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Gladiator March, The (arr Brion)

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John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa (arr. Keith Brion)

General Info

Year: 1886 / 2015
Duration: c. 2:45
Difficulty: III 1/2 (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Willow Blossom Music
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $72.00   |   Score Only (oversized) - $25.00; (standard) - $10.00


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

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Orchestra Chimes
  • Snare Drum
  • Triangle


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Nothing among Sousa’s memoirs reveals the identity of the “gladiator,” but the first printing of the sheet music carried a dedication to Charles F. Towle of Boston. Towle was a journalist who was editor of the Boston Traveler at the time this march was written, but the nature of his association with Sousa is not known. Sousa’s daughter Helen conjectured that her father might have been inspired by a literary account of some particular gladiator. It is unlikely that he would have dedicated a march to gladiators in general because of their ferocity and deeds of inhumanity, but perhaps one noble gladiator who had been a victim of circumstances might have been his inspiration. There has also been speculation that the march had some Masonic significance, inasmuch as it was written at the time he was “knighted” in Columbia Commandery No. 2, Knights Templar, but this lacks substantiation.

For Sousa, The Gladiator brought back both happy and unhappy memories. In 1885 he had written the dirge The Honored Dead for Stopper and Fisk, a music publisher in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. They were so pleased that they asked him to write a quickstep march. He responded with The Gladiator, but they rejected it. Their shortsightedness cost them dearly; Sousa then sold it to Harry Coleman of Philadelphia, and it eventually sold more than a million copies.

The Gladiator was the first Sousa composition to reach such wide circulation. He himself was unaware of its popularity until its strains startled him one day while in Philadelphia on business. Many years later he gave this dramatic account:

I was taking a stroll along Broad Street. At a corner a hand-organ man was grinding out a melody which, somehow, seemed strangely familiar. As I listened more intently, I was surprised to recognize it as my own ‘Gladiator’ march. I believe that was one of the proudest moments of my life, as I stood there on the corner listening to the strains of that street organ!

As the Italian, who was presiding over the crank, paused, I rushed up to him and seized him warmly by the hand. The man started back in amazement and stared at me as though he thought I had taken leave of my senses.

"My friend! My Friend!" I Cried "Let me thank you! Please take this as a little token of my appreciation."

I tore myself away, walking on air down the remainderof the street and leaving the organ grinder dazed by the coins I had thrust into his hand. I don't believe he can account for the gift to this day.

But I was exultant. My music had made enough of a hit to be played on a street organ. At last I felt that it had struck a popular chord.

- Program Note from U.S. Marine Band concert program, 1 July 2016


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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