"The Library of Congress March" was performed for the first time at the Library of Congress on May 6, 2003, at a special tribute to John W. Kluge, and in the presence of Sousa's grandson, John Philip Sousa IV. Based on manuscript sketches and orchestrations from the Library's John Philip Sousa Collection, this new work was reconstructed by Stephen Bulla, a leading American composer and arranger of concert band music, under the supervision of Sousa authority Loras John Schissel. It was the last work Sousa began and remained incomplete at the time of his death in 1932.
A native Washingtonian who was born on Capitol Hill in 1854, John Philip Sousa was the son of a musician in the Marine Band, was enlisted himself at the age of 13, and became the band's leader in 1880. His work, "The Stars and Stripes Forever," is one of America's best-known musical compositions, and was recognized officially by Congress as the National March of the United States of America in 1987.
Sousa's work with the Marine Band led to his long professional association with the Library of Congress, with his scholarly research in the extensive collections of the Library's Music Division for projects that included the transcription of Native American Indian tunes and the compilation and publication of his National, Patriotic and Typical Airs of All Lands. At the time of World War I, Sousa worked closely with Oscar Sonneck, then chief of the Library's Music Division, to establish a standardized version of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
In the spring of 2003, Loras Schissel, a Sousa authority and music specialist at the Library of Congress, contacted Steve Bulla to propose a reconstruction of Sousa's unfinished "Library of Congress March." The idea had already been discussed with and approved by the Sousa family. Using the Library's Sousa Collection of over 300 manuscripts, Bulla worked from two fragmentary sketches dated late 1931, a piano draft, and one page of a completed band score containing eight measures.
Bulla wrote of his process:
To maintain authenticity I immersed myself in a study of other Sousa scores from his late period. Loras provided helpful counsel and loaned me materials that included a copy of the full score (in manuscript) to "Pride of the Wolverines." I also took time to study "George Washington Bicentennial March," "The Northern Pines," and "The Aviators" (again the full score in manuscript). All of these marches had some similarity to the new march and provided guidance with following the Sousa stylistic hallmarks as I worked on my assignment.
The orchestration came easily and in some ways wrote itself. From my experience with the Marine Band (23 years to date) I was well acquainted with the sound and style of [Sousa's] music. This of course proved helpful as I chose voicings and created rhythmic counterpoint, necessary to properly score the march.
One particular hurdle was the brevity of the 'dog fight' section. The piano draft was too short here, and seemed undeveloped. Fortunately, one of the early fragment sketches had some melodic scribbles (nearly indecipherable) that turned out to match the places where the piano draft seemed incomplete. With this the 'dog fight' was filled out and the form came together nicely.
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