Sousa concert invokes musical charisma of bygone era
Nostalgia reigns on Sunday, Oct. 2, when the Purdue Symphonic Band stages a band concert in the style of John Philip Sousa, the most influential band leader of the early 20 th century.
Known as "The March King," Sousa possessed a larger than life persona. His charisma, musicianship and knack for structuring concerts made him wildly popular, says
Symphonic Band Director Jay Gephart who hopes to recreate that excitement at the "Sousa Spectacular!" set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, at the Long Center , 111 N. Sixth St .
The concert is a fundraiser for the Symphonic Band's performance trip to Carnegie Hall in 2006.
For the special event members of the band will be dressed in Sousa-style uniforms with black on black embroidery, and lots of gold trim and braid. Sousa liked to punctuate his concerts with marches that weren't printed in the concert program, a trick that Gephart will pull out of the Sousa bag of surprises.
"In-between every selection, there was an encore and the encore was a Sousa march. These encores didn't appear in the program. Someone would walk out, almost as if it was a vaudeville concert, with a placard announcing it," says Gephart.
The legendary band master also made sure his crowds heard more than just his own marches. His formula for a successful concert included great orchestral music, character pieces, solo compositions and patriotic music - all of which Gephart will do with the Symphonic Band. The Fall Concert Band, which opens the Oct. 2 program, will not be costumed but will also follow a Sousa concert format.
"Stars and Stripes Forever,' "The Liberty Bell" and "Who's Who in Navy Blue" will be among the Sousa marches performed. Sousa's "Fugue on Yankee Doodle" will be on the program. The Symphonic Band's spotlight number will be "Symphony on Themes by Sousa 'Fairest of the Fair'," by Ira Hearshen. Purdue's music faculty will be spotlighted in the solo spots Sousa was fond of.
Percussion specialist Pamela Nave will solo in the xylophone rag "Rainbow Ripples" during the Fall Concert Band portion of the concert, while trumpeter Mo Trout (director of Fall Concert Band and Purdue's Jazz Bands) along with euphonium player Bill Kisinger (Marching Band and American Music Review) will be featured in "Cousins" with the Symphonic Band.
'It's going to be music everyone can enjoy - no long hair or heavy band music, just a truly great family concert," says Gephart.
The Symphonic Band director feels that current musicians in America are in debt to Sousa who is credited with exposing people in the "new world" to the classics by extensive touring that took him to small towns all over the United States from 1892 to 1932.
Audiences fell in love with the music partly because Sousa's programming style was so effective. "He knew what audiences wanted to hear, and his concerts were incredibly well paced, not too long with lots of variety," Gephart says.
"That era, even today, represents the truest sense of the word Americana . When we enjoy July 4 th concerts from Slayter Center to the Boston Pops, it's because of Sousa and what he did to start this type of concert. It's had such a far reaching effect that we owe him a debt of gratitude."
When high school music programs started to thrive in the early to mid 20 th century, they did so by patterning their bands after Sousa's. Sousa himself actively encouraged music at the college level and, in 1927, personally gave a sterling silver loving cup to Purdue in recognition of the excellence he found here.
"Some of the most incredible musical personalities in the early 20 th century came out of his bands like Meredith Willson who ended up writing the Broadway musical 'The Music Man'," says Gephart who considers himself a descendant of the Sousa tradition. "My tuba teacher at Indiana University , Harvey Phillips, was taught by a member of Sousa's band."
Tickets for the concert are $10 and are now on sale through the Purdue box offices, 494-3933. All proceeds go towards defraying the costs of the band's March trip to New York City . They will also be available at the Long Center box office on the day of the show only.