Stars and Stripes Forever: John Philip Sousa

Happy Fourth of July!

The video is from the a Boston Pops Esplanade concert on the night before the 4th of July, 2007.

John Philip Sousa composed this piece not on the Fourth of July but on Christmas Day in 1896. Stars and Stripes Forever is, by an act of Congress, the National March. Here are some other interesting facts about this well known composition:

  • Stars and Stripes Forever is featured in many U.S. musical performances. The Boston Pops and the National Symphony Orchestra traditionally play the piece in their respective 4th of July concerts each year.
  • Some brass quintets, such as the Empire Brass, will play the obligato on tuba.
  • In show business, particularly the theatre and the circus, this piece is called the Disaster March. It is traditional code signaling a life-threatening emergency. This helps theatre personnel to handle events and organize the audience's exit without panic. Circus bands never play it under any other circumstances. One example of its use was at the Hartford Circus Fire in July of 1944.
  • The Russian born pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who lived most his life in the United States, wrote a famous transcription of Stars and Stripes Forever for solo piano to celebrate becoming an American citizen. In an interview, Horowitz opined that the march, being a military march, is meant to be played at a walking tempo. He complained that many conductors played the piece too fast, resulting in music that is "hackneyed."
  • There are several orchestral transcriptions of "Stars and Stripes Forever" including one by Conductor Leopold Stokowski and one by Keith Brion and Loras Schissel.
  • The student band Strindens Promenade Orchester in Trondheim, Norway, has the world record in "speed playing" of Stars and Stripes (absolutely all notes must be played). The band calls their speedy rendering of the march Stars and Stripes, and performs the march at all Saturday parties at the Trondheim Student Society. Set during the fall term of 1999, the record time is 50.9 seconds (nominal time is 3 minutes 50 seconds). For this, the band is noted in the Norwegian edition of the Guinness Book of Records.
  • A 1952 film, Stars and Stripes Forever, gives an account of the composer's life and music.
  • The song is played traditionally in pre-race ceremonies of the Indianapolis 500, which is held Memorial Day weekend.
  • In the WWE, it was the theme of Lex Luger and The Patriot. It was also used as the ring entry music for Mike Rotundo and Danny Spivey when they were The US Express in the 1980s.
  • In the UK, the tune is often used in football chants.
  • Along with other "patriotic" pieces, it was featured prominently in many of the Popeye animated shorts, after the character would eat his spinach and gain temporary super-strength to defeat villains.*
  • Here's an amazing rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever by Chet Atkins on guitar. Only the older among us will recognize the rather strange ending of this piece. Anyone willing to show his/her age and remind us of who used to parody this Sousa piece and end it as Atkins does?

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Let us be grateful for the freedom that is ours;
let us pledge to live that freedom more responsibly;
and let us work to share that freedom
with those whose lives are shackled by oppression, poverty and war.

*See Wikipedia for more info on J. P. Sousa


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  1. Thank you for this. I love John Philip Sousa. As a child, I used to play his marches by the hour on the piano. I can tell you that Stars and Stripes Forever was quite a challenge for small hands!

    Happy Fourth of July to you, Father!

  2. Thanks for the link! In my younger days I would enjoy sitting on the grass at the Esplanade for the pops event. Although crowded, it was not as packed as it has become. Now our new tradition is watching the coverage on TV.
    Have a great 4th everyone!

  3. Thank you for all of the wonderful
    patriotic music you have provided
    us. I have enjoyed listening to all of these beautiful songs and it's the best way to spend part of
    my July 4th.
    Have a great Fourth, Father and thanks for sharing on your Blogs.

  4. Who was the parodist???

    My mom always sang it with that ending... I didn't know it was a parody!

  5. they do such an awesome job. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hello, dear pastor!
    I'm a christian from Taiwan
    Thank you for your sharing
    I love it!

    For I'm doing a resarch about this music; I'm just wondering if this music has any relation with Christianity or Catholicism?
    Besides, does it have any lyric?

    Hope I can learn from you more!
    I appreciate

    May God bless you

  7. Bonnie,
    I know of no particular relationship between Christianity and Catholicism and the song, "Stars and Stripes Forever." To the best of my knowledge, the song has no lyrics.

  8. Dear pastor,

    Thank you for your information
    I really appreciate

    May God bless you and your job


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