Search Our Site by Keyword


Subscribe TODAY to our FREE monthly E-NEWS by typing in your email below.

To Request Our Free Catalog
Click Here E-NEWS February 11, 2003

February Strike Up The Band at Altissimo! Recordings

In This Issue�

Blue & Gray - Songs of the Civil War

This latest from release from Altissimo! salutes the heroism of the American Civil War. The Civil War saw a tremendous output of patriotic music on both sides which became part of the American military music experience. Many of these tunes are still heard and loved today. Here on one CD, you have all the classics of that terrible conflict. There have been many CDs on the music of the Civil War, but for the first time we have a recording that is performed by the premier military bands of the United States armed forces. The album includes recordings by the US Army Field Band, the US Air Force Band & Singing Sergeants, the US Marine Band, the US Coast Guard Band and the US Navy Band & Sea Chanter Chorus. These bands and their respective choruses provide for truly impressive renditions of these classics of American patriotic music.

One of the highlights of this CD must surely be the "Story of the Battle Hymn of the Republic" accompanied by narration which explains how this famous melody became synonmous with the Civil War. "The Battle of Shiloh" by C.L. Barnhouse is another classic which deserves better recognition and which gets full treatment here by the US Navy Band. Three Blue and Gray Medleys collect many of the well known tunes of the war on both sides in attractive arrangements. Other selections include a virtuoso cornet solo of Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home" which has always been a good concert showpiece. The CD concludes with a moving evocation of taps by solo bugler and then with full band accompaniment by the US Marine Band. As an encore we have a moving "Amazing Grace" by the pipes of the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) The listener won't find a better selection of Civil War related music anywhere and all played by superb bands. The music itself is arranged wonderfully, providing imaginative and informative versions of this famous music that still so defines America to this day. Excellent liner notes with great old photographs of the period round off a great package. Anyone into the Civil War, patriotic music, or famous old ballads will want to have this in their collection. You can see it online at

2) Sousa Gems: Sound Off - 1885

This mid-level Sousa classic was composed after his fifth year as director of the US Marine Band. It has all the hallmarks of a great Sousa march. A strong introduction in the brass and woodwinds leads to more development combining all sections of the band in a powerful manner. Part of the "Sound Off" tradition is the playing of three chords while the band stands fast, before actually marching. The three chords are thought to resemble the "Three Cheers" of the assembled crowds or soldiers. Early Fife and Drum music also had "Three Cheers" which was often played as part of a Reveille sequence. The trio of the march is typically light and graceful showing Sousa's ability to contrast so well with different themes in his marches. The work was apparently intended for ceremonial purposes hence its title being based on a march command. This was not the first time Sousa had used a simple commands to provide a compelling title for a march composition. As director of music of the US Marine Band Sousa came under the direct command of Major Porter George Houston. He was considered a stern, but fair officer by Sousa which perhaps suggests the same qualities in this fine work. The ceremony of bands sounding off for parades and inspections is another one of those ancient traditions, which goes back through the centuries. No one can trace such an event with any degree of certitude. For sure the Romans, along with other ancient armies of the Far East and the armies of the Middle Ages must have performed some similar ceremony with their own musicians.

The US Marine Corps Manual for Field Music published in 1935 states that the ceremony of "Sounding Off" allegedly dates from the time of the Crusades. The players would march and counter march in front of the Knights and foot soldiers designated for service in the Crusades as a ceremony of dedication for their Holy Cause. This explanation seems as good as any to try to explain what is no doubt a very old and venerated military custom. We shall probably never know its true origins. Listeners do not need to have all the historical facts in order to enjoy "Sound Off" in all its glory. The song in on Sousa II from Altissimo!

