Tune of the Day: Stars and Stripes Forever
This well known patriotic march is widely considered to be the magnum opus of composer John Philip Sousa. By act of Congress, it is the National March of the United States of America.
In his autobiography, Sousa writes that he composed the march on Christmas Day 1896. He had just learned of the recent death of his good friend David Blakely. Sousa was on a ferry in Europe at the time, and he composed the march in his head. He committed the notes to paper on arrival in America.
The Russian born pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who lived most his life in the United States, wrote a famous transcription of Stars and Stripes Forever for solo piano to celebrate becoming an American citizen. In an interview, Horowitz opined that the march, being a military march, is meant to be played at a walking tempo. He complained that many conductors played the piece too fast, resulting in music that is “hackneyed”.
In show business, particularly theater and the circus, this piece is called “the Disaster March”, as it is traditionally used to signal a life-threatening emergency. This helps theater personnel to handle events and organize the audience's exit without panic. Circus bands never play it under any other circumstances. One example of its use was at the Hartford Circus Fire in July 1944.
If you are looking for the famous piccolo solo, you can find it on top of page 2 of our transcription.