July 2013

The Liberty Bell

by John Philip Sousa

We introduced John Philip Sousa in July 2011. He was an American composer, well-known for his marches.

In 1893, Sousa was working on an operetta called "The Devil's Deputy". He had written a new march that was to be a part of it, but funding for the operetta fell through. As he was deciding to publish the march on its own, his wife mentioned that their son had recently marched in a parade in honor of the Liberty Bell. Sousa decided to call the march, "The Liberty Bell".

The Liberty Bell is an iconic bell created in 1753, and resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It bears a special inscription: Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof (taken from Leviticus 25:10). There's an old story that someone overheard the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and rang the Liberty Bell. This has since been found to be unlikely, but it's probable that on July 8, 1776, when the Declaration was first read publicly, the Liberty Bell, among many other bells, likely rang. It has a distinctive crack that most historians believe to have been formed sometime in the early 19th century. The bell has become a symbol of liberty and independence.

Among "The Liberty Bell" march's distinctions, it was played by the University of Arizona's marching band during the half-time show of the first Super Bowl. It was played by the United States Marine Corps Band at the last three Presidential Inaugurations. And, in popular culture, it's recognized as the theme to "Monty Python's Flying Circus" (a British sketch comedy show that ran from 1969-1974).

Jon's Introduction to This Piece:

I really don't know when I was introduced to this piece. It had to have been later. It's possible that I first became familiar with it in my freshman year of college (1989-1990), as that's when I was first introduced to Monty Python's Flying Circus. I've never played this march, but it sure would be fun to.


So, here's "The Liberty Bell". Be sure to keep an ear out about a minute into the piece for the ringing of the bell. Enjoy!

The Liberty Bell by John Philip Sousa (3:27)

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

Jon's Interpretation:

Marches are just fun, and Sousa marches are some of the best. I think the most enjoyable part of this to me is the dynamic build up to the ringing of the bell. As many of Sousa's marches do, this one leaves you feeling good.

Extra Credit:

Here's a piano score of The Liberty Bell, should you wish to follow along.

Piano Score for The Liberty Bell by John Philip Sousa

And here's a very old recording I found of The Liberty Bell. It's the Edison Grand Concert Band, and this recording is from 1896. I'm not sure if it's a wax cylinder recording or a very early vinyl disc (78 RPM), but it's believed to be the first recording of the march.

An 1896 recording of The Liberty Bell by John Philip Sousa (2:23)