3) National Emblem March (1906) E. E. Bagley

This famous march has often been mistaken for a Sousa work. And why not, as it seems to have all the hallmarks of a Sousa top-ten hit! Such has been the lasting fame of Sousa that he often has eclipsed other worthy American march composers who were contemporaries. Numerous marches over the years have often been ascribed to Sousa. This has certainly been the case with Edwin E. Bagley's march. Originating from Vermont where he began his musical career at nine, Bagley pursued an early career that was not unlike Sousa's. He played in various orchestras and wind bands in the New England area and was proficient on a number of instruments. Unlike Sousa he did not end up in a military band as far as we know. Written in 1906 "National Emblem" remains a classic American march, second perhaps only to "Stars & Stripes". The march borrows its first major theme from the National Anthem of the United States. The contrasting second theme and trio have become world famous and remain popular with military bands everywhere. Few bandsmen anywhere have not played this classic piece. This march needs no additional publicity as its lasting fame is assured. All that we might say is that Bagley should get the credit he richly deserves for this masterpiece. Listeners will find a fine example of "National Emblem" on God Bless The USA played by the US Army Band.

4) Heroic Pipers - Piper Kenneth MacKay at Battle of Waterloo, 1815

We continue our occasional discussions of heroic pipers of the British army with a portrait of piper Kenneth McKay of the old 79th (Cameron) Highlanders. This regiment was hard pressed like the rest of Wellington's army during the long hours of battle on June 18th, 1815 at Mont St. Jean near the village of Waterloo. During the course of the afternoon the French subjected the British to a number of massive cavalry charges in hopes of breaking Wellington's center. The 79th Highlanders were forced to form squares, an all around defensive formation that infantry assumed against cavalry during this period. While the French cavalry dashed themselves vainly upon the British squares, the French horse artillery moved in close to fire murderously upon the exposed British troops. The situation was desperate as entire files were blown away by the French artillery. The 79th, like many other British battalions, were near the breaking point. The pipes and drummers of the battalion were kept in the center of the square together with the colors and the regimental staff. During one of the lulls of the battle, piper MacKay of the Grenadier company boldly marched in a deliberate fashion around the outside of the 79ths square playing the old Gaelic war march "Cogadh no Sith" (Peace or War). MacKay's sangfroid under fire no doubt inspired his comrades, and the entire battalion. His devotion to the war like music of the pipes, played in these most appropriate circumstances, caught the public's imagination. King George III was so inspired by the event that he personally presented MacKay with a specially made set of silver-mounted pipes that remain a treasured item in the regimental museum of the Queens Own Highlanders. Many portraits were made, and the image remains the typical standard of bravery that all pipers aspire to this day. The current regiment, the 1st battalion the Highlanders, (Seaforths, Gordons and Camerons) are the proud inheritors of this famous piping tradition. The Highlanders are touring the States in the Winter 2003 with the band of the Grenadier Guards. Those wanting some more information on piper MacKay can check out this website:

5) The Mehter Band of the Ottoman Army.

This Band can rightly be described as the father of Western Military Music. The old Janissary bands of the Ottoman Empire can trace their origins back to perhaps the 8th Century. The Janissaries were a corps d'elite formed by the Ottoman rulers mostly from slaves from the Caucasus and other locales from within their extensive empire. Having had such a long and varied existence, naturally it can be a little difficult to sort out the facts concerning this historic musical organization. What is known is that the Janissaries existed as a military force within the Ottoman Empire for roughly 500 years. The various Mehter bands campaigned extensively with the Ottoman armies and vigorously supported their troops in battle with lively music. Here we can actually see the use of military band music being employed on the battlefield. Mehter roughly translates from the Turkish into a number of meanings, which include musician, tent pitcher, and guard. In Persian the word also denotes supreme, or most exalted status.

