Military Music Blog

Ned Stokes February 12 2013, 0 Comments

[Ned] began playing trumpet at an early age and his music teacher and band director, Mr. Billman, arranged to have four of his students invited to attend the "All Master High School Band Festival” in May of 1938, held at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA. Ned recalled, “The greatest thrill that year was the opportunity to play under the direction of Percy Grainger, a famous composer, and Edwin Franko Goldman, the most renowned band director of the times.” It was following the concert that Ned was able to get the autographs of both the guest performers. Ned joined the United States Navy in 1942 and was posted to the USS Shubrick (DD-639).

We Can Do It! Album Review February 06 2013, 0 Comments

This newly released album from ALTISSIMO commemorates the magnificent contribution of Women in WWII, with a re-creation of BIG Band music and the songs of the era 1939-1945 by United States Service bands.. Adorning the cover of the album is a poster which absolutely characterizes the spirit of women during this threatening and devastating period. The portrayal of a rolled up sleeves and a clenched fist with hair wrapped in a bandanna reflects the fundamental and steadfast mind-set of women. “We can Do It” was not merely words or a motto but an unfeigned desire to work in livelihoods never before ever considered.

John Philip Sousa Memorial Concert - 1932 January 15 2013, 1 Comment

Jack Kopstein April 17th 1932 Unquestionably there have been numerous concerts over the years to memorialize the great John Philip Sousa, but  none more celebratory in his memory than the concert held  at Constitution Hall  in Washington on Sunday April 17th 1932. The concert was held under the auspicious of the American Red Cross and was the annual American Bandmasters Association  concert. The performers included three of the top service bands of the American Forces-The United States Army band, The United States Navy band and the United States Marine Band. What certainly made this concert of everlasting historical significance, was the number of distinguished composer -conductors who appeared and led the bands in introducing new band music. Sousa had passed away on March 6th 1932 and the performance was a major undertaking to organize and advertise in tribute to him. Originally, Sousa was to have conducted his newest creation Leaves from my Notebook. The eminent composer Gustav Holst was to premiere his work Hammersmith, which he had dedicated to Walton O’Donnell, director of the BBC military band. Holst was in the United States to lecture in composition at Harvard University on a six month contract. Holst was suddenly taken ill prior to the concert and the first performance Prelude and Scherzo of Hammersmith was conducted by Captain Branson Taylor, leader of the United States Marine Band. A further premiere was conducted by Branson with the introduction of Ottorino Respighi’s Hunting Tower ballad written especially for the concert. Hunting Tower remains as the only piece written by Respighi for concert band. Canadian composers Captain Charles O’Neill and Lieutenant JJ Gagnier conducted the United States Army Band in new band compositions, O’Neill’s Overture in F Minor and Gagnier’s The Wind in the Leafless Maple. Both O’Neill and Gagnier did not appear without some difficulty. O’Neill was the director of the Royal 22nd Band in Quebec City, and Gagnier was the director of a militia band, His Majesties Grenadier Guards Band in Montreal. Both were up against the Canadian Army who were operating on a penny-pinching budget in the depression era. They would not pay for the music directors to attend the conference. Lt Colonel “Tommy” Burns (Later Lt General), who was stationed in Quebec, got wind of the situation and they were granted train and accommodation expenses (1). Nathaniel Shilkret, well known composer and musician, composed a special tone poem, Skyward, in honor of the occasion.  