Today’s music video is The Liberty Bell and this piece of music is performed here by the The United States Marine Band. (The President’s Own)
This video was posted to You Tube by United States Marine Band
I served in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for 25 years, and in that time I was on a lot of Parades, held every working day morning, but the major ones were held every Tuesday morning, the Squadron Parade. Then, on the first Tuesday morning of the Month, there was a major Parade for the whole Base, held on the main parade ground, where sometimes more than a thousand men and women would gather in their full uniform, in their Flights, lined up in Squadrons across the parade ground. These parades might take anything as long as an hour or so from marching on and forming up, to the final march past, the salute, and then the march off the parade ground.
The first major Parade I attended was at RAAF Base Laverton in Victoria, (Australia) and that was in March of 1967, not long after joining the RAAF. The thing I remember most was that this was the first time I had heard, and then marched to, a massed military band. In this case, it was the RAAF Central Band, which was also based at Laverton. I had marched before to a drum band, but this was so much better. It was like actually marching to music, with all the different instruments. I also found it a lot easier to march as I could still easily make out the Bass Drum, which was the main instrument for keeping time to march in step to.
During the more than a year and a half I spent at Laverton, I suppose I would have heard this piece of music I have featured today a number of times, and it was always a favourite of mine as it was such a stirring piece of music.
A few years later, I would regularly hear the song, as I was a huge fan of the English TV comedy program, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and this piece of music was the theme song for that show, played at the opening and the end of the program.
This piece of music is The Liberty Bell.
It was composed by the legendary American composer John Philip Sousa in 1893.
Sousa is known as The March King, or The American March King.
He started to play music at the age of 6, and studied on eight instruments, (if you please) and his father, who was a member of the Marine Band, enlisted him into the band in 1867, at the age of 13, as an apprentice, to stop him from joining a circus band.
The United States Marine Band was first formed in 1798, and is the oldest military band, and the oldest professional musical organization in the U.S.
Sousa stayed with The Marine Band until the end of his apprenticeship, and with a total service of 7 years, and he then went on to join a theatrical orchestra, where he learned to conduct.
He then rejoined the Marine Band in 1880, where he led led The band until 1892.
Some of his most famous marches are Semper Fidelis, (The Official Marine March) The Gladiator March, Stars And Stripes Forever, The Thunderer, and The Washington Post, among many. Sousa wrote 137 marches, 15 operettas, 5 overtures, 11 suites, 24 dances, 28 fantasies, and 322 arrangements of nineteenth-century western European symphonic works.
He had a low opinion of the emerging recording industry, referring to it as canned music.
He wrote prolifically until he died in 1932. In all, he had twenty years military service.
This piece is played in the clip for today by The Marine Band, The President’s Own. This version is the full version of the song, and includes the section written specially for a Bell to be played, as the march for parades does not have the section with the bell itself. It is introduced by the current band master, who also mentions the inspiration for Sousa to write the piece in the first place.
Some may think that Military Music is something which can probably be thought of as annoying at times, but in fact, it is part of the rich tapestry of music in all its genres.
Those military bands might play a lot of military music, but they also have wonderful concert bands as well. I was tasked as a general body to help out at a major function at the Officer’s mess in the time I was at Laverton with the Air Force, the Summer Ball, when all the officers and their wives turned up for this grand occasion, the biggest of the year at the Officer’s Mess. During a break in proceedings, a few of us went out the back for a smoke, and a couple of the bandsmen of the RAAF Central Band were also out there doing the same thing. What surprised me was that while I knew them as a Military band, they had a complete group of around 20 or more musicians and they were playing all sorts of music, for backing, for dances, and also a short concert type of thing where they played a selection of around ten or so songs, most of them popular music at the time, and music to dance to as well. Unlike their military music with those parade ground instruments, here they had every type of instrument, keyboards, piano, guitars of all types, violins and other stringed instruments you don’t normally associate with parade ground marching music. As well as that, they also had a couple of singers, both male and female, as well as a small singing group. It surprised me, because I thought all they did was play marching music. I was talking with one of those band members, and asked him how easy it was to be a bandsman. He told me it was not easy, but extremely difficult. Just to get accepted, they had to be proficient on at least three separate musical instruments, not just okay, but fully proficient at playing them. It also helped if they already had a University degree in music. Very few new musicians were accepted each year, and just like we did working at learning our trade, they also worked every day at their musical ‘trade’. Over my years in the RAAF, I was at a number of occasions where this band was playing, and they were sought after all across Australia, as perhaps the best military band in Australia.
Incidentally, the Monty Python version was selected by the ‘American’ Python, Terry Gilliam, mainly because it was in the public domain, and therefore, the wouldn’t have to pay any royalties to play the music in their show.