Program Notes for The Stars and Stripes Forever
Composer: John Philip Sousa
Published by: (Public Domain)
On December 11, 1987, President Ronald Reagan signed into law federal bill S. 860. The text of this law reads: “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representative of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the composition by John Philip Sousa entitled ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever’ is hereby designated as the national march of The United States of America.”
And so this march, which Sousa believed to be divinely inspired, officially took its place in our national heritage.
In his 78 years, Sousa composed 136 marches, 15 operettas, 70 songs, 11 waltzes, and many other works.
In the fall of 1896, when Sousa was vacationing in Europe, he learned of the death of his good friend and business manager David Blakely. He cancelled the rest of his vacation and sailed immediately for New York. On this voyage, he conceived The Stars and Stripes Forever.
Here is the incident in Sousa’s own words: “…I was absorbed in thoughts of my managers death … Suddenly I began to sense the rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain. It kept on ceaselessly, playing, playing, playing. Throughout the whole tense voyage, that imaginary band continued to unfold the same themes, echoing and re-echoing the most distinct melody. I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached shore, I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever changed.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever!