September 11: On This Day in Music

 

OCMS 1786 ~ Friedrich Kuhlau, German-born Danish composer and pianist
More information about Kuhlau

• 1847 ~ This night an audience at the Eagle Saloon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania enjoyed Foster’s rendition of his minstrel song, Oh! Susanna. Stephen got a bottle of whiskey for his performance.

• 1850 ~ Jenny Lind sang at the Castle Garden Theatre in New York City. It was her first performance in America. Lind’s voice was so sweet that she was nicknamed ‘The Swedish Nightingale’.

• 1911 ~ Alice Tully, American mezzo-soprano and music patron

OCMS 1956 ~ Arvo Pärt (1935) Estonian composer
More information about Pärt

• 1942 ~ Lola Falana, Singer, actress

• 1944 ~ Mickey Hart, Drummer, songwriter with Grateful Dead

• 1944 ~ Phil May, Singer with The Pretty Things; Fallen Angels

• 1945 ~ Ernest Tubb recorded It Just Doesn’t Matter Now and Love Turns to Hate on the Decca label. Tubb became the second recording artist to have made a commercial record in Nashville, TN.

• 1946 ~ Dennis Tufano, Guitarist, singer with The Buckinghams

• 1952 ~ Tommy Shaw, Guitarist with Styx

• 1959 ~ On this day in 1959 a statue to honor songwriter George M. Cohan was unveiled in New York City’s Duffy Square. Ten thousand people watched and sang his “Give My Regards to Broadway.” Today crowds gather near the statue daily to buy half-priced theater tickets.

• 1962 ~ Ringo Starr joined John, Paul and George for his first recording session as a Beatle, replacing bounced drummer Pete Best. Love Me Do was the result and it took 17 takes to complete … to everyone’s satisfaction.

• 1967 ~ Harry Connick, Jr., Grammy Award-winning singer

• 1969 ~ Leon Payne passed away

• 1984 ~ Bruce Springsteen broke the attendance record at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. The Boss entertained 16,800 fans for the first of six sold-out shows. Springsteen broke his own record; one he set during a visit to Philly in 1981.

• 1993 ~ Erich Leinsdorf, Austrian-born American conductor, died at the age of 81

• 2001 ~ Larry Kegan, a singer-songwriter who performed in concert with Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne and others, died of cardiac arrest. He was 59. Kegan sang at Gov. Jesse Ventura’s inaugural celebration in 1999, at American Indian functions and at Stillwater prison. A paraplegic since a diving accident when he was 15, and a quadriplegic after a car accident a decade later, Kegan was nonetheless very active. Kegan ran a resort for disabled veterans in Mexico and managed orange groves in Florida before returning to Minnesota in the mid-1970s. He met Dylan when they were teenagers at a summer camp. Decades later, in 1978, Dylan dedicated his album Street Legal to Kegan.

• 2004 ~ Fred Ebb, American lyricist

• 2017 ~ Peter Hall, English stage, film and opera director (Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre director), died at the age of 86

September 6: On This Day in Music

today

 

• 1781 ~ Vincent Novello, English music publisher, organist and composer

• 1882 ~ John Powell, American pianist and composer

• 1899 ~ Billy Rose (Rosenberg), producer, author, songwriter

• 1923 ~ William Kraft, American percussionist, composer and conductor

• 1928 ~ Evgeny Svetlanov, Russian conductor and composer

• 1937 ~ Benny Goodman and his orchestra recorded “Sugar Foot Stomp” on Victor Records. The tune was a Fletcher Henderson arrangement.

• 1944 ~ Roger Waters, Musician: bass, songwriter with Pink Floyd

• 1948 ~ Claydes (Charles) Smith, Guitarist with Kool & The Gang

• 1954 ~ Banner Thomas, Bass with Molly Hatchet

• 1958 ~ Georgia Gibbs sang “The Hula-Hoop Song” on “The Ed Sullivan Show”. It was the first national exposure for the Hula-Hoop craze. Many people recorded the song to capitalize on the fad, including Teresa Brewer and Betty Johnson. Like sometimes happens with fads, these songs didn’t become very popular. The Hula-Hoop craze lasted a bit longer…

• 1961 ~ Paul Waaktaar, Guitarist, singer with a-ha

• 1975 ~ Glen Campbell hit #1 on the “Billboard” pop music chart with “Rhinestone Cowboy”. It had reached the top position on the country chart on August 23rd.

