On Monday, July 30, for the 19th year, the Mount Prospect Community Band will close its summer series with its Sousa concert -- a highly anticipated event each year.
Michael Golemo, chairman of the music department and director of bands at Iowa State University, returns in the person of John Philip Sousa to conduct the band in a concert reminiscent of the Sousa bands of old.
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 30
Where: Lions Park Veterans Memorial Bandshell
Miscellaneous: Concert is free. Bring blankets, lawn chairs; food and drinks can be bought on-site.
Concert info: This concert features the biggest band of the summer as musicians who are not in the band are invited to rehearse and play in the concert (hence the 'Do it yourself' title).
Plan B: If it rains, concert moves inside the Lions Park Recreation Center.
We reached Golemo in Ames, Iowa to talk to him about being Sousa, and his early years growing up in Elk Grove Village.
Q.You get into Sousa's "skin" every year in Mount Prospect. What keeps you coming back?
Part of the Sousa allure, from my perspective, is that it portrays an important era of American history. Sousa's band traveled throughout the world, and performed concerts in large cities and small towns. When his band came to your town, schools and businesses shut down for the day.
There were no phones, radio or television, and everyone knew the name of Sousa from his sheet music and memorable concerts. He brought quality music -- he had some of the world's best musicians in his bands -- to his concerts, and used his marches as encores.
He was performing Wagner overtures and classical music in small towns across America years before many of these works were even performed in New York with the major symphonies and opera companies.
There is also an allure to Sousa marches because they reflect a special time in the development of the United States. His marches reflect our country when we were emerging as a world power, partly due to the industrial revolution. Although not all of his marches are patriotic in nature, they all have a certain trademark Sousa sound, and nostalgic style.
Sousa composed several fairly popular operettas (he was good friends with Victor Herbert), and many of his operatic melodies were also used in his marches. His music is very identifiable, and certainly user-friendly.
Q. Everybody's got their favorite Sousa march. What's yours? And is there one piece that you play at every Sousa concert?
My favorite Sousa march is "The Jack Tar March." It is not played that often, but it is a real "rouser" and has all of the Sousa characteristics -- a great melodic line, creative harmonies, solid instrumentation, and it features a little musical quote of the Sailor's Hornpipe -- very creative. It is a superb march, which was defined by Sousa as being "one that would make a man with a wooden leg want to get up and march."
I try to vary the marches that we use at the Mount Prospect Sousa concerts, but we always conclude with "The Stars and Stripes Forever."
Q. Is there one biography of Sousa you can recommend? How good is his own autobiography, "Marching Along"?
Sousa's autobiography is a good read, but a better one is "John Philip Sousa: American Phenomenon," by Paul Bierley. Bierley is the world's leading authority and scholar on anything Sousa-related. His most recent book, "The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa," lists every concert in which the Sousa Band performed, including musical selections and personnel. It is an amazing bit of research and to a Sousa-holic, incredible reading and information.
Q. What don't people know about John Philip Sousa?
Sousa was a quality musician, and his band often featured superb soloists. Sousa was among the first conductors of the U.S. Marine Band, and he greatly elevated the quality of that band. He later had his own "civilian" group which toured the world. Later in Sousa's life, during WWI, he joined the Navy, working out of the Great Lakes Naval Base, to help promote patriotism and sell war bonds. His pay was a token $1 a month.
Q. Tell us about your costume.
The uniform which I've used for many years is a very, very old band uniform from Northwestern University. There are some military medals and some braiding which cover up the "NU" logos and make the uniform look fairly close to the uniform which Sousa used with his civilian band back around 1910. The hat I wear is also similar to one used by Sousa, and I always come out wearing white gloves -- a real Sousa trademark.
Q. Tell us about Monday night's concert. What can people expect to hear?
Our concert will be similar to Sousa's in terms of substance -- quality classical music that is well-played and virtuosic soloists. We also use an announcer who provides historical information throughout the concert -- hoping that you can imagine yourself at a concert of the famous John Philip Sousa Band. The Mount Prospect band has a terrific announcer in clarinetist Jim Weyrick.
Q. You are from Elk Grove Village, we hear.
Our family was among the early residents of Elk Grove back around 1960, when I was born. I have great memories of a "young" Elk Grove, going to Adeline's farm off of Tonne Road for fresh eggs, the original EGV library which was in a house behind Jarosch Bakery, the old "Peony Parade." The Elk Grove schools were fortunate to have terrific music and band instructors, including Doug Peterson, Gary Parker, John Janusek and Bill Edwards. It was an idyllic town. I was fortunate to come from a very musical family. My parents supported music lessons for me, and for my four siblings.
Q. Do you rehearse the band in the manner of Sousa, or do you save that for the performance?
I'm not sure how Sousa rehearsed his bands, but I'm sure that he was very efficient in his rehearsals. Being that I only have one rehearsal with the band, efficiency is very important. Ralph Wilder, who conducts the Mount Prospect Community Band, has some extra rehearsals on this music, plus we try to program some works that the Mount Prospect Band has played earlier in their season. There are a few videos of Sousa conducting his band from late in his career, and I try to incorporate some of those music gestures in my conducting throughout the concert.
It is terrific fun, and it is hard to believe that this is our 19th annual concert. I think that Sousa would be both proud and flattered by our tributes. His music is truly timeless, and an important part of the cultural heritage of our country.