March from "Strike Up the Band"

From Wind Repertory Project
George Gershwin

George Gershwin (arr. Ira Hearshen)

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General Info

Year: 1927 / 1987
Duration: c. 3:25
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Unknown
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Strike Up The Band is the title song for a musical interpretation of George S. Kaufman’s satire about a proud American owner of a cheese factory who is outraged when Switzerland protests a tariff on imported cheese and convinces the U.S. government to declare a war he would finance. George and Ira Gershwin saw this as an opportunity to write in the style of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The 1927 production never made it out of Philadelphia, as political satire was a hard sell even in an operetta style. The inevitable boy-meets-girl story did produce the classic love song The Man I Love.

- Program note from Music Program Notes for Band and Wind Ensemble Music

I first met Lowell Graham in June 1986. Very early on at that first meeting, Lowell and I came to a mutual understanding and agreement about what it was that we were going to accomplish. We both agreed on the idea that there was no reason that 'bands' and 'band music' had to be perceived as the poor stepsister of the orchestral repertoire, even though most of the intellectual arts community in America had persistently viewed them that way. In short, my 'mission' then would be to attempt to elevate 'band music' to a more intellectually stimulating level by the use of my craft. This was obviously a long-term project, which would go nowhere if I didn't produce something the very first time that would excite an audience.

Both Lowell and I were aware of this, so it was decided to start by arranging something listeners would be familiar with, but to do it in a more unusual way though still easily recognizable. The solution was to do an original 'take' on a well-known favorite. Having made my living as a studio arranger/composer helps in situations like these because anyone who does this kind of work must be constantly aware of audience response. With that in mind, we decided on the Gershwin tune Strike Up The Band, as it not only lends itself to a lot of musical inventiveness, it connects the audience to the 'band' experience in a theatrical way as well.

The only guidelines Lowell gave me for the arrangement were that it be both entertaining for the audience and a 'fun' piece for his band to play, with a performance time of approximately four minutes.

To me, being 'fun to play' is synonymous with being musically interesting architecturally, meaning that all the instrumental parts in a score are of equal importance. The great musical works are well constructed top-to-bottom as well as inside out. In order for the real power and musical magic of a work to occur, the entire melodic, harmonic, accompaniment, contrapuntal, and rhythmic elements must be well designed and well purposed. In my way of writing, the fourth trumpet part is just as important as the lead trumpet part in any given situation. In fact there may be times where that fourth trumpet harmony part is even more important than the lead.

This has been my thinking for my entire career and is evident in my entire output of commercial and concert work. I believe that this philosophic approach to my work for symphonic band has, in fact, fulfilled the 'mission' of presenting music for the band repertoire that can stand right alongside the orchestral library.

In addition to being 'fun' to play, this arrangement was to be entertaining ('fun') for the audience. Other than the instrumentation and an approximate performance time, I was given no other specific direction. What 'fun' says to me is whatever musical funny business I think I can pull off, not have to rewrite, and still get paid along with the hope of future gainful employment. (Thirty years in the TV/film scoring business helps in this area too.)

Just as in other forms of comedy, the biggest musical 'jokes' are those that catch the listener off guard. It may come as a musical 'surprise' woven into the fabric of a melodic arrangement and/or it may be some reference totally unrelated to the original material. The more out of context the reference or 'surprise' is, the funnier it sounds alongside the main theme.

This is the essence of how I constructed Strike Up The Band. The intro consists of two familiar 'band' mottos, the first being the initial bar from Sousa's Stars and Stripes and the second being a stock 'Circus/March' intro everyone has been familiar with since childhood. This is followed by a marching drum cadence that sets up Strike Up The Band. Interspersed with that melody are quotes from Fascinatin' Rhythm, National Emblem, and A Foggy Day.

The second chorus has similar thoughts, though now in 6/8, which allows for a brief homage to the Air Force by quoting Wild Blue Yonder, while the third chorus utilizes elements of a melodic hybrid containing one part St. Louie Woman and one part St. Louis Blues. If I were ever asked, 'Why those particular songs?', the only answer I could come up with would be, 'It seemed funny at the time'.

The whole chart comes to a crashing climax with a direct lift from Rhapsody in Blue, only to be trumped by the tuba and the piccolo quoting a cell from 'Strike Up.' one last time.

Is ev'rybody HAPPY? I hope so.

- Program Note by Ira Hearshen

Commercial Discography


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of North Texas (Denton) Symphonic Band (Dennis W. Fisher, conductor) – 27 April 2019
  • University of North Texas (Denton) Symphonic Band (Lowell Graham, conductor) – 29 March 2018
  • Dallas (Tex.) Winds (Jerry Junkin, conductor) – 14 February 2017

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

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