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This quote comes from Sousa’s Memoirs, Marching Along. He is describing what he found on a band tour of Europe in the year 1900.
I have the programmes of military band concerts given in the Luxembourg, the Palais Royal and other places [in Paris]. At the Luxembourg, Massenet contributes two numbers out of five, Delahaye one, Saintis one, and Weber is represented by a selection from his Freischutz. At the Palais Royal there is not a foreign work on the programme. Yet there must be some number in international musical literature that might have been dropped into the concert, if only to flavor it with the spice of exoticism, as it were.
This, again, I attribute to the evil influence of Governmental support, which always creates a tendency to work in a groove, to stop in a rut. As it does not matter financially whether the public is pleased or indifferent, why should the bandmaster waste the gray matter of his brain in building programmes that will arouse interest, why should he grow old in going through veritable public libraries of musical works in the hope–alas! too seldom rewarded–of finding some new or unknown gem with which to feed the unlimited repertory that a concert organization such as my own is compelled to possess?
As he shows in his book, Sousa’s repertoire for his own band was huge, with compositions arranged by himself and others, from all the famous composers of his day and earlier. All of his band’s programs were chock full of compositions designed to delight audiences, and they met with cheers wherever they went. He never, ever got into any kind of rut, even when he was conducting the United States Marine Band.
One comment on French music, that I have observed in my own musical travels. For whatever reason, French players seem to do the best in playing French music. They just respond better, and get the real feeling from music by French composers.Published in