John Philip Sousa, The March King

John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), also known as ‘The March King’ is considered being the first composer of classical music born in the USA. During his lifetime, he was a very popular American musician and interesting enough he started his musical career playing the violin!

Stars and Stripes Forever

John Philip Sousa was a world-renowned American composer and bandleader, who composed more than 136 Marches for military and civilian use, 11 Operettas, several works for orchestra (Suites & Tone Poems), Dances, Songs and Piano music. His most popular Marches are The Liberty Bell, The High School Cadets, The Washington Post, Semper Fidelis, The Thunderer, The Stars and Stripes Forever. His most popular Operettas are El Capitan, The Bride-Elect, The Charlatan.

As a man of his time and era, Sousa is considered being the first composer of classical music born in the USA. During his lifetime, he was a very popular American musician. The sousaphone is named after him; a brass instrument in the same family as the more widely known tuba and created around 1893 by J.W. Pepper at the suggestion of John Philip Sousa.

A Swirling Career!

John Philip Sousa was born in Washington, D.C., the third of ten children of João António de Sousa who was of Portuguese and Spanish ancestry, and his wife Maria Elisabeth Trinkaus who was of Bavarian ancestry. He began his music education under the tuition of John Esputa Sr., who taught him solfeggio. This was short-lived, however, because of the teacher’s frequent bad temper. His real music education began in 1861 or 1862 as a pupil of violin, piano, flute, several brass instruments, and singing.

Sousa’s father was a trombonist in the Marine Band, and he enlisted Sousa in the United States Marine Corps as an apprentice at age 13 to keep him from joining a circus band. Sousa completed his apprenticeship in 1875 and began performing on the violin. He then joined a theatrical pit orchestra where he learned to conduct. He returned to the Marine Band as its head in 1880 and remained as its conductor until 1892.

The marching brass bass or sousaphone is a modified helicon created in 1893 by Philadelphia instrument maker J. W. Pepper at Sousa’s request, using several of his suggestions in its design. Sousa wanted a tuba that could sound upward and over the band whether its player was seated or marching. C.G. Conn recreated the instrument in 1898, and this was the model that Sousa preferred to use. (Source of whole paragraph Wikipedia Sousa page)

The Structure of a March

The March is a composition which tells a (short) story in three or four minutes. Often full of energy due to it’s cheerful and uplifting melodies and the strict tempo in which it is performed. In other words: the March has catchy themes, is often in a major key and played in March tempo (Allegro; MM = 120). All in all, a short story with a proud tone to it.

From a music technical perspective (form), the March consists of a series of themes a.k.a. melodies which are played one after the other and not further developed. As a rule of thumb, the first theme (A) is followed by a second theme (B) of different character and a third theme (C) misleading the listener. After which the differences between the European and American Marches of the 19th century came about.

John Philip Sousa did not particularly like the European approach with a repeat of all three themes at the end: AABBCCABC. He composed a fourth theme (D) which he alternated with the third theme: AABBCDCD. As a result, there is more variation as well as a gradual development towards the climactic ending. This way, March has become a mini Symphonic Poem. (Source: Sousa Tribute Band website)

The First European Sousa Tribute Band is Born

The Sousa Tribute Band, founded by Stanley E. van Wel, is the only professional civil wind band in Europe specialised in performing the music of John Philip Sousa.  The Sousa Tribute Band offers musical performances during events regarding the 75th anniversary of ending WW II, which start from September 2019.

To keep Sousa’s music accessible to a broad audience, the Sousa Tribute Band consists of a small size wind band (27 musicians). This newly developed hybrid/cross-over type band is related to the Marching Band and offers tremendous flexibility. With its all-weather instrumentation, this non-tech, unplugged and mobile wind band performs Sousa’s music in its original character, both inside and outside. The program consists of Sousa’s Marches and “Americana“.

Founder and Music Director

Stanley E. van Wel MM is an all-round musician with a particular taste for American music and theatre. As a French horn player, composer, arranger, conductor and teacher, he brings many years of experience to the stage and classroom. Stanley studied at the Sweelinck Conservatory of Music in Amsterdam with a.o. Vicente Zarzo Pitarch (French Horn – classical music), Charles Green & Steven Galloway (jazz music; composing & arranging) and Pierre Kuijpers (conducting)

As a young man, Stanley was already taken by the sound of American music. He studied and performed American 20th-century Modern classical music, jazz music and musical theatre. Stanley founded and conducted several orchestras and ensembles, including the Stanley van Wel Orchestra and the Benny Goodman Revival Orchestra®. The Sousa Tribute Band is his next logical step in performing American music.

Stanley: “John Philip Sousa’s music is very energetic and frivolous at the same time. Strong and sturdy with a smile! It has sustained over more than a century without losing any of its potency. At the same time, a lot of Sousa’s music is still to be explored. We aim to perform this great music within Sousa’s spirit: for many to enjoy“.

The 75th Anniversary Ending of WW II

D-Day on June 6th, 2019 was the go-ahead for a full year of commemorations and festive celebrations to remember the 75th-anniversary ending of  WorldWar II.

Music tells the story in a different way than words and images. The story of music during WW II can be called unique in itself. In those days there was only radio and no television around yet. The music aired on the radio was mainly classical. Now and then there was jazz music of a.o. Glenn Miller. Yet other music was played live. All professional and amateur wind bands played Sousa’s march music prior to, during and after WW II. Simply because this music was already world-renowned. Sousa’s music is eternal. Then and now!

Overview of activities in Europe and worldwide

06 June 2019 = 75 years D-Day
31 August 2019 = start 75 years ending WW II
17 until 25 September 2019 = 75 years Operation Market Garden
05 April until 05 May 2020 = celebrating liberation
08 May 2020 = 75 years ending WW II in Europe
15 August 2020 = 75 years ending WW II in Asia

You can hear the Sousa Tribute Band live in their next concert on the 15th of September 2019 at Basecamp DZA Vlagheide (Schijndel/Veghel) during the Operation Market Garden 2019 from 10:00  am to 12:00 am

More information about the Sousa Tribute Band and bookings.