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Riders for the Flag

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John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa (ed. Frederick Fennell)

General Info

Year: 1927 / 1968
Duration: c. 2:26
Difficulty: III (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Alfred Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $70.00   |   Score Only - $9.00


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

  • Bass Drum
  • Snare Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Field Drum


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

This march was composed at the request of Colonel Osmun Latrobe, Regimental Commander of the 4th U.S. Cavalry, and was dedicated to Colonel Latrobe, his officers and men. It is unusual in construction in that this is the only Sousa march with a coda.

- Program Note from John Philip Sousa: A Descriptive Catalog of His Works

Sousa was a devoted horseman and a dedicated rider, hence his musical interest in the colorful cavalry units of the U.S. Army. The galloping figure, the rhythm of massed hooves resulting from the motions of horses on the move, presented him with six-eight patterns that are compellingly set forth in this wonderful march. Two more such marches, also listed among his best, are Sabre and Spurs and Black Horse Troop, and all three date from a highly productive period in the mid-1920s when the house of Sam Fox Publishing Company, Inc., had become his last publisher.

Sousa’s love of horses led him to purchase a beautiful black Arabian steed, which he called Aladdin. No magic servant, this horse threw him, wrenching his right shoulder and causing him thenceforward to adopt a conducting style in which he swung his arm from the elbow rather than the shoulder.

Riders for the Flag, composed and published in 1926, is a remarkable essay in seeming simplicity. Choice of tempo at which to play it comes from the lightness of character that is built into the texture of the music itself rather than from the dictates of any official march cadence.I have always felt it on the bright side. The example of tempo, as well as other elements in this style that are familiar from my recording of it, are incorporated in this publication. Rhythmically and harmonically, this march is both a pure distillation of his early two-step, dance-march style, and a perfect blending of his popular dance with the layer-cake contrapuntal piling-on regimental march style, which he first made famous in Semper Fidelis. The resulting music must be played in a texture of comparative lightness, with particular care to the remarkably effective bass lines in the second strain and in the trio.

The regimental march characteristics, which dominate Riders for the Flag from the trio onward and which begin with the cavalry bugle figures of the first sixteen bars, demand absolute clarity of line for the three principal elements: cornets and trumpets, basses and baritones, and reeds. The final strain, with its euphonious trombone counterpoint and persistent bugle calls, leads to Sousa’s surprise ending, the four-bar tag in which, with quotation from the old bugle march You’re in the Army Now, Sousa ends his little march masterpiece on a humorous note.

The original edition of Riders for the Flag is scrupulously preserved in this handsome new issue. All I have endeavored to do in my editing is to clarify ambiguous nuances, dynamics, and inconsistent articulations or phrasings that probably arose in the original march-size format simply because of the cramped character of that miniature page. The visual problem is hereby eliminated as are the treble clef mid-range brass and E-flat alto parts, obsolete as doublings; the piccolo in D-flat has been transposed to C. The percussion parts have been separated by instrument and their articulations clarified. The parts that Sousa provided for regimental trumpets are incorporated into those for cornets and trumpets.

It is recommended that both the characteristically loose-slung field drum be used together with the conventional snare drum and that the bass drum tension be slack, its heads undamped, and that the instrument be played with a hard beater.

- Program Note by Frederick Fennell


State Ratings

  • Kansas: IV


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Lockport (Ill.) Township High School Wind Symphony (Alex Kaminsky, conductor) - 18 December 2021 (2021 Midwest Clinic)
  • University of Tennessee (Knoxville) Symphonic Band (Michael Stewart, conductor) - 16 November 2021
  • Baylor University (Waco, Texas) Wind Ensemble (J. Eric Wilson, conductor) – 5 March 2019
  • Western Illinois University (Macomb) Concert Band (Matt Thomas, conductor) – 26 October 2016
  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Orchestra (Mark Davis Scatterday, conductor) – 25 September 2017
  • United States Army Band (Ft. Myer, Va.) (Richard K. Henebry, conductor) – 16 June 2016
  • Catskill Valley Wind Ensemble (Oneonta, N.Y.) (Scott Rabeler, conductor) – 15 November 2015
  • Gold Coast Wind Ensemble (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) (Clinton H. Dawley, conductor) – 7 June 2015
  • Southern Colorado (Canon City) Community Band (Mike Nolan, conductor) - 29 March 2015
  • Sierra Nevada Winds (Yuba City, Calif.) (Robert Halseth, conductor) - 22 November 2014
  • Southern Winds (Central Florida) (Matt Tavera, conductor) - 12 July 2012

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


  • Bierley, P. (1973). John Philip Sousa: A Descriptive Catalog of His Works. University of Illinois Press; Urbana, pp. 67.
  • Sousa, J.; Fennell, F. (1968). Riders for the Flag [score]. S. Fox Pub. Co.: New York.