John Philip Sousa was a musician whose reputation remains strong almost a century after his death.
The scene must have been extraordinary that late October evening in 1892, over 125 years ago, when Sousa came to town. The venue was the brand-new Memorial Opera House, a 565 seat auditorium situated in what was later the site of the Madison Theatre, and is now the parking lot of the Solders and Sailors Memorial Building on Park Avenue West.An October 1892 edition of the Mansfield Daily Shield provided this set up for the concert during the week prior to the event:
“If the people of Mansfield thoroughly understood the real dimensions and appreciated beforehand the brilliancy of the grant military concert that is to be given on Oct. 25, Tuesday evening next, by Sousa’s New Marine Band, M’Delle Lindh and Sig. Galassi, the big opera house would not be large enough to hold those who would rush to hear. It is no ordinary affair, on good authority, but one which has never before been equaled in a musical way in Mansfield.
For example and proof, Sousa and his marine band and the two famous opera singers go to Chicago and for one week and a night extra, nine performances, they appear in the greatest opera house in the word, the Auditorium, before tremendous and critical audiences, and score an absolute triumph. What other military band dare even attempt a week in Chicago? The entire tour of the Marine Band has been equally successful.
The famous organization will come to Mansfield next Tuesday evening and appear here just the same as it did in Chicago, same Sousa – there is but one Sousa in all the world – same band and same number (50 artists), same uniform, same opera stars and the same program. See them! Hear them!”
The 1892 national tour, the first by Sousa after leaving his Marine Corps position, and the one the year preceding, solidified his reputation and renown across the country. It was during this time that the band leader penned marches such as The Washington Post, The Thunderer, and Semper Fidelis. In January of that year, Sousa’s band played at a White House New Year’s reception hosted by President and Mrs. Benjamin Harrison. The noted soprano Marcella Lindh, referred to above, was the first to sing with the Sousa Band.
Unfortunately, the turnout appears to have been somewhat lacking. According to the Daily Shield, “Prof. Sousa’s new Marine band played to small audience last night, as usual in Mansfield when a first-class attraction appears here.”
The picture below shows a concert by the band in San Francisco earlier that same year.
Photo: Creative Commons License