'Sousa Spectacular': Band Concert Features Marches & Much More

Contributed by Zaz Hollander, Mat-Su Concert Band

John Philip Sousa is an American legend, a composer dubbed “the March King” for patriotic pieces like The Stars and Stripes Forever and The Washington Post. But Sousa also composed dozens of non-march music– operattas, suites and overtures.

Come hear the range of his compositions at the Mat-Su Concert Band’s next performance.The concert is at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 8 at the Glenn Massay Theater on the Mat-Su College campus. The concert has an intermission. There will be a small admission fee at the door. Tickets are $10; $5 for students and children under 5 get in free. 

Sousa was born in 1854 in Washington, D.C. and died in 1932. He conducted the U.S. Marine Band before starting his own civilian band in 1892. He toured with the band for 40 years. Sousa composed 136 marches and more than 200 pieces total. The marches are his most famous contributions to the musical world. Sousa himself said a march "Should make a man with a wooden leg step out.” 

The band will perform his best-known march, The Stars and Stripes Forever, inspired as an homage to his country and inspired by Sousa’s time as Marine Band leader and recollections of the U.S. flag flying over the White House. Other marches on the concert program include The Thunderer, The Washington Post, Semper Fidelis, and The Invincible Eagle. 

The program also features numerous less-familiar pieces not written in march style. Sousa was exceptionally proud of his 11 concert suites and they were prominently featured in his band concerts, according to Marine Band program notes. They are not as well known or as popular as his marches today, but the suites served an important place in Sousa’s unique programs as a middle ground between the heavier classics he often featured and the many lighter pieces he included as “musical sorbets.” 

The band will perform Three Quotations, a three-part suite. Set in the form of a patrol, the opening movement The King of France is a satirical grand march, according to program notes based on The Works of John Philip Sousa by Paul E. Bierley. As Sousa described it: "The King of France with twenty thousand men, marched up the hill and then marched down again." The second movement I, Too, Was Born in Arcadia is an essay on the gentle murmurings of pastoral life. The final movement, In Darkest Africa, illustrates Sousa’s interpretation of that country’s syncopations and rhythms.

The band will also perform Beneath the Southern Cross from Looking Upward suite. The piece, the second movement of the suite, was suggested by an advertisement for the steamship the Southern Cross. The concert features many more familiar and surprising pieces. Come hear the spirit of Sousa and usher in spring with the band.     

The band got its start in 1984 as the Mat-Su Community Band, formed by Matanuska Music owner Hank Hartman. Other directors have included Neil Long and Phil Munger. 

Current director, Huyck, is a retired music educator and private instructor. Under Huyck’s baton, the band performs a wide-ranging selection of challenging music. The band this season numbers about 70 amateur musicians who assemble every Monday night for rehearsals at Teeland.