• 1976 ~ Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were reunited by Frank Sinatra – after 20 years of going their separate ways. The former comedy team warmly met each other again during a surprise visit by Martin to Lewis’s annual “Labor Day Telethon” for Muscular Dystrophy.

• 1984 ~ Country-music star Ernest Tubb died this day, at the age of 70. Tubb was from Crisp, Texas and was known as the ‘Texas Troubadour’. He patterned his unique style after Jimmie Rodgers. Tubb recorded “I’m Walking the Floor Over You” and sold more than three million copies of the tune. “Blue Christmas”, “I Love You Because”, “Missing In Action” and “Thanks a Lot” were also classics made famous by Tubb. Other recording artists as diverse as The Andrews Sisters, Loretta Lynn and Red Foley recorded with Tubb. His 1979 album, “The Legend and the Legacy”, was a top-ten hit. Tubb was a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1943 and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1965.

• 1984 ~ Ginger Rogers was in Buffalo, NY for a homecoming at Shea’s Theatre. The star of so many great motion pictures, Rogers had played the Shea 55 years earlier.

• 1986 ~ Bananarama hit the top spot on the pop music charts with “Venus”. The tune had also been a number one hit for the Dutch group, The Shocking Blue (2/07/70).

• 1997 ~ The Westminster Abbey funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales, was an extraordinary event, marked by numerous poignant moments: The people sobbing and throwing flowers at the funeral cortege winding through the streets of London. Her sons, walking behind her casket with their heads bowed. And Diana’s brother, who during his funeral oration took aim at the media, who he said made the princess “the most hunted person of the modern age.” Elton John sang a rewritten version of “Candle in the Wind” to “England’s rose”. The song was originally a tribute to film legend Marilyn Monroe, whose own tragic life, like Diana’s, ended at the age of just 36.

• 2002 ~ Rafael Druian, a violinist and conductor who served as concertmaster of four American orchestras, died at the age of 80. Druian’s lengthy career spanned many roles – performer, conductor and teacher. He was the concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Born in Vologda, Russia, Druian grew up in Havana, Cuba and began his musical training at an early age. He came to Philadelphia when he was 10 to audition for Leopold Stokowski, who recommended him for a scholarship at the Curtis School of Music. He graduated from Curtis in 1942 and served in the United States Army for four years and played in the army band. During his career, Druian appeared on some groundbreaking recordings of lesser-known violin works. In the 1950s he made recordings of Block, Janácek and Enesco. After working with orchestras around the country, his final concertmaster position was at the Philharmonic from 1971 to 1974. When he finished there he taught at Boston University and the Curtis Institute of Music.

• 2007 ~ Luciano Pavarotti, Italian tenor, died at the age of 71

September 4: On This Day in Music

OCMS1824 ~ Anton Bruckner, Austrian composer and organist
More information about Bruckner
Read quotes by and about Bruckner

OCMS 1892 ~ Darius Milhaud, French composer
More information about Milhaud

• 1905 ~ Meade “Lux” Lewis, American jazz pianist

• 1907 ~ Edvard Grieg passed away
More information about Grieg

• 1928 ~ Wingy Manone recorded Downright Disgusted for Vocalion Records. Playing drums for Wingy was a young sideman named Gene Krupa.

• 1930 ~ Mitzi Gaynor (Franchesca Mitzi Marlene de Charney von Gerber), Singer, dancer, actress

• 1942 ~ Merald ‘Bubba’ Knight, Singer with Gladys Night and the Pips

• 1944 ~ Gene Parsons, Drummer with The Byrds

• 1946 ~ Gary Duncan (Grubb), Musician, guitar with Quicksilver Messenger Service

• 1946 ~ Greg Elmore, Musician, drums with Quicksilver Messenger Service

• 1950 ~ Ronald LaPread, Bass with Commodores

• 1951 ~ Martin Chambers, Drummer with The Pretenders

• 1959 ~ Mack the Knife was banned from radio – at least from WCBS Radio in New York
City. Teenage stabbings in the city had people pretty uptight; therefore, the ban.

