Keith Brion and his New Sousa Band - Reviews

DatePublicationPerforming Organization
29 Jan 2003Englewood FL Herald-TribuneNew Sousa Band
20 May 2002Midland Daily NewsNew Sousa Band
23 Mar 2002Green Bay Press-GazetteNew Sousa Band
03 Apr 2000Milwaukee Journal-SentinelNew Sousa Band
01 Apr 2000Green Bay Press-GazetteNew Sousa Band
10 Jan 1998Sarasota Herald TribuneNew Sousa Band
01 Jan 1998Florida Tour Press ReleaseNew Sousa Band
08 May 1997News LeaderNew Sousa Band
06 May 1997Eagle TimesNew Sousa Band
25 Aug 1996The Japan TimesNew Sousa Band

Englewood FL Herald-Tribune -- January 29, 2003
Band is a tribute to spirit-not just sound-of Sousa
by Naomi Donson

Their act is one of homage rather than simple imitation. True, the uniforms duplicate the late 19th century originals and so does the music, but Keith Brion and his New Sousa Band are no mere copycats.

They have been touring for more than two decades, presenting the marches and songs created by a venerated American figure, the composer and bandleader John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Conductors wanting an upbeat finish to their concerts find it almost mandatory to dispatch audiences with "The Stars and Stripes Forever".

Sousa composed more than 100 popular marches and 10 comic operas, the most successful being El Capitan, dating from 1896. He also invented the Sousaphone, an instrument often alluded to as the "raincatcher."

Brion and his cohorts not only tap into the original repertoire but convey much of its patriotic style, sound and spirit. Their mission has a special poignancy in these worrisome times.

Trim and precise in his military bearing, Brion's firm conducting leaves no doubt as to who's in charge. He can get his musicians to switch from fully vented fortissimo to shy pianissimo in the blink of an eyelid. Just as was done in Sousa's time, printed signs announced titles of the numbers. Among the first was an admirably fused "The Thunderer." This troupe's cohesion is remarkable.

One of the original stars of the band is tubist Don Harry, a professor at the Eastman School of Music who also appears with the Buffalo Philharmonic. Unwieldy as his instrument appears, Harry can coax an astonishing range of expression from it, ranging from the gentle bleating of a foghorn to rapid tootling. He ventured from solemnity in Catozzi's "Beelzebub" to humor when duplicating the adventures of a tubist who "played the rhumba on the tuba down in Cuba."

A more recent star of the ensemble is soprano Virginia Croskery, a winner in the Third Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition, a veteran of several international tours and of national as well as Broadway performances of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera." Simply put, she has a full-blown, gorgeous voice.

The remainder of this article has been truncated and will be posted if it becomes available...

Midland Daily News -- May 20, 2002
New Sousa Band offers brilliant douse of red, white and blue
by Eric Nisula

I had the pleasure of hearing the New Sousa Band Saturday night at the Midland Center for the Arts. The organization is the brainchild of conductor Keith Brion who is dedicated to keeping alive the tradition of John Philip Sousa, the great icon of American bandology and patriotism. Sousa founded the Marine Band in the late 19th century and then later took his own band on tour throughout the country, giving two performances a day, seven days a week.

In pursuance of his dream, Brion has assembled a crack team of winds, brass and percussionists from professional orchestras, university music faculties and military ensembles, and now has commenced to tour with this group several times a year.

The Sousa repertoire, as it turns out, is as vibrant and attractive today as it was at the turn of the century, including overtures, popular melodies, virtuoso solos, patriotic songs and a liberal sprinkling of the military marches which were at once Sousa's creations, and his trademark. A capacity audience filled the MCFTA auditorium and responded with constant toe-tapping (at least those who sat near me), singing, when requested, and several standing ovations.

A word must be said about Brion's conducting. Blessedly bereft of knee bends, he stood at ease, at times barely flicking the baton, and yet always communicated absolute precision, and intense musicality ... a virtuoso of the podium is he.

The opening National Anthem gave the flavor of the band's playing style. Laid back, and smooth in its execution of the notes, the band performed a song that was elegant in its restraint. The audience joined in with a sweet communal sound. The concert was sponsored by the Midland Performing Arts Society.