One of the first times Western Europeans heard the music of the Mehter bands was at the siege of Vienna in 1683. This was truly the last gasp of the Ottomans to extend their conquests Westward. The Austrian and Polish troops who relieved the siege captured a number of Mehter instruments in the process. These fascinating percussion instruments, including cymbals, drums, and Jingling Johnnies almost immediately became the rage in Europe. Up until this time European military bands were rather somber affairs containing weak instrumentation of horns, hautbois (oboes), flutes, etc. Their sound was almost chamber like and did not carry very well on the parade ground, much less the battlefield! The so-called "Turkish Music" became the musical fad of many famous composers over the decades after its first introduction in the West. By the 1800s such composers as Mozart, Beethoven and others had each contributed their "Turkish Marches" to the growing capabilities of the military band. Beethoven wrote a set of Turkish style marches, which became part of the Prussian Zapfenstreich ceremony associated with Tattoo in the German armies. These marches would form part of the Royal Prussian Army military music collection. As so often is the case, the interpretations of Western composers of the Turkish music of the Mehter bands bore little resemblance to the original upon which it was based. The style was imitated, and developed from there, which combined with the introduction of newer instruments as the 19th century progressed, was essential in the formation of the modern military band that we know today.

Meanwhile in the Ottoman Empire the Mehter Bands endured a somewhat chaotic existence. With the decline of the Ottomans came a number of drastic changes. The Janissaries were themselves eliminated in 1826 by Sultan Mahmut II in a famous coup known as the "Auspicious Incident" in Turkish History. With them went the traditional Mehter bands of old. Further changes would rock the ever-decaying Ottoman Empire, often referred to derisively as the "sick man of Europe." Revolutions before World War One saw the modern Turkish Army created from the ashes of old, which naturally sought to imitate the Western armies in everything including military music. Bands were established along western lines and played in that style.

It is surprising that in 1914 on the eve of the Great War, Sultan Mehmet V decided to re-create a central Mehter Band, which could serve as a living monument of early Ottoman martial music. The Band managed to survive the calamities of World War One and the War of Independence in 1920 against the Greeks and their allies. Mustafa Kemal, soon to be known to the world as Attaturk, became President of a new and modern Turkey and maintained the Band until 1935. His decision to disband it went along most likely with his radical reforms in order to drag Turkey into the 20th century. After his death the Mehter Band was reformed in 1952 and continues to this day. The Band makes for a most colorful appearance both in sight and sound. The musicians wear 18th Century Ottoman garb, and continue many of the old traditions of the elite Janissaries. This includes a special march pace which is truly unique. Referred to variously as a "contemplative slow march" or Turkish step, the movement has its origins in old Sufi dances of the Middle East. It consists of a right-left-right-pause, half turn right-left, right pause step. Only the French Foreign Legion band has anything as unique as this!

Since its recreation, the Mehter Band now carefully preserves the old music and traditions of the Ottomans and their elite Janissaries who once campaigned all through the Balkans, Arabia and North Africa. They were the terror of their day. The Band travels abroad and has performed in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 1957 and 1992. The origins of modern military music live on today in the Mehter Band of the Turkish Army. Those interested in additional information on this fascinating music organization, as well as pictures and the bands CD can check out the following websites:

Readers can also check out the Heritage of World Military Bands, which contains additional information on Turkish Military Music.

6) Joke of the Month

Did you hear about the cowboy cornet player?
He was the fastest double-tongue in the west!

Submitted by John J. Farelly.
Since we used his submission, John receives an Altissimo! CD of his choice.

7) Mailbag

Judy K writes:

Can you please tell me how and why bagpipes are the only instrument played at funerals for police, fireman, etc.?

Please send us your replies.

8) Websites and Schedules

Military Band Websites and schedules are available at

If you would like to have a link to your band, please Email us at

The Band of the Grenadier Guards and the Pipes, Drums & Dancers of the Highlanders (Seaforths, Gordons & Camerons) 2003 USA/Canada Tour

Contact Columbia Artists Management: 212 397-6900

This tour is on going at this very moment. This editor strongly recommends the readers of this newsletter to catch this tour if possible. Both bands are superb. A review of this tour shall appear in the March Newsletter. This is a 56-city tour of the US & Canada with the bands of the Grenadier Guards and the Highlanders. These British band tours have been occurring for the last 40 years and are a great show. You get two terrific bands, no other distractions, performing traditional and modern martial music, with marching, formations, authentic piping and real Highland Dancing. Lately the Black Watch has been the featured item for the last three tours. Its nice to see a less well known, but equally good regimental pipe band from the Highlanders, an amalgam of many famous Scottish regiments on their first USA tour with the Grenadiers who have been here before in 1958, 1971, 1977 & 1987. This tour will last from January 15 - March 15, 2003. Below is the tour itinerary, which is mostly correct. Viewers must contact Columbia Artists at the above number for specific locales and times.


