John Philip Sousa was a master entertainer. Long before the days of radio, television, tapes, CDs, or MP3s, he was entertaining millions of people around the world with a particular style of music that marked his place in history as the “World's Greatest Bandmaster.”
What was it about the “March King's” music that attracted thousands of people? Sousa's concert style was designed for his audiences and featured music by many composers—from classical standards to the popular music of the day. Characterized by their fast pace, each performance had spirited encores that came many times during the concert, outstanding vocal and instrumental soloists, and a rousing finale of his most famous composition, The Stars and Stripes Forever.
As you are transported back to golden age of concert bands in this recreation of an 1890s concert by Sousa's band, conductor Dr. Christopher Heidenreich will portray the roll of John Philip Sousa in this musical portrait of the March King. Sousa's concerts charachteristicly featured soloists from the band and guest soloists from abroad or musicians from the local area as the band traveled the country. In that tradition, A Portrait of Sousa features guest vocal and instrumental soloists:
Professor David Jackson is Associate Professor of Trombone at the University of Michigan. He also has been a faculty member at Baylor University, Eastern Michigan University, and the University of Toledo. He is a member of the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings and of Chicago's Fulcrum Point New Music Project. A Conn-Selmer artist and clinician, he was featured soloist at several recent engagements, including performances at Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, Music at Gretna in Mt. Gretna, PA, and with the Ann Arbor Concert Band. He was also guest soloist with Los Angeles Symphonic Winds, both in Los Angeles and at the MidEurope Festival in Schladming, Austria. In addition to these performances, Professor Jackson recently performed master classes and recitals at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the University of Minnesota, UCLA, California State University-Northridge, and Pepperdine University.
Mimi Lanseur, mezzo soprano, is a proud Michigan native who lives in Ann Arbor and splits her music making between Detroit and Tree Town. She most recently performed the role of Mercédès in Opera MODO's acclaimed production of Carmen in Detroit this past February. As Mercédès, Ms. Lanseur's "first rate voice" brought "big energy and entertainment value to the production," which was presented by the Knight Foundation, and featured a transgender Carmen, a female Don José, and sought to raise awareness of the brutal violence and discrimination that members of the LBGTQ community experience. She is a staff singer at the Cathedral Church of St Paul in Detroit, and teaches privately in her studio. This summer she will be performing Mercédès with Opera MODO in a touring production of Carmen as part of the opening ceremonies of the Franklin Stage Company in Franklin, New York. Previous roles include Dorabella (Così fan tutte), Cendrillon (Cendrillon), Hänsel (Hänsel & Gretel), Nancy (Albert Herring), and Cenerentola (La Cenerentola). Ms. Lanseur holds a Masters degree from Westminster Choir College, where she was a student of Laura Brooks Rice and Christopher Arneson, and is a proud member of the Westminster Choir.
Dr. James Wagner, organist, has degrees in organ performance from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University and is a prolific composer whose compositions include music for organ, wind band, vocal works and opera. Dr. Wagner is Director of Music and Organist at First Congregational Church of Wayne. He is an Assistant Conductor of the Washtenaw Community Concert Band and member of the band's percussion section.
Bey Hurt, cornetist, has studied trumpet with the late Irving Sarin, principal trumpet of the Pittsburgh Symphony, and with other area trumpet teachers. He is a member of the Washtenaw Community Concert Band's trumpet section and plays with the Tecumseh Pops Orchestra. He also plays in WCCB's vintage Town Band and The Big Band Theory of the Milan area and is Business Manager for the Peace Jubilee Brass Band. He has performed with the 5th Michigan Regimental Band and often plays Taps at area military funerals.
We regret that due to health issues, Marcus Neiman, previously billed as guest conductor, is unable to participate in the concert.
John Philip Sousa (1854–1932) was born in Washington, DC, and apprenticed with his father on trombone with the United States Marine Band at the age of 13. An accomplished violinist, he traveled the East Coast for a time performing with various orchestras, operas, musicals, and special events. In 1880, he was selected (recruited might be a better word) to serve as the 17th conductor of the same US Marine Band. Although he inherited a rag-tag group of players, he soon found the performers to make the band one of the premiere musical organizations in the country, and with his high standards the demand for public concerts increased. In 1891, the band was granted permission to give their first concert tour, a tradition that continues today.
In 1892, Sousa resigned from the Marines and began his own band, one that would eventually tour the world. Long before commercial bus or air travel, noted historian Paul Bierley has estimated that the Sousa Band traveled over 1 million miles by rail or ship over the next 30 plus years (the moon is a mere 238,900 miles, so that's literally to the moon and back).
This time in American history is generally regarded as the height of the professional touring concert bands, and in the opinion of many contemporary writers and musicians, no one performed a higher quality concert than Sousa. Other than the New York Philharmonic, very few professional orchestras existed until after 1900, and those that did were either in their infancy or near a major metropolitan area. Without the Internet, television, radio, or recording devices, the concert band was the primary, universally appreciated musical organization of the day.
Sousa remained steadfast in his belief about the concert band: that it was for entertainment, not for education. His concert programming began with what he considered classics and would include overtures and excerpts by composers such as Richard Wagner (not often heard in the orchestra repertoire today, let alone in 1900), Carl Maria von Weber, or Franz von Suppé. Lighter standard repertoire from Jacques Offenbach would also be represented, as would music of the day such as ragtime, waltzes, and selections influenced by jazz rhythms. The program would always feature the musicianship of the Sousa Band's section leaders—great soloists such as Herbert L. Clarke, Frank Simon, Arthur Pryor or Simone Mantia. In addition, each program would include from four to seven Sousa marches interspersed in the program—as part of the concert order or as an unannounced encore. The march was regarded as the musical form of the day, known and expected by any audience that heard the band.
In his lifetime, Sousa composed 136 marches, 15 operettas, 11 suites, 70 songs, 4 overtures, and created over 322 arrangements. The first sousaphone (a brass instrument with a sound similar to a tuba) was built to his specifications.
Sousa was a passionate supporter of The United States and listed his occupation as “Salesman of Americanism.” To that end, he brought his unique style of American music to millions of ardent fans around the world and it is indeed fitting that he remains best know for his most stirring and patriotic composition, The Stars and Stripes Forever.