Author: Camus, Raoul F
Date published: March 1, 2013
John Philip Sousa's America: The Patriot's Life in Images and Words. By John Philip Sousa IV with Loras John Schissel. Chicago: GIA Publica - tions, 2012. [214 pp. ISBN 9781579998837. $34.95.] Illustrations, CD.
"Bully for the Band!": The Civil War Letters and Diary of Four Brothers in the 10th Vermont Infantry Band: Charles George, Herbert George, Jere George and Osman George. Edited by James G. Davis. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2012. [x, 290 pp. ISBN 9780786466863. $49.95.] Illustrations, bibliography, index.
Connecticut's Fife & Drum Tradition. By James Clark. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2011. [xiii, 167 pp. ISBN 9780819571410. $29.95] Musical examples, illustrations, bibliography.
Without doubt, John Philip Sousa is America's most frequently performed and internationally recognized composer. While his operettas, songs, suites, waltzes and other concert pieces are performed infrequently these days, his marches are ubiquitous. With the unprecedented success of his Washington Post in Europe and America, especially after being adopted by dancing masters as the two-step, a British band journal in the 1890s suggested that Sousa should be called the "March King." Since then, there has been an Austrian March King ( Josef Franz Wagner), a British March King (Frederick Ricketts/Kenneth Alford), a Czech March King ( Julius Fuc¡ík) and significant march composers in France (Gabriel Allier), Germany (Hermann Blanken burg, Franz von Blon) and Italy (Giovanni Orsomando), but while all of these have composed many excellent marches, none has achieved superiority over Sousa either for quantity or for consistently fine compositions. Recognition of Sousa's foremost place among march composers came in 1987 when Congress legislated The Stars and Stripes Forever as the national march of the United States of America.
Paul Bierley has devoted his life to researching Sousa and his band. With a comprehensive biography ( John Philip Sousa, American Phenomenon, 1973, rev. 1998), a works list (The Works of John Philip Sousa, 1984), a revision of Sousa's 1928 autobiography (Marching Along: Recollections of Men, Women and Music, 1994), an index to The Sousa Band (Fraternal Society News, 1998), and an in-depth study of the Sousa Band, complete with performance dates, programs, and personnel (The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa, 2006), he has long hoped to prepare a coffee-table book filled with pictures and quotations of Sousa and the band members. Unfortunately, a stroke that lefthim partially paralyzed frustrated his efforts. He called on friends to help bring his dream to fruition.
John Philip Sousa IV and Loras John Schissel have now accomplished that mission, and the book is dedicated to Paul Bierley and his wife Pauline. Although slim by coffee-table standards, the book is a delightful compilation of illustrations and quotations. With constant references to "my great-grandfather," "my great-grandmother," "my grandfather" and "Aunt Priscilla," it is obviously a labor of love on the part of their great-grandson. It is also a paean to his great-grandfather, so do not expect to find documentation, bibliography or index. It is not meant to be a scholarly book, but the illustrations, many of them new even to Sousa scholars, are delightful. Sousa IV credits co-author Schissel, who works at the Library of Congress, and the director and staffof the US Marine Band for help in finding the gems presented in the volume.
The volume is divided into time frames, with photos, illustrations and quotations for each period, beginning with Sousa's early childhood. The many caricatures from newspapers give an idea of Sousa's conducting style on the podium. One sometimes regrets that complete identification of the musicians in the formal band portraits is not included, but then that would call for a different kind of book. In some cases, however, it would be interesting to have more information than what is given. For example, the menu of the dinner given to Sousa's Band by members of the Grenadier Guards Band in Scotland is reproduced on page 70. While it was an extremely nice gesture for the Grenadier Guards to host the band, what was the senior regiment of the Household Brigade, normally stationed in London, doing in Glasgow? How did the members of Sousa's Band, many of whom were Italians, react to being served the famous Scottish haggis and "jugged hare"? Similarly, the caption of a photo with a young woman in a bathing cap holding the reins of horse standing by a pool states, "This is Sousa with the famous horse that dived into a pool of water at the Steel Pier" (p. 152). A horse diving into a pool? Why, and in what way was Sousa involved? No matter; it is still a delightful compendium. The photos of Sousa's women soloists are especially rewarding.
The volume includes a CD of Sousa compositions performed by the US Marine Band under two of its many directors, Albert Schoepper and John Bourgeois. It also ends with an introduction by John Philip himself, followed by a performance of The Stars and Stripes Forever in a 1929 radio broadcast. Unlike so many Sousa CDs produced for the commercial market, this one is not limited to the March King's marches. It includes the Polonaise written for White House ceremonial dinners, selections from an operetta (The Bride Elect ), the beautiful waltzes composed for the wife of the Secretary of the Navy (Mrs. W. C. Whitney), the excellent three-movement suite Looking Upward, as well as some of his most famous marches, including the official US Marine Corps march, Semper Fidelis. This modest picture book is all it purports to be: a tribute to one of America's greatest patriots.
