bonus video: “Some Enchanted Evening” very convincingly performed on The View in 2008:

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) was a piano prodigy turned composer who was known for his strange personal habits, his colorful prose, and his equally unusual music – his many admirers today still recognize that he possessed “the supreme virtue of never being dull.”  Born in Australia, he began studying piano at an early age.  He came to the U. S. at the outbreak of World War I and enlisted as an Army bandsman, becoming an American citizen in 1918.  He went on to explore the frontiers of music with his idiosyncratic folk song settings, his lifelong advocacy for the saxophone, and his Free Music machines which predated electronic synthesizers.  His many masterworks for winds include Lincolnshire PosyIrish Tune from County DerryChildren’s March and Molly on the Shore.

Grainger originally wrote Molly on the Shore in a 1907 string setting as birthday gift for his mother (who exerted perhaps an undue influence on him during her lifetime).  The wind band setting is but one of many, and it appeared in 1920.  Two quotes about this piece illustrate the uniqueness of Grainger’s approach to music:

In setting Molly on the Shore I strove to imbue the accompanying parts that made up the harmonic texture with a melodic character not too unlike that of the underlying reel tune. Melody seems to me to provide music with an initiative, whereas rhythm appears to me to exert an enslaving influence. For that reason I have tried to avoid rhythmic domination in my music — always excepting irregular rhythms, such as those of Gregorian Chant, which seem to me to make for freedom. Equally with melody I prize discordant harmony, because of the emotional and compassionate sway it exerts.

And:

One of the reasons why things of mine like Molly on the Shore and Shepherd’s Hey are good is because there is so little gaiety and fun in them.  While other composers would have been jolly in setting such dance tunes, I have been sad or furious.  My dance settings are energetic rather than gay.

So what does the internet have to say about Molly on the Shore?  Plenty!

Molly on Wikipedia

David Goza’s informative essay entitled “Molly on the Shore: a Minor Miracle”.

As a novelty item, Molly arranged for band and 4 marimbas.

Version for alto sax and piano arranged by Paul Cohen, with excellent program note on the page.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Watch a video of a great performance in the meantime:

Percygrainger.com – much general information on the composer with a focus on his wind band works.

International Percy Grainger Society – Based in White Plains, NY, they take care of the Grainger house there as well as the archives that remain there.  They also like to support concerts in our area that feature Grainger’s music.

Grainger Museum – in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia, at the University there.

Grainger’s works and performances available at Naxos.com

Finally, I know this is already up on the other Grainger pages, but it’s just so good:

One more look at Grainger on YouTube, this time performing on the piano: