Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever”

This Sousa composition, named Stars And Stripes Forever  is sometimes incorrectly called The Stars and Strips Forever.”  I played this piece on trombone and Sousaphone (same Sousa) in various combinations of junior-high band, senior-high band, Alabama All-State Band, and now, once again on piano.

I first heard this “notable” (pun, intended) arrangement of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars And Stripes Forever,” arranged by the revered, Ukraine-born, classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz when I was a freshman at Birmingham-Southern College (Birmingham, AL, USA — 1969-1970). This piece, thought to be Sousa’s most famous and well-known composition, was composed in 1896 — the year my Grandfather, Jesse Owen was born. I read that Horowitz arranged this piece in commemoration of obtaining his American citizenship.

Other students of my Birmingham-Southern piano professor Mr. Sager and I had a periodic and seemingly-long-standing invitation to the (Birmingham, AL) Mountain-Brook home of Stuart Mims to listen to his vinyl recordings on his audiophile sound-system. Mr. Mims was a long-time, local Birmingham arts-patron who was significantly associated with the Birmingham Music Club, which remains active in the ongoing Birmingham music culture.

You can read about Sousa’s composition here

On hearing Horowitz’s performance of his own arrangement, I was in disbelief that one person playing piano could make so much sound/racket! During my research for this post, I read that Horowitz criticized players of this piece who play it too fast. He said that one must remember that this is a “military march.” After reading that, I reviewed the tempos of all sections of one of his recorded performances and slowed mine to more nearly correspond to his tempos. Thanks, Vladimir!

An Edison recording of Sousa’s band performing “Stars And Stripes Forever” is here.

Horowitz’s recording is here.

Because you can “find almost anything on the Internet,” I searched and found two different transcriptions of Horowitz’s arrangement. Both of the arrangements failed to identify their creator. The transcriptions were nearly identical, except for one section. I combined the elements of the two sections and made a few subtle changes of my own to produce the version I recorded.

As usual, I created this animation to accompany the music. This production used MacOS PowerPoint-like software, FotoMagico. All 31 flags of the United States are featured. I debated including designs for future flags with 51 and 52 stars, but decided against including them. Partly because Horiwitz was a Steinway Artist™, the piano-instrument that I chose to record is/was my Synthogy Ivory American Steinway D.

I hope that you enjoy my performance and production of the Sousa-Horowitz arrangement of “Stars And Stripes Forever” with US flags as my 4th of July offering for 2017.

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