Sousa and other Marching music

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by rowuk, Jul 13, 2007.

  1. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    When I was in an Army Band in Germany, I had the opportunity to spend time with a German Army Band. They had a conductor who could do more with marches than any body else that I have ever met.
    His conducting and enthusiasm about the genre was contagious. His conducting of the wind band was so descriptive that we called it "airbrushing"!
    When I guest conduct the wind band here where I live, I always start with a march that everybody thinks that they can play by memory - we then transform it into REAL music (I pass out pencils before starting rehearsals....). This is the fastest way that I know to get the band to follow my stick!
    Marches can be a real problem if they are halfheartedly presented. The constant diet in the military bands can cause this VERY quickly if the conductor is not turned on.

    Do any of you have interesting stories about this type of music?
  2. Richard Oliver

    Richard Oliver Forte User

    Jul 18, 2006
    Casper, WY
    Umpteen years ago, I played with the Pomona Concert Band. They played some marches. Since I never had played in school, I'd never played one.

    Then I found out they're printed on tiny 1/2 sheets of paper with very little notes with the parts squinched together.

  3. MFfan

    MFfan Fortissimo User

    Sep 13, 2006
    Kalamazoo, Michigan
    I have played with the fine Kalamazoo Concert Band for 36 years, and many others around Michigan, concert and parade, when younger. Played a wide variety of marches, concert,amd Sousa, Bagley, Fillmore, etc of the short page variety, many nationalities, etc. Our conducter , Dr Tom Evans of Kalamazoo College, is very enthusiastic and conducts /teaches about each march, so as to try to make fresh some we have played a zillion times. Observe correct tempos, composer's markings, volumes,tradition of playing that particular march in a certain way, etc. to present as well as possible. Our audiences love them and we try to do an encore of a spirited march after each concert program. For a look at what we do, just Google Kalamazoo Concert Band and you will get the link. Sometimes doing something like leaving the brass out of a section, etc. allows interesting mostly hidden writing for the woodwinds to come out, and so forth.
    They don't have to be stale! Rowuk has a good approach to gain the attention and interest of the band.
  4. Sturmbill

    Sturmbill Pianissimo User

    Feb 11, 2004
    One trick I use is to take the trio section and rehearse it as though it is a ballad. It is startling how many nuances come to light when not bombing through the march!

    I have also found the Brion/Schissel editions to be real gems in the information they give about performance styles, history of the work, etc.

  5. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

    Jul 20, 2006
    Heart of Dixie
    Years ago, I played in a community concert band, and we played a march or two at every concert. At some point, the director decided to do an all Sousa march concert, and I quickly became sick of marches - they all seemed the same in my mind.

    I then did a 5-year stint in the local symphony, and the only marches we played were Stars and Stripes Forever and Radetsky. They were too tame for me with the strings playing - not really marching music.

    Then there's the Civil War band I play in. We don't play marches per se, but Quicksteps (which were marching songs). These don't seem to follow any specific form, but are best when played enthusiastically at a tempo that's too fast to march to. My favorite from this era is Washington Grays, by Grafulla. It has a much more modern sound than its circa 1860 date would lead you to believe.

    I currently play in a British-style brass band that is quite good. We include a march or two in every concert, and the conductors really insist on wide dynamic ranges and a reserved style on most passages. This adds greatly to the musicality of the piece, and makes it more enjoyable for both the band and the audience. I look forward to playing marches! The sound of a controlled, 30-piece brass band playing a great piece such as National Emblem (by E.E. Bagley) is a pleasure.
  6. MFfan

