Monday, February 16, 2009
Stars and Stripes Forever - John Philip Sousa
"Stars and Stripes Forever" is a patriotic American march widely considered to be the magnum opus of composer John Philip Sousa. By act of Congress, it is the National March of the United States of America.
In his autobiography, Marching Along, Sousa writes that he composed the march on Christmas Day 1896. He had just learned of the recent death of David Blakely, then manager of the Sousa Band. Sousa was on a ferry in Europe at the time, and he composed the march in his head. He committed the notes to paper on arrival in America. Although he would conduct performances of it at virtually every concert until his death, only one recording, made in 1909, is known to survive today.
Stars and Stripes Forever follows the standard American march form. Its trio is the most famous part of the march. Most bands adopt the Sousa Band practice of having one or three (never two)piccolo players play the famous obbligato in the first repeat of the trio. In the second repeat (marked "Grandioso"), the low brass joins the piccolo players with a prominent countermelody. The official version, as played by the United States Marine Band, is performed in the key of E flat.