1-New Haven CT & West Point, NY
2-Boston, MA
4-Kichener, ON, Canada
5-Toronto, ON, Canada
6-Grand Rapids, MI
7-Cleveland, OH
8-Mt. Clemens, MI
9-Detroit, MI & Flint , MI
11-Louisville, KY
12-Columbus, OH
13-Dayton, MI
15-Champaign-Urbana, IL
16-Ames, IA
17-Chicago, IL
19-Rexburg, ID
21-Portland, OR
22-Vancouver, BC, Canada
23-Seattle, WA & San Rafael, CA
26-Sacramento, CA
27-San Luis Obispo, CA
28-Escondido, CA


1-Palm Desert, CA
2-Cerritos, CA
3-Thousand Oaks, CA & Phoenix, AZ
6-Winston-Salem, NC
7-Asheville, NC
8-Greenville, SC
9-Atlanta, GA & Naples, FL
11-Naples, FL
12-Sarosata, FL
14-West Palm Beach, FL
15-Clearwater, FL

9) Concerts Abroad for Fall 2002:

Australia - Geelong , Feb 11-16, Australian International Air Show, 2003

10) A Great Organization - The International Military Music Society

Anyone interested in the true study of military music should join this society. The IMMS is an international organization with branches in the US, Canada, UK and many other countries. The Society maintains a website which has extensive information on bands, concerts, websites, etc. Membership is easy and extremely rewarding. As a member you receive the Society's Journal Band International which contains numerous articles about military music past and present and around the world.

The IMMS website is:
From this site links to all the international branches can be accessed Membership information is also available.

The USA branch website is:
The society is managed by Mr. Barbu Alim who can also be contacted at:
5418 Waycross Drive
Alexandria VA 22310-1116 USA
E-mail at: Bali@LOC.GOV

The Canadian branch website is:
Chairman: Trevor Hamilton
642 Huron Street
Toronto, Ontario Canada
M5R 2R9
(416) 922-9094
Altissimo! salutes the International Military Society and encourages all readers to join this esteemed organization.

11) News Flash!

Altissimo! recently assumed the support of the Heritage of World Military Bands web site.

This extensive site has long contained all sorts of fascinating information on bands, concerts, personalities and all aspects associated with military music. The distinguished Canadian Military musician Jack Kopstein maintained the site for many years. The new Webmaster is fellow Canadian Bill Wornes. You can email him with your contributions and comments through the web site.


Submission policy. Please send us your articles, comments and jokes. If we decide to include your article or joke, you will receive an Altissimo! CD of your choice.

We trust you have enjoyed reading the new monthly MILITARYMUSIC.COM E-NEWS.You asked to receive updates about Altissimo! Recordings. We also want to tell you about the history of our country's military music. If you have friends and family who would enjoy receiving this email newsletter, please have them email their request to or go to our website, to be added to the E-NEWS list.Until next month�

Happy Listening!

Roger Kennedy,

Al McCree, Managing Editor

ALTISSIMO! RECORDINGSBrentwood, TNMilitaryMusic.Com E-News is a copyrighted publication of Coker and McCree, Inc and Altissimo! Recordings. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or excerpt, Email:

To UnsubscribeIf you do not wish to continue receiving this email newsletter, please send an email to and type REMOVE in the subject line.  

 About Altissimo!   Recordings   Newsletter Archives   Mailing List
Home   Site Map    Links   Special Offers   Email Us

All material © copyright 1998-2002 Coker & McCree, Inc.   All Rights Reserved

Website Maintenance by