Anniversary of a World Renowned March January 06 2014, 1 Comment

Contributed by Jack Kopstein

Colonel Bogey March, by Kenneth J. Alford, turns 100 in 2014! Colonel Bogey is arguably the most famous march ever written. It is certainly the most profitable. First published in 1914 - a portentous year for marches if ever there was one - it quickly made the best-seller sheet music lists. By the early 1930's, it had sold well over a million copies in various forms, and had been recorded innumerable times and had already begun clocking up useful performing rights from the BBC. Even better, in 1958 it was chosen as the theme tune for the splendid film The Bridge on the River Kwai – although in the form of the very tuneful counter melody. It is of course a fine march whose opening has proved totally irresistible for the best part of a century.

Its composer was Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts (1881-1945), a military bandmaster who was Director of Music for the Royal Marines at Plymouth. Because at that time Service personnel were not encouraged to have professional lives in the great big world outside, Ricketts published Colonel Bogey and his other compositions under the pseudonym Kenneth J. Alford.


So much for the composer -- but who in fact was Colonel Bogey? The story goes that this was a nickname by which a certain fiery colonel was known just before the 1914 War when Ricketts was stationed at Fort George near Inverness in Scotland. One of the composer's recreations was playing golf and it was on the local course that he sometimes encountered the eccentric colonel. One of the latter's peculiarities was that instead of shouting "Fore!" to warn of an impending drive, he preferred to whistle a descending minor third. This little musical tag stayed and germinated in the mind of the receptive Ricketts -- and so the opening of a memorable march was born.

The sheet music was a million-seller, and the march was recorded many times. At the start of World War II, Colonel Bogey became part of British way of life when the tune was set to other popular song: an unofficial national anthem to rudeness. Colonel Bogey was used as a march-past by the 10th and 50th Battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the latter of which is perpetuated today by The King's Own Calgary Regiment (RCAC) of the Canadian Forces who claim Colonel Bogey as their authorized march-past in quick time. Numerous arrangements have surfaced including piano, orchestra, and organ.

The march has over the years developed into Nation Symbol musically of Britain. The British Heart and Soul is represented in the melodic and harmonic structure as well as the marvelous counter melody. Colonel Bogey march has the distinction of being playable in any situation-on the street, in the concert hall and with any small group or ensemble, big or small. Alissimo! salutes the 100th anniversary of the Colonel Bogey March –It is an international treasure. We are proud to say that the march appears no less than 11 times on our albums. Go to this link to see the vast array of albums.

- Jack Kopstein