It was not Brion's purpose to blaze new paths with his repertoire; familiarity and tradition were the keynotes. Therefore, we heard Von Suppe's "Light Cavalry Overture," the variations for cornet on "Carnival of Venice" and "Lassus Trombone," all within the first 15 minutes of the concert. Carl Rowe easily negotiated divisions upon divisions of "Carnival," and the three trombones delivered their glissandos on "Lassus" with lock-step expression and timing. The band in general played as if it was barely dipping into its reserve of technical ability, and always with near perfect balance, articulation, dynamics and all the rest.

It was especially enlightening to hear the playing of the Sousa marches. There was a complete absence of franticness or pomposity in these renditions. Typically the percussion did not play loudly in the opening strains, but rather rat-ta-tatted in almost chamber music style. Another rare characteristic for this kind of music was the absence of rushing by the band. To top it off, Brion's left hand sculpted sensitively phrased melodies (the lyrical trios of Sousa!), and well-graded dynamics leading to the climaxes.

Charleen Ayre's stylish soprano voice joined forces with the band several times, being featured on Juliet's Waltz from Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet" and on Jerome Kern's great standard, "All the Things You Are." Also special in the program was Brion's interpretation of Percy Grainger's arrangement of the "Irish Tune from Country Derry" (otherwise known as the "Londerry Air"). Brion led the timing and development of this piece with great artistry, and brought a sort of radiance out of the melody and accompanying voices.

Showmanship also played a strong role in this concert as platoons of piccolos, or brass trouped to the front of the stage to display their wares, and an American flag lowered behind the band at the playing of the "Stars and Stripes Forever." Another nice idea was having Miss Ayer lead the audience in the singing of a George M. Cohen medley, and "God Bless America."

In a moving gesture, Brion had veterans of the various military services stand in the audience as the particular identifying music of each service was played in a medley (e.g. "Anchors Aweigh" for the U.S. Navy, etc.) It was surprising how many there were! Far from being gimmicky, this put a genuinely patriotic stamp on what was already a superb concert, and brought that patriotism home.

©Midland Daily News 2002

Green Bay Press-Gazette -- March 23, 2002
New Sousa Band a red, white, blue hit at Weidner
by Warren Gerds,

For starters, Keith Brion and his New Sousa Band put on a splendid concert Friday night at the Weidner Center. Then came the fireworks.

They started in a singalong of George M. Cohan tunes that included "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy," "You're a Grand Old Flag" and "God Bless America." Four people in the audience supplied spirit, waving small American flags they brought along.

A salute to the military services that followed revealed much. The first words spoken on this night were about the concert being "a tribute to great national unity in the face of adversity."

Now the true colors of the audience were to show. They were red, white and blue.

As the uniformed band played the song for each service, veterans stood. That ranged from one for the Coast Guard, to many each for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy.

Most of the men (and a few women) in the audience of about 1,200 were veterans. They came to hear tunes by a great veteran and a symbol of patriotism-John Philip Sousa-played in front of a huge flag that unfurled behind the band. Cheers erupted.

The audience stood and cheered more during five encores. It clapped in rhythm. It sang heartily. This was an exciting night.

Along the way, Brion led a parade through tunes of splashy color, sensitive grace and light fun. Sousa marches were spotlighted here and there - "the Thunderer," "U.S. Field Artillery," 'Hands Across the Sea" and "Liberty Bell" among them.

Singer Virginia Croskery sand opera, the Cohan tunes and Victor Herbert numbers that included the comical "I Want to Be a Prima Donna," done with mock grandeur.

Early jazz of W.C.Handy, a tour de force on euphonium by narrator Earle Louder, the heart-wrenching "Danny Boy" and the merry "The Whistler and His Dog" were among the selections.

As he travels, Brion picks up skilled local players when available. Friday, they included clarinetist Scott Wright and trumpeter Thomas Pfotenhauer from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay and Frederick Schmidt of St. Norbert College. Monday, Schmidt will direct the St. Norbert Community Band in concert, featuring Katherine Borst Jones of Ohio State and the New Sousa Band.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -- April 3, 2000
New Sousa Band is more than a nostalgic gimmick
By Elaine Schmidt, Special to the Journal Sentinel

It has been quite awhile since band concerts fell out of fashion in this country. But listening to conductor Keith Brion and his New Sousa Band at the Pabst Theater Saturday evening, it is hard to remember just why that happened.

Brion has made a career of conducting the music of Sousa and his era, with bands and symphony orchestras.