    MFfan Fortissimo User

    Sep 13, 2006
    Kalamazoo, Michigan
    Hey Dale, that looks like a great group in Huntsville and am glad you have one going down south. Wish I played that well! Anyway our group of choice is the Brass Band of Battle Creek and we have gone to all of their concerts for years and buy the cd's. I am sure you are familiar with them. They guested at our Christmas concert in 03 and and were a big hit in Kalamazoo. We are having them back this Dec and everyone is looking forward to that. I have heard the River City Brass and they are great, also. I agree, all marches would put me over the edge, also. Our prior conducter, who did the band for 25 yrs, once programmed almost a whole program of band arrangements of waltz's. Even had a couple of ball room dances. Needless to say, no one enjoyed those weeks and that recording is on my no-play list. Enjoy your knowledgeable posts.
  7. gglassmeyer

    gglassmeyer Piano User

    Apr 28, 2006
    Cincinnati, OH
    There is a gentleman named Marcus Neiman who came and performed a Sousa concert with us. Marcus has a band called the Sounds of Sousa Sounds of Sousa Home and he impersonates Sousa himself. He came to a few practices with our Community Concert band (Mount Community Concert Band, Cincinnati, OH (The College of Mount St. Joseph)) and explained that when Sousa would perform a concert he would play a classical or light classical type selection and follow it immediately with one of his marches as a type of encore. At the concert he dressed up as Sousa and ran us through our list of concert selection + march. It was a good time and I think we've never had such a large or lively crowd since then.

    The above link will get you to The Sounds of Sousa web site for more info. Our band The Mount Community Concert Band (Cincinnati, OH) also has a link above and there are some photo on the site at 10
    I'm in one of the pictures performing Bugler's Holiday, all the rest of the pictures were taken by me so I'm not present in most.

    I find that I enjoy playing British Marches like "The British Eighth" because they're so different from the Sousa marches.
  8. MFfan

    MFfan Fortissimo User

    Sep 13, 2006
    Kalamazoo, Michigan
    Thanks for the links Greg. Looks like a fun band to play in. Our former director, did the Sousa thing, also. We had two opening years concerts called "Grand Sousa Concerts" where he dressed as Sousa, powdered hair, etc. and we did a variety of Sousa marches, concert pieces with instrumental and vocal soloists, etc. to give a variety. The audience loved them. I like a variety of marches and especially the English ones (anglophile!) , plus the Holst pieces, Jacob, etc. Don't care as much for the French and German ones. Dave
  9. cornetguy

    cornetguy Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 12, 2005
    Saint Paul, MN
    I once spent 40 minutes rehearsing a good high school band on Col Bogey March. They thought they knew it...

    When I judge band festivals and a group comes in doing a march as a warm-up piece I usually fill the critique sheet on just the march, about things like dynamics, accent, precision, tone quality, style things and differences between American, English and Continental, sometimes even tempo (playing a German March way too fast) Very often they wind up getting a II.

    As far as I am concerned a March is part of the Band's heritage and we as band directors should program at least one at every concert. I like that the Midwest requires that for performing bands.
  10. gglassmeyer

    gglassmeyer Piano User

    Apr 28, 2006
    Cincinnati, OH
    I know that in our band, the director has to constantly fight us over dynamics on Sousa marches. One thing that doesn't help our cause is that we have 13-15 trumpets in a 65 piece concert band. It's a bit of overkill, but sometimes I still feel like I'm the only one playing my part.

    One other issue that comes up is the subconcious desire to slow down prior to the piccolo solo in Stars and Stripes, our director insists that we only slow down the second time through. I like the Canadian Brass salute to Sousa where they have the tuba player playing the piccolo solo, later followed by a piccolo trumpet.

    A well played march with proper dynamics is a wonderful thing.

    The director records our concerts and every time I listen to them, I'm dissapointed by how overall our performance is decent, but there are so many little things that screw things up. Transitions/keychanges/tempo/intonation/dynamics etc.. That's what really makes or breaks a performance. We're always going to have issues since it's community band and no auditions are done. Some folks just don't have the ear for intonation and don't reliably practice or know how to subdivide or follow direction. It's great fun though for those of us who don't make a living as musicians. I have great satisfaction when I hear an arrangement played on the radio or CD that our group has performed and knowing that I can do that.

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