Shilkret had been associated with Sousa as he conducted the Sousa band for their recordings by Victor Talking Machine Company. It is also noted that Shilkret was an accomplished clarinettist and may have played clarinet with the band on numerous occasions from 1923 to 1925. (2) Victor Grabel arranged the Chopin Funeral March which he conducted on the concert. The finale was a set of four of Sousa’s greatest marches with the massed bands and conducted by Walter M. Smith of the Boston-based Smith’s Band , Herbert L. Clarke, Frank Simon and the illustrious Arthur Pryor. Much of the music performed on the concert never made it into print and remained in manuscript form for several years. Gustav Holst’s masterpiece for band, Hammersmith, was not premiered in its published version until 1954. The programme follows: 1. Fantasie “Midshipman” (New) ……Peter Buys United States Navy Band –conducted by the composer 2. Bolero…………………………………………..Maurice Ravel United States Band conducted by Lieut. Charles Benter 3. A Chinese Festival (New) ………………..Maurice Arnold United States Navy Band conducted by Austin A Harding 4. Concert Overture in F Minor (New)…………….Capt.Charles O’Neill United States Army Band-Conducted by composer 5. Tone Poem ‘The Wind in the Leafless Maple (New)..Lieut.JJ Gagnier United States Army band-Conducted by the composer 6. Overture Spiritual Rivers (New)…………………………….George C Gault United States Army Band conducted by Capt. William J Stannard 7. Prelude and Scherzo “Hammersmith” (New) …Gustave Holst Conducted by the composer(see above) 8. Huntingtower Tower Ballad (New)…………………………….Ottorino Respighi United States Army band- conducted by Captain Taylor Branson 9. Presentation of Bandmasters Medal 10.Tone Poem “Skyward” (New)…..Nathaniel Shilkret United States Marine Band-Conducted by the Composer 11. Funeral March……………………..Frederick Chopin Arranged by Victor Jean Gabrel –United States Marine band conducted by Victor Jean Gabrel 12. US Field Artillery March… John Philip Sousa Massed bands conducted by Walter M Smith 13.Washington Post March……. John Philip Sousa- Massed bands conducted by Frank Simon 14. El Capitan March………John Philip Sousa conducted by Herbert L Clarke 15. Stars and Stripes Forever- John Philip Sousa Massed bands conducted by Arthur Pryor 16. Sabbath Evening in Camp (New) .. Captain R.B. Hayward- Massed bands conducted by the composer 17.Grand March “University” (new) Edwin Franko Goldman Massed Bands conducted by the composer Peter Buys- Played Eb Clarinet in the Sousa band from 1912 and arranged for Sousa  to 1918. Maurice Arnold- Was a distinguished black composer and was a student of Anton Dvorak. He wrote numerous symphonic pieces based on African Music. Captain (later Dr. ) Charles O’Neill was the first director of the Royal 22nd Band (La Musique du Royal 22e Régiment). Victor Jean Gabrel- Conductor of the Chicago Concert band and a founding father of the American bandmasters Association Lieutenant J.J. Gagnier- the director of the famous Canadian Grenadier Guards Band in Montreal, and was a member of one Canada’s good music for concert bands Nathaniel Shilkret- An arranger and recording producer for Sousa and one of Americas great composer and arranger. Edwin Franko Goldman-The founding father of the ABA and iconic bandmaster of the Goldman band. Goldman pioneered much needed Notes (1) Jack  Kopstein “When the Band begins To play self- published 1992. (2) Journal of band Research -20th century Repertoire Bibliography: The Incredible band of John Philip Sousa  Paul Bierley-University of Illinois 2006 Encyclopedia of band Music-Rehrig-Bierley-Integrity Press 1996 The Heritage of Canadian Military Music-Kopstein- Pearson Vanwell Publishing 2002 Gustave Holst One of Britain’s leading composers. He is credited with several marvellous compositions for concert(military) band including Suites in Eb and F. George C Gault The only known composition of this composer was featured on this concert Walter M Smith –An original member of the ABA and director of Smith’s band Boston Frank Simon-A long- time member and cornet soloist with the Sousa band, director of the Armco band Middleton Ohio Herbert L Clarke-A cornet soloist with the Sousa band , great proponent of the cornet bandmaster of several bands including the Long Beach California Municipal band Austin Harding-Director of bands at University of Illinois Arthur Pryor-One of Americas’s leading band leaders and director of Pryor’s band Captain R B Hayward- Director of the Queens Own Rifles and the Toronto Concert band. A most highly regarded Canadian musician and teacher. A graduate of the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller hall.

