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Category Archives: Monuments Concert

CFW 2013 band directors: click here for free, printable parts for the massed band.

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.

Sousa originally wrote Liberty Bell in 1893.  It features the chimes, perhaps in homage to the famous American landmark after which it is named.  The march is now most famous for its use as the theme song to Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

The march as used in the opening of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the 1970s British comedy show:

Now here it is in full played by the US Marine Band, complete with a short explanation of the piece by their conductor:

As played by the Rutgers Euphonium Choir:

Program notes on the march from the Concord (MA) Band.

A wealth of information on the Liberty Bell itself, famous crack and all.

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

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Respighi, a renowned Italian composer of late Romantic-era music, wrote this piece in 1932, his only original composition for wind band. It is dedicated to Edwin Franko Goldman and the American Bandmaster’s Association. His inspiration for the piece came from a visit to Huntingtower Castle in Scotland.

A performance of Huntingtower on Youtube:

Huntingtower Castle on Undiscovered Scotland – lots of photos of the castle!

Huntingtower Castle on Wikipedia.

Respighi biography on Wikipedia.

Respighi biography and discography on Naxos.com.

Victory at Sea is a 1950s television documentary series that chronicles the Pacific theater of World War II from the American perspective. Famed Broadway composer Richard Rodgers (South PacificThe King and IThe Sound of Music) composed 12 themes to form the basis of the series’s music.  Robert Russell Bennett is credited as orchestrator for the series (as he was for several Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals), but in reality he composed the bulk of the music for the 13-hour series using Rodgers’s themes as his basis.

The Austin Symphonic Band performs Victory at Sea:

Several Youtube excerpts of the Victory at Sea documentary.

victoryatseaonline.com

Music site at victoryatseaonline.com – has lengthy excerpts of the music with several of the main themes contained in Bennett’s Symphonic Scenario.

Victory at Sea on the Museum of Broadcast Communications website.

Victory at Sea on the Internet Movie Data Base.

Richard Rodgers biography on Wikipedia.

Robert Russell Bennett biography on Wikipedia.

Jan Van der Roost is a contemporary Belgian composer.  His inspiration for Canterbury Chorale came from a visit to Canterbury Cathedral in England.  Follow the links below for a description of the piece in Van der Roost’s own words.

Canterbury Chorale on Youtube:

Jan Van der Roost’s website.

Van der Roost’s description of Canterbury Chorale.

Canterbury Cathedral on the web.

Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was a British composer and teacher.  After studying composition at London’s Royal College of Music, he spent the early part of his career playing trombone in an opera orchestra.  It was not until the early 1900s that his career as a composer began to take off.  Around this same time he acquired positions at both St. Paul’s Girls’ School and Morley College that he would hold until retirement, despite his rising star as a composer.  His music was influenced by his interest in English folk songs and Hindu mysticism, late-Romantic era composers like Strauss and Delius, and avante-garde composers of his time like Stravinsky and Schoenberg.  He is perhaps best known for composing The Planets, a massive orchestral suite that depicts the astrological character of each known planet.  His works for wind band (two suites and a tone poem, Hammersmith) are foundational to the modern wind literature.

The First Suite is particularly important to the later development of artistic music for wind band.  Holst wrote it in 1909 for an ensemble that came to define the instrumentation that bands would use for at least the next century and beyond.  Oddly, it was not performed until 1920, and published a year later.  Since then, the First Suite has left an indelible mark on band musicians and audiences around the world.  Its appeal is in its simplicity and its artistry.  While there are difficult passages and exposed solo work in many instruments, it places few extreme demands on the players, and it uses a straightforward and easily-identifiable theme throughout its 3 movements.  Yet this theme is turned and pulled into many different forms, and put on an emotional roller-coaster of doubts, sweet reveries, ecstatic joy, and triumph.  Truly, the impact that the First Suite still makes on those who hear it is impossible to put into words.  It is a classic piece of art music that has helped to define the development of a century of wind band music.

The US Marine Band performing the complete Suite on Youtube.  Not much to look at, but GREAT listening!

Detailed historical discussion of First Suite on Earfloss.com.

First Suite on Wikipedia.

First Suite program notes on philharmonicwinds.org (Singapore).

Gustavholst.info – a major web resource for information on the composer.