• 1971 ~ The Lawrence Welk Show was seen for the last time on ABC~TV. ABC felt the show attracted “too old an audience … not good for attracting advertisers.” Syndication allowed the champagne music to continue until 1982 as a weekly favorite for millions of people. Welk charted a half-dozen tunes on the pop music charts between 1956 and 1961, including the number one song, Calcutta, in 1960.
More information about Welk

• 1982 ~ After six weeks, Eye of the Tiger, by Survivor, dropped out of the top spot on the music charts. The song, from the movie, Rocky III, dropped all the way to number 2 (for two weeks), then to number 3 for one week and to number 4 for two weeks before starting to fade. That’s what we call a hit, folks! It was the group’s biggest, earning them a platinum record.

• 2001 ~ Robert Pagent, a dancer and choreographer who appeared in the original productions of Oklahoma! and Carousel died at the age of 87. Born Robert Weisser in Pittsburgh, Pagent began his career in European classical ballet troupes in the 1930s. In 1942 he adopted the stage name Robert Pagent and was square-dance caller in the premier of Agnes de Mille’s cowboy-themed ballet, Rodeo. It was the start of a long friendship and collaboration with DeMille and choreographer Jerome Robbins. The following year he replaced an injured dancer in the original cast of Oklahoma! a night after its opening. Two years later he appeared in the premiere of Carousel. Pagent was a choreographer for television in the 1950s and 60s, including the Miss America Pageant. He staged Rudolph Nureyev’s first U.S. television appearance.

• 2003 ~ Susan Chilcott, one of Britain’s leading opera singers, died. She was 40. Chilcott, a soprano, had performed across Europe and with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Chilcott made her Royal Opera House debut in Covent Garden June 2003 to glowing reviews, playing Lisa in Tchaikovsky’s “Queen Of Spades” opposite Placido Domingo.

• 2003 ~ Tibor Varga, a conductor and violinist known for his teaching and for his performances of Béla Bartók and other modern masters, died. He was 82. Varga was born in Hungary and made his public debut with Mendelssohn’s E minor concerto when he was 10. He began touring in Europe while a teenager and studied in Budapest and in Berlin. After World War II he performed widely as a violin virtuoso. In 1947 he moved to England, where he obtained British citizenship. He founded the Tibor Varga Chamber Orchestra in Detmold, Germany, in 1954, then moved to Switzerland, where he was based the rest of his life. He continued to conduct the Detmold-based orchestra until 1988. His repertoire covered baroque, classical and romantic works, but he was best known for his performances of modern composers including Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Berg.

• 2016 ~ David Brown, American guitarist (Santana), died at the age of 53

September 3: On This Day in Music

 

• 1596 ~ Nicolo Amati, Violin maker, passed away in 1684

• 1910 ~ Dorothy Maynor, American soprano and educator

• 1914 ~ Tom Glazer, American folk singer, composer of a film score

• 1921 ~ Thurston Dart, British musicologist

• 1925 ~ Hank (Henry Williams) Thompson, ‘Crown Prince of Country Music’, singer with The Brazos Valley Boys

• 1933 ~ Tompall (Tom Paul) Glaser, Singer with The Glaser Brothers

• 1940 ~ Artie Shaw and the Gramercy Five recorded Summit Ridge Drive for Victor Records.

• 1942 ~ Al Jardine, Songwriter, singer, musician: bass, guitar with The Beach Boys

• 1942 ~ Frank Sinatra bid adieu to the Tommy Dorsey Band as he started his solo singing career.

• 1944 ~ Gary Leeds, Drummer with The Walker Brothers

• 1945 ~ George Biondo, Musician with Steppenwolf

• 1948 ~ Donald Brewer, Drummer, songwriter with Silver Bullet Band; Flint; Grand Funk Railroad

• 1963 ~ Reprise Records, owned by Frank Sinatra, became part of Warner Brothers Records. The ‘Chairman of the Board’ continued to record for the label.

• 1985 ~ Jo (Jonathan) Jones passed away.  He was an American jazz drummer. A bandleader and pioneer in jazz percussion, Jones anchored the Count Basie Orchestra rhythm section from 1934 to 1948.

