The Widdershins


Posted on: July 21, 2013

trumpet-players-marching-bandGood Sunday to you Widdershins.  While our chatblu is on vacay, I’m going to give it a shot at her Lazy Sunday Music posts.  Being that I was a music major in my first college incarnation, and that I was an instrumental major, my thoughts went to marches.  March music was and is a part of Americana.  We have had fife and drum corps, trumpet corps, all the way up to enormous marching bands today.  Musically speaking, a march  “is a piece of music with a strong regular rhythm which in origin was expressly written for marching to and most frequently performed by a military band.”.  Marches are usually written in 4/4 or 2/4 time, and the tempo is around 120 beats to the minute.

An American march (and some British – especially the marches of Kenneth J. Alford aka Lt. F. J. Ricketts) has three strains and the third one is usually referred to as the “trio”.  Marches also appear in classical and operatic music as well as what we consider the “typical” march setup.

Okay, as Chat does, we’ll go with the idea that “march” can be any part of the piece or song.  It can be in the title, in the lyrics or whatever.  So let’s see what everyone comes up with.  My contributions are below.

This is one of John Philip Sousa’s “lesser” marches, the King Cotton march.  You may not recognize the name but you may be familiar with the music.

Here’s another Sousa march where I’ll bet you recognize the music but did not know the name.  This is the “Liberty Bell” march.

Here’s another march, a British one time time, written by Kenneth J. Alford, the Colonel Bogey March that you probably know from the movie The Bridge over the River Kwai.  What you probably don’t know is the background for the creation of the march.

Supposedly, the tune was inspired by a military man and golfer who whistled a characteristic two-note phrase (a descending minor third interval) instead of shouting “Fore!”. It is this descending interval that begins each line of the melody. The name “Colonel Bogey” began in the later 19th century as the imaginary “standard opponent” of the Colonel Bogey scoring system, and by Edwardian times the Colonel had been adopted by the golfing world as the presiding spirit of the course. Edwardian golfers on both sides of the Atlantic often played matches against “Colonel Bogey”.Bogey is now a golfing term meaning “one over par”.

This march in entitled the “National Emblem March”.  I’ve heard this countless times but never knew who the composer was.  It was a gentleman by the name of  Edwin Eugene Bagley.

Bagley incorporates into the march the first twelve notes of The Star-Spangled Banner played by Euphoniums and Trombones and ingeniously disguised in duple rather than triple time. The rest of the notes are all Bagley’s, including the four short repeated A-flat major chords that lead to a statement by the low brass that is now reminiscent of the national anthem. Unusually, Bagley’s march does not incorporate either a break strain or a stinger.

The U.S. military uses the trio section as ceremonial music for the color guard when presenting and retiring the colors.

Another fine British march, again by Alford is “The Mad Major”.  Since Ricketts/Alford was a Lt. and the title involves a “mad” major I wonder if there was some payback here.  😉

Another Alford march with some history to it:

The vanished army was the original British Expeditionary Force which went to France in August 1914. They were all professional soldiers – regarded as the finest British army ever deployed, which was saying something! There were a mere 80,000 of them and they faced an enemy five times their number. After battles at Mons, the Marne, the Aisne and Ypres (Oct-Nov., 1914) they had fought themselves to death. Their army had vanished. This march was written by Kenneth Alford to honour them.

I’ve got two more famous Sousa marches played by “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Corps Band.  First, “The Washington Post” March.

The last of the marches by “The March King that I selected is “The Stars and Stripes Forever”.  Here’s a little info for you.

Piccolo players play the famous obbligato in the first repeat of the trio (the one after the breakstrain). In the final repeat of the trio (grandioso), the low brass joins the piccolo players with a prominent countermelody. The official version, as played by the United States Marine Band, is performed in the key of E-flat.

Now I haven’t forgotten the vocal and operatic folks here so I’ve got this for all of you from Aida.

I know there are some more opera “marches” out there so I’m hoping our opera and vocal fans help me by adding some pieces below.



Great selection of marches and commentary, Fredster!

Here’s late 19th century vaudevillian Ned Harrigan’s satirical salute to post-Civil War Irish-American marching bands: “The Mulligan Guard”, performed by Mick Moloney.

“March of the Jobless Corps”, performed by Daniel Kahn and The Painted Bird. The original song, “Arbetloze Marsch”, was written in Yiddish by Mordechai Gebirtig in the 1930’s. Gebirtig was killed by the Nazis in the Krakow Ghetto on June 4th, 1942.

Prince William is assigned to the Coldstream Guards. Perhaps the band will play to celebrate the arrival of the little one.

This is the weirdest song, but I always loved the marching band part the best. Hope you’re all having a nice Sunday. I have company coming so won’t be around much:

Fredster, did you know that the late Tony Randall, a huge opera fan, actually did carry a spear one night on the Met stage in this scene?

Mary Luke@5: No I didn’t know that!

Beata: how apropos is that March of the Jobless Corps and I’ve always like the sound of the clarinet in those Yiddish/Jewish songs.

Socal: Love the band with Fleetwood Mac. Good one!

Here’s another operatic one, the “Grand March” from Tannhauser. Sorry, no umlauts on the keyboard!

And I have to add…those costumes are bizarre!!

My last one, Mozart’s “Turkish March”.

@8: They’re supposed to look like chess pieces on a chessboard, aren’t they?

Beata@10: I guess. Although when I first watched it, I thought the men’s helmets along with those white costumes made them look like a bunch of Ku Klux Klan members!!

@11: I really don’t know. I just looked up reviews of that production. One said some of the singers appeared to be wearing huge croissants on their heads. LOL!

Beata@12: :lol::

My first exposure to “opera”.

Fredster, You Have Mail…I have been enjoying these so much…specially the Looney Tunes Whats Opera Doc…I remember that with fondness:

fuzzy@14: Okay, will check it soon. Thanks!

@13 I loved it Fredster. Your first exposure to opera was pretty good. That horn in the middle was Sigfreid’s leitmotif, which goes on to become
Sigfreid’s death march. Let me see if I can find a clip from the new Met “Goetterdammerung” with Jay Hunter Morris. I saw the HD broadcast and there was not a dry eye in the cinema.

(Of course, Fredster, if you’ve seen photos or video of JHM, and then saw his character dead, you’d cry too! He’s so hot!)

Mary Luke@16: Oh that sounds interesting! 😉

Hey, I think Daniel Kahn @2 is pretty hot. He really knows how to play a squeezebox!

Beata@18: That’s the fuzzy guy with the beard?

chat@20 and 21: I had thought about adding something from the Edinburgh Tattoo but I figured y cup was running over. Thanks for adding them!

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