Sousa's fame as a 'march merchant' is secure. That fame is part reflected
in the present collection. In addition we are reminded of his work in other
Many of his marches now have a rather absurd air hanging about them. The
Irish Dragoons (1915) contrives to be simultaneously dashing and loopy.
Bullets and Bayonets (1918) is a pugnacious skirlinskirling effort
peppered with gunshots and echoing with the fife and drum - all rather
incongruous in the face of the contemporaneous slaughter on the fields of
France. That incongruity seems to be objectionable only now. Perhaps, at
the time, contemporary sensibility had no difficulty squaring tragedy and
Jack Tar (1903) reeks of a sea-green queazy absurdity. Power and Glory
is a pompous stamping affair. Invincible Eagle (1901) and Semper
Fidelis (1888) are part of Sousa's formula for fame; a recipe rounded
out by Stars and Stripes with its hallmark horns crying out over the
symmetry of the music. Those billowing horns seem to be tracing the contours
of far horizons. The lesser-known quick-time march Daughters of Texas
is the usual potage of silliness and pomp.
The marches can be contrasted with a series of genre pieces and suites
paralleling the work of the hundreds of light music purveyors active in England
and documented through Phil Scowcroft's series of Garlands. Nymphaline
Reverie (1880) is a Gallic-style balletic delight. Profane pleasures
are put away in Grace and Songs of Glory - A Sacred Selection (1892).
In this Sousa adroitly apes the required sanctimonious manner. The Suite:
Dwellers of the Western World portrays the three American races: The
Red Man comes to us courtesy of Smetana's Vltava!, while The
White Man takes us to Dvorák's New World. The final movement,
The Black Man has just enough of the flashing white teeth and
street-corner tap dancing to make you shift uneasily in your seat. However,
for its time, the portrayal was no doubt acceptable. The silvery and glinting
Humoresque is based on Gershwin's song Swannee.
The disc is well documented. The arrangements are by the conductor who has
made a speciality (or should I say specialty) of this repertoire. There is
much that is undemandingly enjoyable here. It will appeal to all lovers of
light music though I cannot pretend that, as music, it is especially