August 26: On This Day in Music

• 1661 ~ Louis Couperin, composer, died

• 1813 ~ Daniel Gottlob Turk, composer, died at the age of 63

• 1873 ~ Lee DeForest, Inventor of the triode vacuum tube, possibly the most significant invention that made radio possible.
More information about DeForest

• 1894 ~ Arthur Loesser, American pianist and writer

• 1915 ~ Humphrey Searle, British composer and writer

• 1919 ~ Ronny Graham (Ronald Montcrief Stringer), Singer, actor

• 1928 ~ Peter Appleyard, British jazz vibraphonist and drummer

• 1939 ~ The radio program Arch Oboler’s Plays presented the NBC Symphony, for the first time, as the musical backdrop for the drama, This Lonely Heart.

• 1942 ~ Vic Dana, Singer

• 1949 ~ Bob Cowsill, Singer with The Cowsills

• 1957 ~ John O’Neill, Musician, guitar with That Petrol Emotion

• 1958 ~ Ralph Vaughan Williams, Composer, passed away
More information on Vaughan Williams

• 1960 ~ Branford Marsalis, Musician, saxophone, bandleader with The Tonight Show, toured with Sting
More information about the Marsalis family

 

 

• 1967 ~ Brian Epstein passed away

• 1970 ~ Jimi Hendrix opened his recording studio in New York City. Because of its state-of-the-art 36-track recording capability, it attracted many top rock groups.

• 2000 ~ George Edmund Sandell, a noted violin and viola player, teacher and inventor died at the age of 88.
Sandell studied in New York under the viola virtuoso William Primrose and on scholarship at the Royal Swedish Conservatory in Stockholm.

Sandell moved to Los Angeles in 1938, where he played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Pasadena and Santa Monica Symphonies.

Along with classical music, he performed pop, swing and Latin music, and played with the string sections of big band luminaries Harry James, Jimmy Dorsey and  Xavier Cugat.

Sandell also played on some of Frank Sinatra’s recordings and worked for most of the big Hollywood studios on orchestral soundtracks, including the soundtrack for the movie Citizen Kane.

In 1947, he invented the Gee-Bee, a kitchen sponge with a plastic handle for washing dishes. He sold the company to DuPont in 1953.

• 2001 ~ Alix Williamson, the classical music publicist who suggested to Baroness Maria von Trapp that she write a book about her family’s experiences, died at the age of 85.

Williamson’s suggestion resulted in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The Sound of Music.”

She represented artists such as André Watts and Frederica von Stade and helped the New York Grand Opera get a citation in the Guinness Book of World Records for its performances of a complete cycle of Verdi’s operas in Central Park. Williamson also ghostwrote books.

• 2018 ~ Neil Simon died at the age of 91. He was an American playwright, screenwriter and author. He wrote more than 30 plays and nearly the same number of movie screenplays, mostly adaptations of his plays. He received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer.

August 18: On This Day in Music

today

• 1750 ~ Antonio Salieri, Italian composer and conductor
More information about Salieri

• 1873 ~ Leo Slezak, Austrian tenor

• 1907 ~ Howard Swanson, American composer

• 1916 ~ Moura Lympany, Saltash England, pianist

• 1937 ~ The first FM radio construction permit was issued. It went to W1X0J (later to become WGTR) in Boston, MA. The station went on the air two years later.

• 1939 ~ Johnny Preston, Singer

• 1944 ~ Carl Wayne, Singer with The Move

• 1949 ~ Ralph Flanagan and his orchestra recorded their first tune on wax, You’re Breaking My Heart.

• 1950 ~ Dennis Elliott, Drummer with Foreigner

• 1957 ~ Ron Strykert, Guitarist with Men at Work

• 1958 ~ Perez Prado, the ‘Mambo King’, received one of the first gold records awarded by the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA). The single, Patricia, was certified as having sold over one million copies.

• 1973 ~ Jazz drummer Gene Krupa played for the final time with members of the original Benny Goodman Quartet. Krupa, a jazz and big band legend, died on October 6, 1973.

• 1981 ~ Robert Russell Bennett passed away

• 1981 ~ Rex Harrison brought the award-winning My Fair Lady back to Broadway as he recreated the role of Henry Higgins. The play had originally opened in 1956.