International Military Music Society USA January 15 2013, 0 Comments

The International Military Music Society is an organization for people who are interested in military bands, their music and history. The aims of the society are to encourage interest in all aspects of military, brass, concert, symphonic, percussion and wind ensembles of the world. The society has branches and members in 38 different countries. Their interests include history, uniforms, instrumentation, repertoire, recordings, military tattoos and other special projects involving military bands around the world.

'John Philip Sousa's America' Book Review January 03 2013, 0 Comments

Review By: Jack Kopstein There is an old adage that “you can’t tell a book by its cover, this marvelous book questions that claim. Written by the name sake of Sousa, great grandson John Philip IV with Loras John Schissel .The cover recreates the iconic nature of the original John Philip Sousa photograph  with the painting of Sousa in a WW1 victory   parade  marching along with the Chicago Navy Yard band which he organized. Among America's greatest treasures is the legacy of John Philip Sousa, "The March King." The music of this beloved bandleader and composer, whose most prolific period straddled the turn of the 20th century, continues to fill hearts with a wave of national pride and patriotism. Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever" is, in fact, the national march, and his creative medium, the marching band, has become an American institution. This volume provides an inside look through photographs and quotations  in the life of bandleader Sousa. It documents  Sousa’s  early childhood in rare photographs as well as family heirlooms never seen  before. The book is a virtual treasure trove of the life of a man whom has been described as an American Phenomenon in Paul Bierley’s book Sousa's relationship to music was virtually inevitable; in John Philip Sousa, American Phenomenon, Paul E. Bierley related, "Sousa's natural talent, coupled with the stimulating environment in which he was raised, has caused historians to remark that his development as the prime example of a musical patriot was a natural one and that he was obviously born at the right time and place in history." The stimulating environment was a musician's home just a stone's throw from the Marine barracks; the right time was the Civil War. Sousa's first professional opportunity came in 1868. While studying harmony, composition, and violin, the 13-year-old was offered the position of bandleader with a visiting circus. Sousa reflected, "The more I thought of it the more wonderful it seemed to follow the life of the circus, make money, and become the leader of a circus band myself. What a career that would be!" His father didn't see it that way, though; the senior Sousa quickly took his son to the Marine Corps headquarters and had him signed up as an apprentice violinist. In Jon Newsom's book Perspectives on John Philip Sousa, John Philip Sousa III reasoned, "For a child with my grandfather's obviously abundant imagination, the Marine Band must have been an acceptable substitute for the circus." When he was 20, Sousa received a special discharge from the Marines and embarked on a career as a professional musician. He toured with two companies and a vaudeville show, worked at two Philadelphia theaters, taught music, composed operettas, and even corrected proofs at a publishing company. In 1879, Sousa conducted Gilbert and Sullivan's immensely popular H.M.S. Pinafore. Under his masterful orchestration, the amateur company at his command was able to turn professional. Its success led to a season on Broadway where famous composers took in Sousa's production. News of the young music director's accomplishments did not escape the attention of his former employer; in 1880,25-year-old Sousa was named the 14th leader of the U.S. Marine Band. He was the first American-born conductor and the one who would elevate the band to celebrity status. Sousa stepped into the position with the know-how and energy of an experienced civilian conductor. He shook the dust off the stale institution by replacing most of the music with his own, changing the instrumentation, and improving the quality of the musicians. In the 12 years of Sousa's leadership, the Marine Band's reputation spread throughout the United States and even to Europe. It became a highly polished ensemble with a colorful virtuoso at the helm. Though completely committed to his profession, Sousa was able to pursue a variety of interests. He was a devoted family man and nature lover. He also enjoyed reading, horseback riding, trapshooting, and boxing. Sousa was a gentle, disciplined man distinguished by his wit, strict code of ethics, and bottomless vigor. In his embroidered uniform hung with medals, behind his pince-nez glasses and his trademark mustache, wearing his white kid gloves and stirring emotion into the air with his gold-tipped baton, he cut quite a formidable figure. Sousa led the Marine Band until 1892. He composed many exceptional pieces during this period, including "The Washington Post," for the celebrated newspaper of the same name. That march shot him into prominence and earned him the title of "March King." The Marine Band recorded with the fledgling Columbia Phonograph Co., and tours of the U.S. and Europe followed. In Europe, "The Washington Post" even spawned a popular dance called the two-step. When Sousa resigned from the military, he formed the Sousa Band, which enjoyed unprecedented success. Impressive engagements and world tours were the norm until life was once again interrupted by war. In 1917, Sousa then 62 enlisted, this time joining the U.S. Naval Reserve Force as America entered World War I. Lieutenant Sousa formed a huge musical battalion of over three hundred members and marched across the country in tremendous parades that raised millions of dollars for the war effort. Sousa’s life in pictures is a book for everyone, the pictures, quotations and historical trivia will provide many hours of interest for readers and researchers. The publishers and authors have rounded out the magnificence of this hardcover book  with a superb CD performed by the United States Marine band containing some of Sousa’s most beloved music. Sources: Bierley, Paul E., John Philip Sousa, American Phenomenon, Prentice-Hall, 1973. Newsom, Jon, Perspectives on John Philip Sousa, library of Congress, 1983. View the book here. Thank you, for reading. If you like this article, you should take a second to tweet or share with your friends. Or comment. Thanks!

USS Arizona's Last Band December 26 2012, 3 Comments

On December 7, 1941 the entire membership of the band of the USS Arizona was lost when the battleship was attacked by the Japanese. The band, trained as a unit, was one of the best in the 14th Naval District and often gave much pleasure to music-lovers. The musicians graduated from the Navy School of Music on May 23, 1941. On May 26, 1941, the band left the receiving ship Navy Yard, Washington, D.C. and boarded the USS Arizona on June 17, 1941. The band was under the direction of Musician First Class Fredrick W Kinney, of Bremerton, Washington. He was a veteran of the United States Navy having joined in 1927. All Capital ships had bands and at 08:00 every morning they played the National Anthem. This is what the bands aboard the ships at Pearl Harbor were about to do on December 7, 1941, but at 07:50 everything changed ~ forever ~ and all 21 members of the USS Arizona's band were lost at, or on their way to, their battle stations below decks.

