Overture to "The Pirates of Penzance"

From Wind Repertory Project
Sir Arthur Sullivan

Arthur Sullivan (arr. Mark L. Heter)

General Info

Year: 1879 / 2018
Duration: c. 7:35
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Unknown
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown

For availability information, see Discussion tab, above.


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

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Drum Set
  • Triangle


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Fictionalized pirates were popular fixtures of Victorian literature, drama, and opera. A comic opera about an improbable band of tender-hearted pirates ineptly terrorizing a placid seaside resort in Cornwall would have amused audiences in 1879 even without topsy-turvy complications. But W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan actually had another kind of pirate in mind with The Pirates of Penzance: The producers of some 150 "pirated" American productions of H.M.S. Pinafore, their hit from the previous year. An authorized production in the United States was then required to obtain copyright protection for a play or opera. As Gilbert and Sullivan had not yet brought Pinafore to America, they had no recourse against any of the pirates. So they decided to premiere The Pirates of Penzance in New York, after they opened their authorized production of H.M.S. Pinafore. (A pro-forma public reading of Pirates in Devon the day before the New York opening secured the British copyright.)

In the rush to complete the music and orchestration of an opera in time for opening night, Sullivan usually left the overture for the last minute. When he didn't have time to do it himself, he delegated that task to an assistant. For the Pirates overture, Sullivan turned to Alfred Cellier, who conducted most of the Savoy operas. Cellier's medley overture can stand on its own in the concert hall thanks to the appealing tunes it contains. Notably, it begins and ends with what would later become famous (with a new unauthorized lyric) as "Hail, Hail, The Gang's All Here."

- Program Note by Ted R. Marcus

This edition of the Overture to the Pirates of Penzance is based upon an 1881 band arrangement created by J.C. Mullaly. It has been re-voiced and updated for instruments found in today’s concert band. My intent in editing (and performing) this piece is to provide program material playable by a small band – without “overwriting” parts and sounding cheap.

The overture begins with With cat-like tread. The middle section dwells on Ah leave Me Not to Pine Alone and finally, the themes of How Beautifully Blue the Sky and A Paradox, a Paradox, and a reprise of the pirates’ chorus Come Friends, Who Plough the Sea (Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here as it became known in American popular culture) brings the piece to a brilliant finale.

- Program Note by arranger


None discovered thus far.

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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