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John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)
Music for Wind Band vol. 4

Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (1922) [3:36]
Sesqui-Centennial Exposition (1926) [3:44]
Tales of a Traveler (1911) [16:25]
Riders for the Flag (1927) [2:41]
Ancient and Honorable Artillery Co. (1924) [2:37]
Coeds of Michigan (1925) [5:26]
Pathfinder of Panama (1915) [3:17]
The Glory of the Yankee Navy (1909) [3:39]
Bride Elect Selections (1898) [10:37]
The Aviators (1931) [3:01]
The Stars and Stripes Forever (1896) [3:58]
Royal Artillery Band/Keith Brion
Recorded at the Woolwich Town Hall, London from 29th-30th November, 2000 DDD
NAXOS 8.559093 [59:01]


Everybody loves a parade. The colorful floats, clowns, and general madness making up that scene simply cannot be put aside. However, the most memorable and enjoyable part for me has always been the marching bands. Loud, blustery sousaphones, raucous drums, bright cornets on the air, and woodwinds blowing through a string of acrobatic runs that would make a trapeze artist laugh at the daring of it all. Of course there have been other writers of great marches, but the only true great march-writer is John Philip Sousa. Truly he is the Beethoven, the Lennon/McCartney, or the Ellington of his genre. As I wax rhapsodic about the greatness of the man and the march as a genre, consider that from the late 1800s through the early 1920s, the march was the great pop music of America, and this man was the king of the march.

Put in that context, this collection by the Royal Artillery Band can be seen as much more than simply a very fine collection of Sousa’s marches. This is the fourth volume in the collection of his complete works, and includes The Glory of the Yankee Navy and the official March of the United States The Stars and Stripes Forever, which may stand as the absolute apex of the genre. The lesser known works on this recording include Tales of a Traveler, which is broken in to 3 movements ("The Kaffir on the Karroo", "In the Land of the Golden Fleece", and "Coronation March"), the military marches Riders for the Flag, and The Aviators, and the scholastic celebration of the fairer sex Coeds of Michigan.

Every track on this disc is an absolute treat. The music is not only light-hearted and fun, but it is incredibly well executed. While listening to these performances, it is often easy to forget how technically demanding these marches can be. The runs are played without error, even when the velocity becomes circus-like. The more solemn marches are able to maintain their character without becoming staid or stodgy. When Ancient and Honorable Artillery Co. quotes Auld Lang Syne it is able to be done with the appropriate amount of levity without becoming farcical. In general, this is a collection of nearly flawless performances.

If your heart races when you hear the thunder of a snare drum line and crash of the cymbals then you should own this album. If you appreciate marches even a little such energetic, happy music can do nothing but put you in a great mood. This album comes with my very highest recommendation.

Patrick Gary

 



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