Andrei Strizek

Music | Musings

America's Oldest Professional Music Organization

My birthday celebrations will die down and there will be more substantial posts here soon, I promise, but I couldn't let this one go by, either: the country's oldest professional music organization - the US Marine Band - was founded on July 11, 1798, and has an exciting history that traces many elements of music history and American history throughout its 213 years.

via Wikimedia Commons

John Philip Sousa was probably their most famous conductor, made the first recordings with the ensemble, and brought them to the high level of performance and prestige that they are renowned for today. (Today they are led by Colonel Michael Colburn - formerly principal euphoniumist with the band.) They play for official Military services, are the President's go-to ensemble for formal events, and have a wealth of recordings available free to schools and libraries.

First instance of B-A-C-H, in the trombonesOne of my favorite USMB recordings: Passacaglia (Homage on B-A-C-H) by Ron Nelson. Not only is it a fantastic composition, the ensemble handles the 12-minute long crescendo with ease. (Listen to the ring of the open 5ths at the end of the piece!) The piece reminds me of a large machine slowly winding up into action. It is partially based on the famous B-A-C-H motive Bach used in his unfinished Art of Fugue. Nelson also quotes from Bach's famous Passacaglia in C minor. He passes the passacaglia bass throughout the entire ensemble, sometimes disguising it so the listener has to go on an aural scavenger hunt to hear it.

Enjoy Nelson's Passacaglia (Homage on B-A-C-H), and Happy Birthday to the President's Own!

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