Unlike our little coffee-table book, James Davis's "Bully for the Band" is a thoroughly researched scholarly work, complete with sixteen pages of endnotes, many with additional content, ten pages of bibliography and a fine index. Especially commendable is Davis's use of almost seventy manuscript collections in addition to the many published diaries and regimental histories. Instead of the usual compilation gleaned from secondary sources, Davis has provided us with an abundance of primary sources, many from hard-to-access collections. As stated in the book's subtitle, Davis has gathered and edited the letters sent back home by four brothers from August 1862 until June 1865.
General Order 15 of 4 May 1861 authorized the formation of thirty-nine regiments of volunteer infantry. In addition to the staff, noncommissioned officers and privates, each regiment was authorized two musicians for each of the ten companies, two principal musicians, and twenty-four musicians for a band. Later General Orders authorized additional regiments and changed their composition to two or more battalions of eight companies each. In July 1861, a "drum major, or leader of the band" was added to the Field & Staff, in addition to the two principal musicians. In the flush of enthusiasm to respond to the President's call, many regiments brought complete bands with them, some with as many as thirty musicians. Patrick S. Gil - more and Claudio S. Grafulla are only two of the many famous bandleaders of the time who answered the call with their complete bands.
Kenneth Olsen, with his 1971 dissertation and 1981 book Music and Musket: Bands and Bandsmen of the Civil War, was a pioneer in researching the bands of this great conflict. He estimated that there could have been over 100,000 men serving as musicians. The expense of so many men was not lost on Congress, so General Order 91of 26 October 1861 directed that no more bands be mustered into service, and that vacancies no longer be filled. The GO of 28 July 1862 was even more drastic: regimental bands were to be eliminated. Men who enlisted as musicians were to be mustered out, but soldiers who were serving in bands were to be returned to their companies. Brigade bands of sixteen musicians were now authorized, and the members of the regimental bands who wished to remain in service could be transferred to those bands. With as many as three regiments to a brigade, the reduction in bands was, on paper, considerable. But, as shown by Olsen and now by Davis, many regiments kept their bands through various means. It is to Davis's great credit that none of the bands he discusses are included in Olsen's book, proving the constant need for continuing research in this fruitful area.
It was at this time, July 1862, that two brothers from Newbury enlisted in Com - pany G of the Tenth Vermont Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Charles George, age 31, and Osman George, age 22, were later joined by 18-year-old Herbert George. In addition to their parents, the brothers sent letters home to three sisters and another brother, Jeremiah ( Jere), who would join the regiment late in 1864. Charles's letters were mainly to his wife Ellie.
Neither Charles nor Osman seemed to have had any musical background, but Herbert owned "a cornet, band uniform, and an impressive collection of band music," and was apparently a founding member of the Newbury cornet band at the age of 15 (p. 12). After the idea of forming a regimental band became a possibility, Charles and Osman both developed enough technique on an instrument to play with the band, the former on B[musical flat] cornet, the latter on bass drum.
Unfortunately, Osman, who was always in very poor health, was completely unsuited to military life. Many of the early letters that his two brothers wrote home are filled with concern about his problems, which lasted until his death in 1863. In contrast, however, Charles and Herbert often spoke about how they were able to endure the miserable conditions faced by the average soldier in that war.
Unless one has read other diaries and stories of the life of the Civil War soldier, Union and Confederate, one may be completely at a loss as to how anyone survived. Coffee and hardtack for food, going for rations only to find some flour, perhaps a little pork (seldom), some peas or beans if available, which you and your tentmates had to cook over an open fire; forced marches of as many as thirty miles at a time, sometimes overnight, through dust and overwhelming heat in woolen uniforms, carrying a twenty-pound pack and weapon; building a small shelter with minimal comforts (a roof, perhaps a fireplace) and then ordered to move to a new location leaving all that behind, only to be ordered back to the same place several days later; sleeping on the wet ground with no blanket or cover when there is no time to build a shelter; going hungry for days at a time until the supply wagons catch up; and then facing the enemy in frontal attacks using outmoded eighteenth-century tactics of close-rank linear combat. The letters describe these many adversities, but always with a hope for success in their ventures and a safe return home.
But, in addition to these descriptions of military life at the time, the most important part of these letters is how the teenager Herbert, through his talent and industriousness, not only became a principal musician in charge of the regiment's field music, but also successfully built a band out of the men he was able to find in the regiment. The soldiers and officers raised $150, and Herbert went to Washington to purchase instruments. He made many arrangements, and built a library of over 150 works that included, in addition to the many patriotic melodies, quicksteps and common marches, dances and operatic excepts. At times, it was referred to as the brigade band, in which case it would have been within regulations, but at other times it was just another unauthorized yet functioning and popular regimental band. Davis mentions that four of the five regiments in the brigade may have had bands. Herbert's band at full strength seemed to be eighteen men, two more than the typical brass band of the time: two E[musical flat] cornets, two B[musical flat] cornets, three E[musical flat] altos, three B[musical flat] tenors, a B [musical flat] bass, three E [musical flat] bass, three drums, and cymbals (p. 68). There were times, however, when, because of illness or other duties, there were only five musicians ready to perform, so one can imagine what the music sounded like then. Still, according to the letters, the members of the regiment appreciated and supported their band.