On Saturday, he and his latter-day Sousa band brought patrons to their feet several times with a program that ranged from the expected Sousa marches to some of Gustav Holst's military band music and selections by Wagner, Puccini, Kern and Gershwin.

Both conductor and players were dressed in replicas of original Sousa Band uniforms.

Although the uniforms are standard attire for the group, they were particularly apropos in the Pabst, as that is what the original band would have looked like during its three Pabst Theater performances in the early 20th century. Sousa and his band played Milwaukee, in various venues, some 30 times in all.

But Brion and the band are more than a nostalgic gimmick. This is a tight, polished ensemble made up of players that gather from around the country to play these tours.

Players frequently step out of the sections to take the spotlight as soloists. Entire sections make their way to the front of the stage, or out into the house, periodically.

Dennis Najoom, co-principal trumpet of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, performed with the band, both in the section and as soloist in Tchaikovsky's "Dance Neopolitan." Najoom brought the warm sound of a mezzo to the piece's lyrical passages and tossed off the piece's flashier bits with ease.

Other soloists on the evening's program included Earle Louder on euphonium, Diane Powers on piccolo and soprano Virginia Croskery.

Brion included a medley of the songs of the five U.S. military branches on the program.

He asked that house lights be raised and invited anyone in the audience who was currently a member of the military, or had been at one time, to stand for a moment of recognition when the song of that branch was played. A surprising number of men, as well as a few women, rose during the various songs, many visibly moved by the experience. A "Stars and Stripes" reprise and a rousing "On Wisconsin" were the last of five encores.

Green Bay Press-Gazette -- April 1, 2000
New Sousa Band delights patriotic crowd
by Warren Gerds, Press-Gazette

Concert review (**** Excellent; *** Good; **Fair, * Poor)
**** Keith Brion and his New Sousa Band

After the fifth encore, conductor Keith Brion begged off. He pointed to his wristwatch. He touched his heart, mouthed "thank you" and waved goodbye.

Meantime, the crowd in the Weidner Center cheered, whistled and called for more. Friday night was one of those special times when a concert could have kept going and going.

Brion started it. He won the crowd over--had 'em cheering'' on the first song after "The Star-Spangled Banner." Brion had his New Sousa Band play "On, Wisconsin." The state is steeped in pride, what with the rose Bowl and today's Final Four basked all appearance. Brion played right into it. Sousa, the showman, would have smiled.

From there, the concert wove through pieces both serious and silly. Instrumentalists were featured in solo, as was a singer, who even sang a bit of opera.

Sprinkled throughout were other encores, John Philip Sousa's marches--icing on the cake.

Sousa performed in Green Bay six times between 1898 and 1928. "Tonight, imagine you are hearing the Sousa Band some 80 years ago," narrator Earle Louder told the crowd.

The sound would have been largely the same--not amplified. The music would have been largely the same--being all of Sousa's era. The result we don't know for sure, but Sousa would have savored certain moments.

"Parade of the Services" was precious. As the band played each of the five U.S. military service themes, men and women in the audience from each service stood. The crowd clapped in rhythm for them in each song. People beamed.

The concert was as much about emotion as about musicianship. Brion has put together a fine group that relishes playing together. Basically the players have other jobs (playing symphonies, teaching at universities, etc.) and tour only occasionally. The band plays respectably and generates a good time.

One of the stellar times came with the blessed "The Stars and Stripes Forever." Out came the three piccolos, trilling way. Front and center marched a bunch of brass, snapping their instruments to their mouths and letting peppery sounds fly. Down behind the band unfurled a huge American flag. up rose brilliant sounds embedded in a definite beat. The only thing missing was a date: July 4.

Sarasota Herald Tribune - Saturday, January 10. 1998
Sousa celebration conveys more than a martial spirit
Naomi Donson

"Artbeat Shipping-out music,” a veteran overheard at intermission called it. For sheer invocation of patriotic fervor, it would be hard to beat the program Keith Brion and his New Sousa Band presented at the latest Englewood Performing Arts Series concert Tuesday at Englewood United Methodist Church. There was, however, a lot more to it than martial spirit. Aside from the band’s own high caliber musicianship, the tradition it represents continues to touch people where they live and to bring the past into the present.

