Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Tuesday, May 14

Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever!" March

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1897, John Philip Sousa was in Philadelphia and leading his band in the premiere performance of “The Stars and Stripes Forever!” Sousa wrote his most famous march on Christmas Day, 1896, in a New York hotel room—completing the score, he said, in just a couple of hours. The work’s title was a tribute to one of Sousa’s mentors, another legendary bandmaster named Patrick S. Gilmore, whose favorite toast was, "Here's to the Stars and Stripes forever!”

The 1897 premiere of the march went over well, but at first sales didn’t surpass the other Sousa marches available at the time. It was the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the subsequent national eruption of patriotic fervor, and some cagey showmanship on Sousa’s part that catapulted “The Stars and Stripes Forever!” into its unique status. Sousa crafted a touring patriotic pageant involving hundreds of performers, which ended with “The Stars and Stripes Forever!” playing, as soldiers from all three branches of the military marched on-stage with flags unfurled, culminating in the entrance of an attractive local beauty decked out in red, white, and blue.

Despite the thousands of times Sousa and his band were required to play “The Stars and Stripes Forever!” they claimed they never tired of it. And in its now 100+ year history, it’s become one of the most frequently performed pieces of American music worldwide.

Music Played in Today's Program

John Philip Sousa (1854 - 1932) The Stars and Stripes Forever Royal Artillery Band;Keith Brion, cond. Naoxs 8.559093

Additional Information

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