Jack's Musings: Another March Perspective April 29 2010, 3 Comments

Another March Perspective By Jack Kopstein Recently I set to work to research an entire parcel of known marches of every type and style. I want to point out that I approached this subject from a different perspective. Often the measures employed with reference to marches are numerous performances on recordings. This method, although the most popular, does not always ring true in a live situation, nor does it cover some good modern marches. Although I have not explored regimental marches, I would believe that the British Grenadiers is no doubt a popular universal march. I took a sampling of world marches from various sources including band and symphony concerts. Thus I was provided with a compelling rationale of what can be considered to be a great march. There is something very special about the march. Real great marches played by bands and orchestras around the world, often offer a challenge for the musicians. Audiences love the melodic and rhythmic nature of the marches. It is summed up in two words: 'toe tapping.' The truly great marches written by expert march composers found their way into the concert repertoire and became the substance of performance and parades. The exciting sounds of the march were mostly the work of a group of unknown and nondescript writers who loved March writing. Naturally we know there were exceptions, names that became synonymous with the march such as Sousa and Alford. But for the most part, outside the intimate band circle, names like J. J. Richards, A W Hughes, Karl L King, and Fred Jewell were unknown. Also the European march writers Carl Teike and the great Herman Blankenburg remain in obscurity by anyone other than band musicians. The March music of the Strauss family became the substance of both small and large orchestras and bands. As a testament to marches, the Radetsky march is played on numerous occasions, yet their music was tuneful, harmonically correct and the melodies linger in the minds of audiences around the world. The wonders of the circus are brought to mind with 'Barnum and Baileys Favorite' and Julius Fucik’s ‘Entry of the Gladiators.' Military precision is exemplified in 'Colonel Bogey' and 'Action Front'. We experience the excitement of the street parade with the marches 'Military Escort', 'E Pluribus Unum'. We are made to feel pride with 'Stars and Stripes Forever' and to stand tall with 'Invercargill'. The late Norman Smith wrote his book “March Music Notes” as a dedication to the hundreds of masterful marches written in the last two centuries. One of the most interesting facets of Smith’s book is a section in which several marches were selected as being the most popular based on input from world contributors. There is a march for every occasion. Marches for concerts, those that mark the Yuletide season, and marches to celebrate national holidays. There are marches written by Gustav Holst to examine the consciousness of a people because they are folk songs. For band musicians there is an indescribable attraction to the music of the march. The sound and action bring us to the edge of our chairs: we are carried away on the momentum of flute and clarinet spirals, flashing trumpets, rhythmic undulations of trombones, thundering footsteps of tubas and crashing torrents of percussion. Much of the music of the 20th century has fallen into disfavor, but like a shining beacon the march remains a symbol for many of us in the world who do walk to the beat of our own drum. Next month we begin a series called The Story of the March