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Cameron University Concert Band and 77th Army Band unite for historical Sousa concert

The Cameron University Concert Band and Fort Sill’s 77th Army Band will present a salute to famed composer and band leader John Philip Sousa during a concert on Saturday, April 24, at 7 p.m. in the Cameron University Fine Arts Courtyard. While the outdoor concert will allow for more patrons, seating is limited to 70. Social distancing will be in place, and facial coverings are required. There is no charge to attend.

The Cameron University Concert Band is conducted by Dr. Lucas Kaspar, and the 77th Army Band is conducted by Warrant Officer 1 Richard Townes.

“I have been excited about the combined concert with the 77th Army Band since moving to Lawton last July,” says Kaspar. “I had heard tremendous things about the relationship between this world-renowned band and Cameron University. Preparing for this concert has been a rewarding experience for all of the musicians in CU’s concert band. Sitting in the same ensemble and playing alongside the members of the 77th Army Band will be something the students remember for a long time.”

Kaspar and Townes began planning a possible program for the spring concert last fall.

“When Mr. Townes presented the idea of doing a historical Sousa concert, I thought it was fantastic,” Kaspar says. “John Philip Sousa is an important part of American history and a genius of a composer. Many people may think that Sousa’s band only played his own compositions, but that’s not the case. During this concert, you will hear that the repertoire Sousa selected for his band to perform was quite diverse.”

Kaspar explains that the repertoire for this concert was selected from two concerts performed on August 22, 1926, by Sousa’s band as part of the Pennsylvania’s Willow Grove Park concert series. The concert will include some of Sousa’s own compositions, such as “Semper Fidelis,” “Boy Scouts of America” and “Volunteers.”

“Semper Fidelis,” the official march of the U.S. Marines Corps, is likely the most recognizable Sousa composition on the concert. “Volunteers,” on the other hand, is a lesser known march. Robert D. Heinl, chief of the Department of Patriotic Service in 1918, asked Sousa to compose a march that included the sounds heard in a shipyard, such as sirens, anvils, and a riveting machine.

“Boy Scouts of America,” as the title indicates, is a march composed for the Boy Scouts organization in 1916. The march has a much lighter quality than the other Sousa marches in the repertoire. An early review said the march “…absolutely breathes the boy; it visualizes the supple step of the boy marching, and not the heavy tread of the man.” This march will be conducted by Sergeant First Class Martin Johnston of the 77th Army Band.

There are several works on the concert which were not composed by Sousa, including Gustav Holst’s “Second Suite in F,” a staple in the band repertoire.

“I think every band student needs to perform a Holst suite at some point in their student years,” Kaspar says. “It is highly possible that he/she will be standing on the podium one day performing the suites with their own students.”

Though fairly well known today, the piece was rather new when Sousa’s band performed it in 1926. The suite is written in four movements, the first of which is a march based on a simple five note melody that is passed around throughout the ensemble. The second movement, “I Love My Love,” is a slow and somber song about a woman who ends up in an insane asylum due to her lover’s parents sending him off to sea to separate the two of them. This movement will feature Cameron University clarinetist Victoria Chambers. The third movement, “Song of the Blacksmith,” has a constant driving pulse and heavy accents that emulate the sound of a blacksmith at work. The fourth movement, “Fantasia on the Dargason,” uses a 16th century English folk tune throughout the movement.

As was customary for John Philip Sousa’s Band in 1926, the ensembles will feature soloists on select pieces. Joel Moncrief, a senior trumpet student, will be featured on Eduardo Di Capua’s “Beneath Thy Window,” better known as “O Sole Mio!.” SPC Matthew Wentland, trumpeter for the 77th Army Band, will be featured on a virtuosic version of Eugune Demare’s “Cleopatra’s Polka,” which Townes refers to as “a feature piece in the flashy 19th century band tradition.”

“This piece is fully of virtuosic fireworks,” Townes adds. “It also puts SPC Wentland’s refined musicianship on full display in the andantino. This piece is sure to be a crowd pleaser.”

Additional pieces include “El Capitan” and “The Charlatan” from Keith Brion’s arrangement of “El Capitan and His Friends Suite.” Brion’s arrangement has brought life to some of Sousa’s operettas that have since been mostly forgotten.

“‘El Capitan and His Friends’ is a real treat to perform,” says Townes. “Consisting of three movements with music derived from John P Sousa's rarely played operettas, the music is classically Sousa - lighthearted with melodies that grab your attention. I often find myself humming the dance theme in El Capitan, which is played by the bassoons, or the fun woodwind melody in the beginning of ‘The Charlatan.’ This music reminds me of the numerous little but not insignificant joys of life.”

Known as “The Pride of Fort Sill,” the 77th Army Band is known nationwide and has performed at numerous special events across the country. The band was constituted on March 1, 1907 as the 13th Band, Coast Artillery and activated at Fort Du Pont, Delaware. After World War I, it was reorganized and re-designated as the Band Section, Headquarters Battery, 16th Coast Artillery at Fort Armstrong, Territory of Hawaii. On 1927, it was withdrawn from Headquarters Battery and re-designated as the Band, 16th Coast Artillery. For the next 30 or so years, it was reorganized, re-designated, inactivated and re-activated on numerous occasions. On February 24, 1955, the 77th Army Band was activated at Fort Sill. The band is known nationwide and has performed at numerous special events across the country, recently supporting the State Funeral of former President George H.W. Bush in Houston, Texas.

The Cameron University Concert Band, composed of Cameron students, performs at numerous events throughout the academic year. The ensemble is open to music majors, minors and non-music students.

For more information, contact the Cameron University Department of Art, Music and Theatre Arts at 580-581-2346.


PR# 21-052

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