• 2001 ~ Jack Elliott, a composer and conductor who worked on numerous hit television shows and movies, died of a brain tumor. He was 74.
Elliott came to Los Angeles in the early 1960s to work as a musical arranger on Judy Garland’s television show.
He gained a reputation as one of the top composers and arrangers in Hollywood. If a television show was popular in the 1970s, it most likely had the music of Elliott and his frequent collaborator Allyn Ferguson. They worked on such shows as: “Police Story,” “Barney Miller,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “The Love Boat.”
He also worked in films and teamed with director Carl Reiner on several projects, including: “The Comic,” “The Jerk” and “Oh God.”
Elliott served as music director for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, writing the music for the opening and closing ceremonies as well as conducting the orchestra.

• 2003 ~ Tony Jackson, bass player for The Searchers, a Liverpool band best known for the 1964 song “Needles and Pins,” died at the age of 63.
Jackson sang and played bass for The Searchers, a Liverpool band that briefly rivaled The Beatles for popularity in the early 1960s. “Needles and Pins” made the top 20 in the United States after it was released in 1964.
Jackson was lead singer on the band’s first two British hits, “Sweets for My Sweet” and “Sugar and Spice,” but played bass only on the enduring “Needles and Pins” and “Don’t Throw Your Love Away.”
Feeling sidelined, Jackson quit the group in 1964. His follow-up band, Tony Jackson and the Vibrations, failed to score a hit and he drifted out of the music business.

• 2004 ~ Elmer Bernstein, American movie music composer (The Magnificent Seven, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Age Of innocence, Thoroughly Modern Mille), died at the age of 82

August 11: On This Day in Music

today

• 1862 ~ Carrie Jacobs Bond, American composer

• 1919 ~ Ginette Neveu, French violinist

• 1925 ~ Mike Douglas (Dowd), TV host of The Mike Douglas Show; singer, The Music Show, Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge

• 1927 ~ Raymond Leppard, British conductor and harpsichordist

• 1941 ~ Glenn Miller and his Orchestra recorded Elmer’s Tune on Bluebird Records.

• 1942 ~ Mike Hugg, Musician, drums with Chapter Three, Manfred Mann

• 1943 ~ Jim Kale, Musician, bass with The Guess Who

• 1943 ~ Guy Vallari, Singer with Regents

• 1949 ~ Eric Carmen, Musician, bass, keyboards, songwriter, singer with The Raspberries

• 1950 ~ Erik Braunn, Musician, guitar, singer with Iron Butterfly

• 1954 ~ David Ian “Joe” Jackson, English singer, pianist, composer

• 1955 ~ Joe Jackson, Singer

• 1958 ~ Elvis Presley received a gold record for the hit, Hard Headed Woman. The song was featured in the movie King Creole.

• 1987 ~ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles was called “the best album made during the last 20 years” by the respected music publication, Rolling Stone magazine.

• 1996 ~ Rafael Kubelik, Czech conductor, died aged 82. He made his debut with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in 1934 and went into exile in 1948 and made an emotional return when he conducted the opening concert of the 1990 Prague Spring music festival.

• 2020 ~ Trini Lopez died at the age of 83, and suffered from complications of COVID-19.

 

August 1: On This Day in Music

 

 

Be sure your student reads and listens to Today’s Daily Listening Assignment
 

 

• 1779 ~ Francis Scott Key, born
More information about Key
Listen to Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner
Read about the Star Spangled Banner

• 1877 ~ Angela Diller, American pianist and educator

• 1919 ~ Oscar Hammerstein I passed away

• 1930 ~ Lionel Bart, Broadway Composer

• 1930 ~ Geoffrey Holder, Dancer

• 1939 – American bandleader Glenn Miller recorded In the Mood which later became his theme tune.

• 1942 ~ Jerry Garcia, American rock guitarist, banjo, lyricist and singer with The Grateful Dead

• 1942 ~ Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra recorded Charleston Alley, on Decca Records.

• 1942 ~ The American Federation of Musicians went on strike. Union president James C. Petrillo told musicians that phonograph records were “a threat to members’ jobs.” As a result, musicians refused to perform in recording sessions over the next several months. Live, musical radio broadcasts continued, however.

• 1947 ~ Rick Anderson, Musician, bass with The Tubes

• 1947 ~ Rick Coonce, Singer, drummer with The Grassroots

• 1953 ~ Robert Cray, Guitar

• 1960 ~ Chubby Checker’s The Twist was released. The song inspired the dance craze of the 1960s.