The 5th United States Army Band December 26 2012, 3 Comments

The unit, often called “Chicago’s Own,” was the official Headquarters band of the Fifth U.S. Army and was the first or lead-off unit in Chicago area parades, celebrations, and special events. Richard Daley made the band a priority in official Chicago ceremonies when dignitaries visited the city. Some folks called the band “Daley’s Own!” The band performed at many varied events. A typical week could include a choral concert in Saint Louis, MO, a band concert in Milwaukee, WI, a street parade in Gary, IN, and a military review at any installation within a 13 state area. Besides these engagements, woodwind and brass ensembles, dance combos, small choral groups, and buglers were often called on to perform at official military functions. The band had a weekly radio program on Chicago station WGN that ran for over 20 years. The Fifth Army Band was the Ceremonial Band for the funeral of President Eisenhower.

The Origins of the Brass Band Movement, Part 2 December 13 2012, 1 Comment the eighteenth century, bands had become a lively and important part of village life in many countries. Com­posed of enthusiastic self-taught countrymen, they played at church ser­vices, fairs, dances, weddings, and wherever people gathered to pass the time of day. While village bands were often only small family affairs, some quite large bands, with perhaps ten or more players, grew up in local inns, where band practice was frequently encouraged by landlord eager to promote the drinking of ale. One of today's best known bands, Besses o' th’ Barn, began life in this way. Besses first appeared as Cleggs' Reed Band in the 1790's. Originally, it was composed of three brothers, John, James and Joseph Clegg with a few friends from the village of Besses o’ th’ Barn near Bury.

Marching Speeds November 29 2012, 0 Comments

Altissimo's recent release of 100 Famous Marches has raised the focus on the subject of actual marching speeds and when did it all begin. Early paintings and illustrations have surfaced showing that military marching by the Roman Legions was utilized particularly in their long travels across Europe. Measurement of the speed may have differed in various aspects of their military requirements. Later the speeds were calibrated and entered into marching orders. The steady, regular marching step was a marked feature of Roman legions.

Nevers Second Regiment Band November 13 2012, 0 Comments

Founded during the Civil War as part of a Union Army regiment, the Nevers' Band is one of the oldest continuing musical organizations in New Hampshire and one of the oldest bands in America. Though originally a 24-member, nearly all-brass band typical of mid-19th century ensembles, it has evolved since into a slightly larger organization of standard, modern concert band instrumentation. Its compound name derives from its last military affiliation with the Second Regiment of the New Hampshire National Guard until 1898, and its direction for more than half a century by Claremont cornetist, Arthur Nevers.

The Origins of the Brass Band Movement, Part 1 November 12 2012, 2 Comments

The brass band has become a vital ensemble for the service bands of the US military. These articles will outline the historical and the heritage of the brass band movement. See below for the numerous selections of Brass band albums in the Altissimo! catalog.

Military Music Festivals and Tattoos October 16 2012, 2 Comments

The original meaning of the military tattoo was a military drum performance, but subsequently it came to mean army displays more generally. The term dates from around 1600 during the Thirty Years' War in the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands). The Dutch fortresses were barracks with mercenary troops that were under federal command since 1594. The Dutch States Army had become a federal army, consisting mostly of Scottish, English, German and Swiss mercenaries, but commanded by a Dutch officer corps. Drummers from the garrison were sent out into the towns at 21:30 hrs (9:30PM) each evening to inform the soldiers that it was time to return to barracks. The process was known as doe den tap toe (Dutch for "turn off the tap"), an instruction to innkeepers to stop serving beer and send the soldiers home for the night. The drummers continued to play until the curfew at 22:00 hrs (10:00PM). Tattoo, earlier called tap-too and taptoo, are alterations of the Dutch words.

Rosie the Riveter CD - Send us your stories! October 11 2012, 0 Comments

Altissimo Recordings is cooking up something special- a CD dedicated to women during World War II. We want to make this album personal, and include our fans' stories. Was your grandmother or mother a Rosie? We would like to include pictures, stories, biographies, Rosie tattoos, anything that will give a little personal touch to the album.

National Anthems of the World September 18 2012, 1 Comment

A national anthem, hymn, or song is a generally patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions and struggles of its people. It is recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people. The majority of national anthems are either marches or hymns in style. The countries of Latin America tend to lean towards more operatic pieces, while a handful of countries use a simple fanfare.

