“The Stars and Stripes Forever”: Three Historic Recordings

John Philip Sousa’s most famous march was written on Christmas Day, 1896 during a transatlantic ocean liner voyage. Returning home from a European holiday, the composer had just learned of the death of his band’s manager, David Blakely. Sousa likely waited until he reached land to commit the actual notes to paper. But, according to his own account, the complete march entered his mind in a flash and continued to haunt him throughout …

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Turkey Trot

In celebration of Thanksgiving, here is Turkey Trot, the fifth movement of Leonard Bernstein’s Divertimento. Written in 1980 for the Boston Symphony’s centennial season, Divertimento is a collection of short, witty musical vignettes, which includes a waltz in the unusual meter of 7/8 time. The final movement, “The BSO Forever”, is a tribute to John Philip Sousa and the ghosts of the orchestra’s past conductors and musicians. The piece’s motives grow out of two pitches: B (Boston) and C (centennial). Divertimento is …

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Happy Independence Day

John Philip Sousa’s marches embody qualities which are uniquely American. Listen to a British patriotic march like Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 and you’ll hear the slow, stately, majestic character of England. By contrast, Sousa’s marches are faster and more brash, reflecting the optimistic innocence of a young country just beginning to flex its muscles on the world stage. Sousa’s marches provide a musical snapshot of the spirit of America around …

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