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Transit of Venus (arr Schissel)

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John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa (rev. Loras John Schissel)

General Info

Year: 1883 / c. 2003
Duration: c. 2:20
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Unpublished
Cost: Parts Only - Free   |   Score Only - Unknown

For availability information, see Discussion tab, above.


Full Score
C Piccolo
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Cornet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III
Trombone I-II-III
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Snare Drum
  • Triangle


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

It is not known whether or not Sousa witnessed either of the two transits of Venus that occurred in his lifetime, but the phenomenon was the basis for the title of this march and one of his three novels.

The march received its première at a concert of the U.S. Marine Band on April 19, 1883, with Sousa conducting. The occasion was the unveiling of a statue of Joseph Henry, first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, who had died in 1878. Henry, as president of the National Academy of Sciences, had been responsible for proper observation of the transit of Venus in 1874.

There is nothing in Sousa’s or Henry’s memoirs suggesting that the two were personally acquainted, but it is possible because they both lived in Washington at the same time. Inasmuch as several members of the National Academy of Sciences were present at the unveiling of Henry’s statue, it is likely that the march was intended as a salute to both Henry and the Academy.

- Program Note from The Works of John Philip Sousa.

First performed on April 19, 1883, by the U.S. Marine Band, Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C.

- Program Note from score

Sousa's copy of the music was destroyed in a flood, and the music was deemed lost. But in 2003, while astronomer Sten Odenwald and librarian Susan Claremont were searching for music composed in connection with earlier transits of Venus, a copy of Sousa's march was found in the archives of the Library of Congress. Loras Schissel, a Sousa expert who also worked in the music section of the Library of Congress, reorchestrated the march for modern band instrumentation, modernized the clefs and key, and then made it available for free download from the Library of Congress web site.

It was performed for the first time in 120 years in September 2003 by Loras Schissel and his Grand Virginia Military Band.

- Program Note from Institute of Astronomy, University of Hawaii

Commercial Discography


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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