Circus Overture

From Wind Repertory Project
William Schuman

William Schuman (trans. Don Owen)

General Info

Year: 1944
Duration: 7:30
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: G. Schirmer
Cost: Full Set - $100 / Score Only - $7.50


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

  • Bass Drum
  • Cymbals
  • Snare Drum
  • Tam-tam
  • Tom-tom
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Originally titled Side Show, this piece was commissioned by Broadway producer Billy Rose for the revue The Seven Lively Arts. The first performance was by the theater orchestra conducted by Maurice Abravanel in Philadelphia. Unfortunately the piece was dropped from the show after three performances. Schuman then recast the work for full orchestra under the title Circus Overture. This version was premiered on December 17, 1944, by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Fritz Reiner. Don Owen prepared the transcription for band in 1972.

- Program Note by Russ Girsberger

Circus Overture was originally an orchestra work, and formally it follows Schuman’s style of stacking major triads as well as rhythmic vitality over long angular melodies. The emotion of the piece is quite programmatic in that the opening fanfare section all but speaks the words “Ladies and Gentlemen,” as it leads to a fast timpani and tenor drum ostinato. The full melody then appears in the low voices, always driven by ostinato-like figures, particularly in the clarinets. The melody mutates into a 3/4 “Man on the Flying Trapeze”-sounding section before moving faster and faster to a wild finish.

- Program Note by Utah State University Wind Orchestra concert program, 14 March 2014


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Montana State University (Bozeman) Wind Symphony (Nathan Stark, conductor) - 5 November 2021
  • Central Florida Winds (Melbourne, Fla.) (Richard Sabino, conductor) – 3 March 2019
  • University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Wind Ensemble (John R. Locke, conductor) – 27 September 2018
  • State University of New York, Potsdam, Concert Band (Michael Schaff, conductor) – 5 October 2017
  • Hebron High School (Carrollton, Texas) Wind Symphony (Andy Sealy, conductor) - 15 December 2016 (2016 Midwest Clinic)
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) Wind Ensemble (Joseph Bello, conductor) - 5 February 2016
  • Lone Star Wind Orchestra (Dallas, Tex.) (Eugene Migliaro Corporon, conductor) – 16 July 2015 - WASBE Conference, San Jose, Calif.
  • Dr. Phillips High School (Fla.) Wind Ensemble (Charles Watford, conductor) - Spring 2015
  • Utah State University (Logan) Wind Orchestra (Thomas Rohrer, conductor) - CBDNA Western/Northwestern Division Convention (Reno, Nev.) 14 March 2014
  • San Jose (Calif.) Wind Symphony (Edward C. Harris, conductor) - 19 May 2013
  • Duncanville High School (Texas) Wind Ensemble - 2013
  • Spring (Tx.) High School Wind Ensemble (Gabriel Musella, conductor) – 19 December 2008 (2008 Midwest Clinic)

Works for Winds by This Composer