• 1971 ~ The Concert for Bangladesh was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Ravi Shankar and Billy Preston performed. A multi-record set commemorating the event was a super sales success. Together, the concert and the album raised over $11 million to help the starving minions of Bangladesh.

• 1981 ~ MTV (Music Television) made its debut at 12:01 a.m.

• 1984 ~ Singer Jermaine Jackson made a guest appearance on the TV soap opera, As the World Turns.

• 1997 ~ Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter died of a heart attack in a Moscow hospital. He was 82.

• 2007 ~ Tommy Makem, Irish folk singer died

• 2017 ~ Goldy McJohn, Canadian musician (Steppenwolf), died at the age of 72

 

July 20: On This Day in Music

today

 

Be sure your student reads and listens to Today’s Daily Listening Assignment

 

 

 

• 1872 ~ Déodat de Séeverac, French composer

• 1913 ~ Sally Ann Howes, Singer

• 1932 ~ Nam June Paik, Korean-born American avant-guard composer

• 1938 ~ Jo Ann Campbell, Singer

• 1940 ~ Billboard magazine published its first listing of best-selling singles. 10 tunes were listed.

• 1943 ~ John Lodge, Guitar with Justin Hayward, singer with the Moody Blues

• 1944 ~ T.G. Shepherd (William Bowder), Country Singer

• 1946 ~ Kim Carnes, Grammy Award-winning singer, co-wrote the score to Flashdance

• 1946 ~ John Almond, Reeds, keyboards, vibes with Johnny Almond and the Music Machine

• 1947 ~ Carlos Santana, Mexican-born American rock guitarist

• 1958 ~ Mick McNeil, Keyboards with Simple Minds

• 1961 ~ Stop the World, I Want to Get Off opened in London. The show went to Broadway in 1962.

• 1963 ~ Dino Esposito, Singer

• 1963 ~ Ray Conniff received two gold-record awards – for the albums, Concert in Rhythm and Memories are Made of This – on Columbia Records. Conniff recorded dozens of albums of easy listening music for the label. He had been a trombonist and arranger with Bunny Berigan, Bob Crosby, Harry James, Vaughn Monroe and Artie Shaw.

• 1964 ~ Chris Cornell, Grammy Award-winning musician: drums, singer, songwriter with Soundgarden

• 1966 ~ Stone Gossard, Rock Musician

Daily Listening Assignments ~ July 13, 2020

 

Will you be going to the Circus this Summer?

Here’s some information about circus music.

WINDJAMMERS

Circus marches are called “screamers” because they are traditionally so high, loud & fast!! Circus Band members are often called “windjammers” because they jam so much wind into their instruments in the process of playing these screamers. Playing the circus requires incredible endurance & skills on your instrument. The windjammers play almost none stop and much of the music is really difficult!

The greatest circus bands were about 100 years ago in the heyday of the circus. At that time the big top band could be 25 or so, plus there were often sideshow musicians as well. Cowboy bands, women’s bands and bands of Blacks were often part of the sideshows.

Contemporary circuses are much smaller all the way around, and some don’t use live musicians at all, just “canned” music (recordings). Others carry 3 musicians, a drummer, a trumpet player and a keyboard (synthesizer) player. A few, like the Big Apple Circus, still have bands. The Big Apple Circus has 8 musicians on its bandstand: a conductor/trumpet, a person who plays alto sax and clarinet, one who plays tenor sax and flute, a violin, a trombone, a bass player, a keyboard player and a drummer.

In the “old days,” being a circus musician was one of the most strenuous jobs a musician could have. In the days before musicians’ unions, the windjammer would be expected to play for the circus parade, play a pre-show free concert for the townspeople, ballyhoo around the grounds before the big top show, play the show itself (nonstop for two or three hours!), play post-show concerts on the grounds or play sideshows. Then after everyone left, they helped take down the tents or do other chores around the grounds. It was a busy day and the pay was not very good, but it was an exciting life with lots of great music, and many musicians loved it!

THE MUSIC

Entry of the Gladiators (Thunder and Blazes) was written in 1897 by, the Czechoslovakian composer, Julius Fucik (1872-1916). This march is a classic circus march & one that just about everyone will think, “Ah, circus!” when they hear it. Thunder and Blazes (as it is most frequently called) and Fucik’s Florentiner March are probably his most well-known marches.

