Marine Band plays more than marches

April 16, 1991|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,Evening Sun Staff

U.S. MARINE BAND members are Marines and have to look good and keep trim, but they don't go to boot camp, drill or fight. They make up to $30,000 with benefits. They enter as sergeants and stay an average of 28 years. They include 27 women players out of 143.

Many critics call it the best band alive. But they don't call it the Marine Corps Band (there are 10 Marine Corps field bands but only one U.S. Marine Band).

Led by a friendly John Philip Sousa scholar, Col. John R. Bourgeois, the red and blue-uniformed band plays an all-American program at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in a two-hour program at 8 p.m. tonight. The concert is free but tickets are needed. Only a few remain. Call 783-8000 or go to the Meyerhoff box office.

As "The President's Own," the band or units within play 250 times a year at the White House. Even so, "We do better on the road . . . often standing room only," Bourgeois said. Though the band's recordings are sent to libraries and such, they aren't sold commercially, so live performances attract crowds.

Now in his 12th year as director and 35th year as a Marine, Bourgeois, 56, said, "I'm still happy" being in charge of the 193-year-old group. So apparently is President Bush, like all chief executives since Jefferson a fan of the band. Barbara Bush introduced it to Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's former leader, as "The pride and joy of the president."

Baltimoreans will hear a new varied program, not all in three-quarter time, tonight. It features the premiere of Clare Grundman's "Bernstein Tribute," in memory of the late composer.

Also on the program is a Stephen Foster medley, "Jubilee" from "Symphonic Sketches" by 19th century composer George Whitefield Chadwick and "Old American Songs" by Aaron Copland, sung by baritone and concert moderator Michael Ryan.

Naturally, the "American Salute" is jam-packed with marches. It opens with Sousa's "The Liberty Bell," closes with his "The Stars and Stripes Forever" and has a Bourgeois middle confection of Sousa music.

Composer of 120 marches and other music, Sousa was band bTC director from 1880 to 1892. "Sousa's the standard for bands, for programming, for musical integrity," said Bourgeois, the 25th Marine band director since 1799.

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