General readers may not be aware that band musicians supported the regimental surgeons as stretcher-bearers and even assisting in amputations following battles. These letters are quite clear in showing how these men served not only to support the esprit de corps and morale of the troops by their music, but also to assist the many wounded.
The Tenth Vermont Regiment was very active in some major battles. Davis has very carefully integrated the letters with the events of the time, perhaps to the point of bewildering readers. The many corps, divisions, regiments, and brigades he mentions, with their various leaders, may be confusing at times, but are important in understanding the original letters, the point of his book. Kudos to James Davis for a fine book on a very important area of band research!
At first sight, James Clark's Connecticut's Fife & Drum Tradition appears to be a scholarly discussion of an important area of American music that has long been ignored by researchers and musicians outside the genre. Published by a university press, one would expect to find full documentation, an extensive bibliography and an index. A closer inspection, however, shows that the work is part of the Driftless Con - necticut Series, "a publication award program established in 2010 to recognize excellent books with a Connecticut focus or written by a Connecticut author" (p. 172). Apparently the press published the work without any editorial oversight. There are fewer than a dozen in-text references (no foot- or endnotes; two of the five checked were incorrect), a meager bibliography, and no index. Rather than a scholarly study of the genre, it is the story of the author's personal experiences performing in fife and drum corps in Connecticut, with an attempt to put those experiences into an historical framework. Undoubtedly, part of the problem is that this genre has attracted very little, if any, serious scholarship.
Chapter 1, "Origins of the Fife and Drum," intended to link Colonial America to Elizabethan England, is a very general basic overview of the instruments and their music. The attempt to link the transverseblown Swiss military fife and drum with the medieval end-blown pipe and tabor, however, lacks further documentation and seems misguided, as is the author's contention that the late twentieth-century Memphis blues fifer Othar Turner's simplistic music "can teach us quite a bit about the character of the Elizabethan [music]" (p. 10). Such a comparison is insulting to the British military fifer, adept at military camp duties, and indicates the author is not familiar with British fifing traditions. His references to a 1985 edition of Playford's Dancing Master (Stuart, not Elizabethan) and the Giles Gibbs manuscript suggest that the author is also not familiar with the web-based EASMES (Early American Secular Music and Its European Sources, 1589-1839: An Index, available at http://www.colonialdancing.org/Easmes /Index.htm, accessed 15 September 2012), where he could have found five military fife tutors published in London between 1756 and 1770.
The following two chapters, while still written in a popular style, contain more information relevant to the author's expressed topic. His sections on the camp duties, the common and quickstep marches and fife ranges are interesting, although one wonders how the 38 "troop," at one step per bar, can be "closely related" to the minuet, normally danced in a six-beat pattern. Similarly, his discussions of the Brown drums, drum notation and early nineteenthcentury fife and drum books approach serious scholarship. Minor slips, such as textual repetitions, the simplistic and undocumented discussion of the militia (pp. 42-43; each state had its own rules, and normally the obligation was for all white adult males), the reference to William Callender's Boston music shop making and selling fifes and drums in the 1790s as "the first such shop" (p. 43; there were many makers and dealers before the Revolution), the undocumented reference to Daniel Emmett training drummers and fifers on Governor's Island (p. 61; G. B. Bruce claimed to be principal instructor there), describing Ned Kendall as a "cornet" rather than keyed bugle soloist (p. 61), and the common step increased to ninety steps per minute in 1844 instead of 1815 (p. 62), reflect the author's breezy lackadaisical style.
The remaining three chapters, based on the author's personal experiences, finally deal with what he believes to be Connecti - cut's fife and drum tradition. Clark divides the various groups by their marching tempos: "Modern" corps (not discussed in this book) marched at 120 steps per minute. "Ancient" corps marched at 110 steps per minute, while "old-time Ancient corps" maintained the older 75- to 90-step cadences. Clark discusses some of the major corps and the cities from which they came, especially the Moodus Drum and Fife Corps and the corps in which the author served, the East Hampton Fife and Drum Corps. He also discusses the Connecticut Fifers and Drummers Association and their competitions, which many of the older corps avoided, and does not even mention the Company of Fifers and Drummers in Ivoryton, Connecticut, an organization devoted to and supported by the "ancient" corps. There are many interesting photos, histories and personalities covered, but obviously in not discussing the "Modern" corps, his interpretation of a Connecticut "tradition" deals only with a few Ancient corps. Within that limitation, then, Clark's narrative of his life in a Connecticut fife and drum corps is an interesting account, just as are the letters home of the George brothers. It is, however, not what the title promised.
Raoul F. Camus
City University of New York