Most circus marches follow the standard American military march form, but often abbreviated (no repeats in the second half):

  • Introduction (a bit longer than military marches)
  • First strain (repeated)
  • Second strain (repeated)
  • Trio (more mellow and the key changes)
  • Breakup strain (often called the dogfight in military marches)
  • Last strain

In a circus march, the last strain is often the same as the trio, but louder, and often the trio, breakup strain and last strain are not repeated like they are in a military march (in military marches, the trio and breakup strain are often reversed & the way they repeat may vary).

The music sets the scene for the performer’s act. Different music is needed for different kinds of acts: the bareback riders galloping around the hippodrome need a lively tune, the trapeze artists want something more peaceful, and of course the clowns need music that sounds humorous (like trombone smears!).

In the early days of the circus, the band masters would take some of the European classical music and arrange it for the circus band. “The most obvious example would be the beautiful, flowing waltz music that is essential to the trapeze artists (‘flyers’ and ‘catchers’). The bandmaster and musicians must be precise in coordinating the music and the timing of the artists, requiring rehearsal with the artists and the musicians.  Similarly, it may be interesting to note that the bareback riders perform in a smaller ring because of the gait of the horses. The centrifugal effect requires a ring of a certain diameter for timing. Thus, the conductor must follow the gait of the horses, whereas the aerialists depend on the tempo of the music for timing their act.”

Modern circuses also play a lot of popular tunes, jazz and other songs that people will recognize. You will likely hear fewer of the standard circus marches at a circus today.

The drummer has a particularly challenging and important role in the circus music. He/she must “play the tricks.” Usually the drummer is situated so that he can see the ring because it is his job to accent and intensify what is happening in the ring. This was true 100 years ago, and it is true today. If the act is getting tense, the drummer will get intense. If someone slides down a rope or vaults off the trampoline, there will be a cymbal crash or drum hit when the performer reaches the floor. Sometimes the cues come from the conductor or from the ringmaster, but sometimes it is the drummer who is really in charge!

Circus bands occasionally play a John Philip Sousa composition during the traditional Center Ring Concert, but his melodic marches are not the right structure for most circus acts.

Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever is never part of the regular program. It is reserved for emergency use – sometimes called the “Disaster March”. If a major problem happens — an animal gets loose, a high wind threatens the tent, or a fire breaks out — the band plays the march as a warning signal to every worker on the circus lot that something is wrong.

(Click here for information on the Hartford fire of 1944)

Charles Nelson Reilly – who grew up to be a famous actor, comedian, director and drama teacher – was attending the Ringling Bros. circus, in Hartford, on the day the big top burned to the ground.  Listen as he recalled his memories of the fire.

 

For lesser problems, the 12th Street Rag was played to alert the clowns to come out and divert attention during the more common mishaps.

Edward F. Shevlin describes what goes on in the circus band as follows:

“Our music is usually by Karl King,  Alexander, Fred Jewell, C. E. Duble and other old time circus bandmasters and musicians.  Much of the music by these circus musician-composers is amenable to quick cut-offs and tempo changes as necessary to fit particular acts. Hence, Windjammers usually play two musicians to a stand so that when the conductor cuts to a new piece and tempo, one musician can quickly move the music to expose the next piece while the other continues without skipping a beat! We might quickly go from a march to a Samba or rhumba or galop; or from a waltz to an up-tempo march or galop for the “come down” when the aerialists quickly descend into the net or slide down a rope at the conclusion of their act . . .followed by that ubiquitous B-flat chord! The old circus bands would play anything from Ragtime to a Polonaise or a tone poem!”

*Information from an email from Edward F. Shevlin, a Windjammer who happened upon this page! Many thanks, Mr. Shevlin!

THE BANDWAGON

ParadeWagon

When the circus came to town, there was always a circus parade — the parade served to get the wagons filled with people, equipment, baggage, tents and animals to the location of the circus, but it also provided some free advertisement. The wagons were very elaborate & were intended to get people interested in the circus so they would come and see the acts. The band road on top of a bandwagon and inside the bandwagon was luggage, tents and other necessities.

