July 2011

Manhattan Beach

by John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa was born in Washington, DC in 1854. He is considered by many to be the "American March King". His specialty was the march. He wrote many, many marches in his life, and is still well known today.

So what is a "march". A march is a piece of music with a consistent regular rhythm (usually a 4 beat). Military or patriotic marches are usually pretty quick and lively. They are meant to be played while troops (or the band itself) steps in time (in a little quicker than a walking pace). We've already covered several marches including Radetzky March (November 2009) and Marche Slave (September 2010). There are other types of marches, though. A funeral march would be played very slowly (typically half as fast as a military march), as it depicts a coffin being carried to the grave.

Manhattan Beach was written in 1893 to commemorate the Manhattan Beach Resort in Brooklyn, New York. When traditionally performed, the final theme will start out quietly and build, getting quite loud. Then it will repeat, starting loud, and progressively getting quieter until the very end. Perhaps this was done to represent the tide coming in and out of the beach?

Jon's Introduction to This Piece:

I'm pretty sure I can pinpoint the very place I first heard this piece, though I didn't know its name. It was on Sesame Street. There was a 30 second segment featuring various old-time airplanes, filmed in black & white. In the background, you could hear the final theme to Manhattan Beach. I was desperately hoping that, for the Extra Credit segment, I could provide the video of this segment. I gave it a very valiant effort, but I'm afraid I could not find it.

When I was (I think) a Freshman in High School (playing trombone), Jerry Borchardt had us perform Manhattan Beach for an upcoming concert. I immediately recognized it as the march I had heard on Sesame Street.


So, here's the march itself. Enjoy!

Manhattan Beach by John Philip Sousa (2:03)

For those interested, this recording was performed by Frederick Fennell conducting the Eastman Wind Ensemble.

Jon's Interpretation:

It's always fun to listen to a good march, and Sousa marches are about the best there are. As a trombone player, I can tell you that these are as much fun to play as they sound.

For me, Manhattan Beach will always remind me of being four years old, living in Sun Prairie, watching Sesame Street on a relatively small black & white TV.

Extra Credit:

As is becoming tradition, here's a piano score of Manhattan Beach, should you wish to follow along.

Piano Score for Manhattan Beach by John Philip Sousa