Like the march king himself, Brion includes dance, operatic and folk music in his maneuvers.  The conductor, a former director of bands at Yale University, maintains the unassailable standards of precision and virtuosity that defined Sousa.  He augments that achievement  by including the works of later band-leaders who reveal Sousa’s impact in some fashion.  It all adds up to great fun and stirring moments for listeners.  This kind of history requires no sugarcoating.

Gustav Holst’s brilliant Jupiter section from his suite “The Planets” headed the program.  Larry Zalkind, a masterful trombonist, was featured in that familiar refrain, “Annie Laurie,” a seemingly simple number.  Zalkind went from poignant, bleating sounds to mindblowing pyrotechnics on his instrument. He was not above an occasional humorous byblow either, making his trombone ape the Bronx cheer. A melody that devotees of ‘50’s popular music recognize as “But It’s All in the Game” gave Zalkind another chance to shine.  Not listed on the program, the original composition stems from Charles G. Dawes, a remarkable fellow who not only adored band music but who became vice president of the United States under Herbert Hoover and authored the plan for German reparations after World War I.

Winner of the Third Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition, soprano Virginia Croskery gave a thrilling rendition of “Vissi D’Arte” the climactic aria from Puccini’s “Tosca.”  She was not as fortune in later selections, being occasionally drowned out, either by the orchestra or possible a problem with placement of the mike.  Hers is a glorious voice, worth of encore hearing. Interspersed with the solos were several Sousa marches, the most irresistible being, to my mind, the “Washington Post.” Celebrating Sousa’s ongoing musical legacy, Brion and the band offered a medley of great themes from famous bands.

Of these, unquestionably the most effective numbers came in the Glenn Miller portions.  Miller, who was a U.S. Air force bandleader, concocted a unique sound and swell to his music. “Moonlight Serenade,” “A Sting of Pearls” and “Little Brown Jug” drew an extraordinary, unanimous response from the audience. They were like one being, awash in the mood and cohesion of public sentiment during the war years.  The New Sousa Band recreated the indelible Miller swing with remarkable fidelity. We heard not nearly enough of the great numbers from that peerless American musical theater show, Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man.” What an achievement that was.  “76 Trombones,” “Till There Was You,” “Wells Fargo,” etc.  May it go on and on.  A dazzling xylophone performance by John Beck added to everyone’s enjoyment.

Fifth visit of the New Sousa Band to Florida
Sousa's original band came eight times

The old time music and visual charms of Sousa's original traveling concerts are re-enacted as Keith Brion and his modern "New" Sousa Band crisscross Florida in January. Their program is a typical Sousa-like blend of light classics, novelties, and virtuoso solos, plus the great marches. Those marches, with such famous titles as Semper Fidelis and The Washington Post and The Stars and Stripes Forever, generously pop up throughout the concert in the guise of rapid-fire encores, each heralded with a sign held aloft. The action is all a part of Sousa's universally popular showmanship and programming style. The second half welcomes the new millenium just as Sousa's own Band welcomed the last. This segment spotlights Sousa's continuing and powerful influence on American music.during the years since the March King's passing in 1932.

Highlights of the varied program include selections from the "Music Man", composed by Sousa's piccolo player, Meredith Wilson. A tribute to many of the great bands who have followed Sousa will be the subject of a special musical salute. Classical entries include works by Bach, Holst, Grainger and Villa Lobos.

A stellar roster of solo performers includes virtuoso trombonist Larry Zalkind, principal trombonist of the Utah Symphony, trumpeter Fred Mills, of Canadian Brass fame, soprano Virginia Croskery, winner of the 1989 Pavoratti competition, and xylophone artist John Beck, a former soloist with the US Marine Band.

The patriotic ending includes a tribute to America's armed forces, plus Sousa's immortal (and 100 years old) "The Stars and Stripes Forever", staged authentically in the manner of Sousa's own band, and featuring the words he penned for his famous melody.

The concert begins with the band costumed in exact replicas of Sousa's original. The band tours under the watchful approval of John Philip Sousa Inc., John Philip Sousa IV, President. They emulate the staging, programming and production of Sousa's Band (1892-1931) to the smallest detail. The 1986 PBS television special "The New Sousa Band On Stage at Wolf Trap" first brought the band to national attention.

The forty three members are selected from throughout the United States. They assemble three times a year for touring. These coast to coast personnel include numerous symphony orchestra members, artist teachers from major universities, retired members of the Washington service bands and top free lance musicians. Earning their stripes in 1996 with a critically acclaimed tour to Japan, they became the first American professional concert band to perform overseas since Sousa's own tours flourished at the beginning of the century.