Hey, have you ever heard the term, “jump on the bandwagon”? Here’s the story. In 1848, when Zachary Taylor won the Whig party nomination for president, Dan Rice, a famous clown whose attire inspired the image of Uncle Sam, invited Mr. Taylor to ride on the bandwagon that Dan Rice had. When the bandwagon arrived at the center of town, Dan Rice stopped his parade and made a very emotional speech supporting Zachary Taylor’s candidacy. Someone noted that Dan Rice was on Mr. Taylor’s bandwagon and the term stuck, so that to jump on the bandwagon means to get involved with whatever the issue is. “He jumped on the ecology bandwagon.” “She is definitely on the civil rights bandwagon.”

Below you will find some links to pictures of bandwagons.

PT Barnum’s Bandwagon http://www.vintageviews.org/vv-3/t_land/pages/trl02_002.html

Windjammers in a Bandwagon http://www.circusparade.com/album/albmusic.htm

Pawnee Bill Bandwagon No. 80 http://www.circusparade.com/wagons/w_pawnee.htm

The Columbia Bandwagon– purchased by James Bailey for the Barnum & Bailey Circus — and see this wagon hitched to FORTY horses!!! The picture including the wagon & the band is at the bottom of the page.

The Mirror Bandwagon http://www.circusmodelbuilders.org/twohemis.htm

A clown marching band (Baraboo, WI High School) http://www.circusparade.com/album/albpic22.htm

 

THE CALLIOPE

Most people pronounce this instrument “cal eye’ o pee”. Circus people pronounce it “cal’ ee ope” (last syllable like “rope”). What is a calliope?? It is a huge instrument made of whistles with a steam engine that blows steam through the whistles when you press the key. Most calliopes are played with a keyboard like a piano keyboard & each key controls one whistle. It is LOUD!!!! Some can be heard up to 3 – 5 miles! Don’t stand too close to one!

The calliope traditionally brought up the rear in a circus parade.

Here is a picture of an early calliope – this one is not on wheels like a circus instrument would be. http://mmd.foxtail.com/Calliope/index.html

Go to this site to see an instrument built recently and see how it works. http://mmd.foxtail.com/Calliope/davis.html

 

SUPERSTITIONS!

Most performing entities have some superstitions. One of the superstitions in circus bands is that you can not play Franz von Suppe’s Light Cavalry March. Quoting from Mr. Beal’s book:

“To play it on the circus lot means disaster and sudden death.”You may not believe this but most circus folks do, at least those who know the facts. Played once in Oklahoma, a train wreck followed and sixteen were killed. Played again, this time while [Merle] Evans was on tour with Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Wild West, a blowdown followed and 38 fatalities resulted. [A blow down is a wind that destroys all or part of the tents.]

“And the last time Merle played it a cornet player died immediately after the performance. That was enough for Evans. He collected the parts, tied them up in a neat bundle, and dropped them over the nearest bridge…

“From that day to this the music of Suppe’s Light Cavalry march is taboo. Even its presence in the music trunk would be considered a serious menace to the life and safety of the circus musicians.”

A second superstition about the music played is that the only time you can play Home Sweet Home is during the very last performance of the season, the very last song. Otherwise, it could mean the immediate closing of the show.

Information from:
Beal, George Brinton. Through the Back Door of the Circus with George Brinton Beal. Springfield, Massachusetts: McLoughlin Bros., Inc., 1938. p. 1-20.

Some important Windjammers and composers of circus music

Links to other Circus Band Websites

Definitions & Explanations

Screamers – Circus marches are called screamers because they are so loud, fast & often very high!

Windjammers – Circus musicians are often called windjammers because they jam so much wind into their instruments in the process of playing these screamers.

Ballyhooing – The dictionary defines the verb “ballyhoo” as a vigorous attempt to win customers. When not playing, the musicians went around the grounds & the town shouting about the circus & trying to get people to come to see it. Ex: “Come to the circus tonight! See flying trapeze artists and the ….”

Hippodrome – The hippodrome is the track around the inside of the ring where the horses were run.

Trombone Smears – Smear refers both to a trombone technique and to a type of music. The technique (officially called a glissando) where the trombonist pulls the slide in or out without tonguing and you get a smearing sound as the notes move up or down, rather than a distinct set of individual notes. Smear also refers to a type of music that includes and features these smear techniques. These pieces are often used as clown music. Henry Fillmore wrote many trombone smears and they had an African-American minstrel sound to them.

Adapted from http://bandnotes.info/tidbits/circus.htm