IN 1892, John Philip Sousa resigned as the conductor of the Marine Band to start his own concert band, which he led (with a timeout for World War I) until shortly before his death in 1932. By some accounts, Sousa's Band was the finest such organization the world had ever seen. In any case, it was enormously popular; it played to capacity audiences on its annual tours; and it made its founder the world's most famous musician.
This weekend, a modern replica of that band will give two concerts at the Wolf Trap Barns, wearing costumes modeled on those used by Sousa and playing programs like those that used to wow his audiences. The conductor is Keith Brion, a Sousa scholar as well as an accomplished musician. Guest artists will be soprano Erie Mills on Friday night and soprano Kathryn Wright on Saturday night. The Friday night program will be videotaped for later broadcast on PBS with Beverly Sills as m.c.
The New Sousa Band can also be heard in a recording (Bainbridge audio cassette BTC- 6250), with a Sousa program that includes not only some of his most popular marches but also his arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner" and a suite from "The Pirates of Penzance." There are also a couple of rarities from Sousa's operettas: "Mars and Venus" (from "Looking Upward"), which will be played in the Wolf Trap concerts, and a waltz with the curious title, "I've Made My Plans for the Summer."
The recording shows that Sousa composed waltzes as fluently as Johann Strauss composed marches. And Brion's precise, energetic conducting style promises a couple of hot evenings when the New Sousa Band visits John Philip Sousa's old home town.
THE NEW SOUSA BAND -- Keith Brion conductor, on audio cassette, Bainbridge BTC-6250. Cassette program includes "Semper Fidelis," "El Capitan," "The Thunderer" and "The Stars and Stripes Forever." Appearing in concert Friday and Saturday at Wolf Trap.