Gainesville Community Band September 18 2012, 0 Comments

The Gainesville Community Band (GCB) was founded in 1974, by seven members to provide free, public performances to the Gainesville community. Today the band boasts up to 120 members. On May 1, 1978 the band was designated the “Official Band of the City of Gainesville” by the City Commission. And on November 22, 1994, the Alachua County Board of Commissioners named the band the “Official Band of Alachua County.”

This is the Army August 14 2012, 0 Comments

Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Irving Berlin immediately began to compose patriotic songs. He visited Camp Upton Army Base in Yaphank, New York during WWI, and got permission from the commanding officers to restage the 1917 play Yip Yip Yaphank. General George Marshall approved the Broadway wartime musical. The four words – “This is the Army” – was the inspiration for American composer, Irving Berlin. Like the original, This is the Army called for regular Army soldiers and showmen. Well-known director and radio actor Ezra Stone was selected to both direct and recruit singers from Army camps around the nation. Eventually, 300 singers were selected from the thousands that auditioned.

Honoring Brian Williams July 16 2012, 0 Comments

Brian Williams was a member of the Canadian Forces Band Service for several years, and had a distinguished career with Canadian Forces bands as Assistant Director of Music with the Vimy band in Kingston Ontario, the Royal Canadian Regiment Band in Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, New Brunswick and the Central Band of the Canadian Forces. He was one of the finest leaders in the history of CF bands. As a player, he was a trombone soloist extraordinaire. This tremendous honor bestowed upon him is well deserved both for his musical and leadership ability.

Community Band Spotlight July 2012 July 16 2012, 0 Comments

In 1976, and probably even years prior, the Guam Youth Band was organized as a marching band to perform for the 1977 Inauguration of President Jimmy Carter. Since then, the Guam Youth Band has been known as the Official Band of Guam. The band serves as an educational outreach for those who desire more than what their school band programs provide. It has become a second home to many of the youth members through the years and has served as an anchor for those who experience the trials of teenage and college life

A Salute to Jack Lawrence June 21 2012, 0 Comments

Jack Lawrence has had a long and distinguished career in the world of entertainment since his first song, "Play Fiddle Play," an international hit. That song earned him membership in the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers at the tender age of 20. He was the youngest member to be accepted by ASCAP at the time. Years later, he was also among the first writers to be inducted into the National Songwriters Hall of Fame. For many years he held memberships in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscar Awards), and the Dramatist's Guild of America. Many of his songs, most to which he wrote both words and music, have been used in important stage and film productions, and have been responsible for creating overnight stars.

Jack Kopstein Bio June 21 2012, 0 Comments

Jack Kopstein played clarinet with the London (Ontario) Symphony and the London Chamber Orchestra. In 1970, he was selected for bandmaster training at the Canadian Forces School of Music and graduated in 1971. By 1974, he was posted to the Canadian Forces Central Band in Ottawa, and in 1979 became the Assistant Director of Music. In 1981, he was the leader for the arrival of several Heads of State. He held similar posts with the PPCLI Band in Calgary, and the Vimy Band in Kingston. Kopstein retired from the military in 1988.

The Star Spangled Banner June 12 2012, 0 Comments

Francis Scott Key (August 1, 1779 – January 11, 1843) was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet, from Georgetown, who wrote the lyrics to the United States' National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.

Legacy of Robert Russell Bennett June 12 2012, 2 Comments

Robert Russell Bennett (June 15, 1894 – August 18, 1981) was an American composer and arranger, best known for his orchestration of many well-known Broadway and Hollywood musicals by other composers such as Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers. In 1957 and 2008, Bennett received Tony Awards recognizing his orchestrations for Broadway shows. Early in his career he was often billed as Russell Bennett.

War in Western Music June 01 2012, 0 Comments

The spectacle and political importance of war have made it a popular subject of music for the purposes of simple entertainment or the expression of deep sentiments. Long before recorded history, past combat has been celebrated or lamented in song. In such works the reality of the narrative was probably, on occasion, reinforced by the inclusion of war cries, war songs, and the formation of words whose sound is imitative of the sound of the noise or action designated, such as hiss, buzz, and bang, representing the noises of fighting. In the last case, vocal effects are known to be supplemented by instruments and even the clatter of actual weapons.

Edwin and Ezra Bagley May 23 2012, 0 Comments

This year marks the 90th year of the passing of one of America’s greatest march writers Edwin Bagley of National Emblem fame. Without any question, the two best known American marches, throughout the world are Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever and Bagley’s National Emblem.