Band leader Keith Brion has been conducting his Sousa revival concerts for twenty seasons. In addition to assembling a superb contemporary professional band, his goal is to give audiences who were not alive during Sousa's time (1854-1932), an experience very close to the real thing.

Besides directing his own New Sousa Band, Mr. Brion has frequently led his Sousa programs with the vast majority of America's symphony orchestras, including the Boston Pops and the Philadelphia Orchestra. In Florida he has appeared frequently with the Florida Orchestra, The Florida Philharmonic and the Southwest Florida symphonies.

This tour marks the New Sousa Band's fifth visit to Florida including their debut tour in 1989. The popular band will be appearing for repeat performances at Ruth Eckard Hall in Clearwater and the Maxwell King Center in Melbourne.

Sousa and his original band performed in Florida some 8 times, from 1897 until 1930, giving thirty concerts, largely in Central and Northern Florida.

Jan. 5-8
Mon. 5Avon Park, reh. and concertSouth Florida Community Coll.
Tues. 6Englewood, Mat. and Eve.Englewood Methodist Church
Wed. 7MelbourneMaxwell C. King Center
Thurs. 8ClearwaterRuth Eckard Hall

For additional information: Web Site: ""

Personnel for the fall and winter tours of 97- 98

Katherine Borst Jones, Flute professor Ohio State, Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra
Milos Betko, Principal Flute Slovak Radio Orchestra
Teresa Beaman, Flute professor, Cal State Univ. Fresno

Janet Axelrod, Sarasota Opera Orchestra, New York City freelance
Diana Powers, Longey School of Music, Boston

Sandra Gerster, former principal oboe, Hartford Symph., currently Virginia and Richmond symphonies.
Alecia Lawyer, Principal oboe, Orchestra X, Houston TX Bassoon
Christopher Weait, Bassoon professor Ohio State Univ., former principal bassoon, Toronto Symphony

Margaret Donaghue, Clarinet professor Univ. of Miami, principal clarinet Miami Chamber Orch.
Karen Fisher, New York City free lance, formerly US Coast Guard Band
Harold Easley, Principal clarinet US Military Academy Band, Hudson Valley Philharmonic
Kim Aseltine, former principal clarinet Honolulu Symphony
Janet Averett, Clarinet professor San Jose State, San Jose Opera Orch., formerly Grant Park Symphony
Kim Cole, Clarinet professor, Eastern Michigan University
Chris Hill, Principal clarinet South Dakota Symphony
Sherri Bohlig, New York City free lance
Paul Castillo, Long Beach Symphony, Los Angeles free lance Jean Merkelo Minneapolis/St. Paul free lance
Nancy Gamso, Clarinet and woodwinds professor, Ohio Weslyen Univ.
Marina Antoline, Champaign-Urbana free lance
Michelle Montone, Boston free lance

Pat Meighan, Professor of saxophone, Florida State Univ.
Craig Sylvern, Music Instructor, Plattsburgh State University of NY
Paul Cohen, Professor of saxophone, Oberlin College and the Manhattan School of Music
April Lucas, Professor of saxophone SUNY-Binghamton, Empire Saxophone Quartet
John Moore, Free lance
Tom Gorin, CT free lance
Matthew MacKenzie, Florida State University

French Horns
Terry Roberts, former principal horn Orchestra of Monte Carlo, acting horn teacher, Florida St. Univ.
Denise Roberts, Horn professor, University of Connecticut
Robin Cavalear, Horn teacher, Phillips Andover Academy, Boston free lance
Brian Kilp, Acting horn teacher, Arizona State University
John Findley, Washington DC free lance

Fred Mills, formerly with the Canadian Brass, Trumpet professor University of Georgia
Carl Rowe, former principal trumpet, US Marine Band, Bowie Brass Quintet, Washington free lance
Robert Birch, former solo cornet, US Navy Band, Bowie Brass Quintet, Washington free lance.
Ed Reid, Principal trumpet, Tucson Symphony, Professor of trumpet at Arizona State Univ.
Wade Weast, Professor of trumpet Fredonia State Univ.
Jeff Higgins, Goodspeed Opera Co. orchestra, former principal trumpet Talapa Symphony in Mexico
Raul Ornelas, Professor of trumpet Lamar Univ., Principal trumpet SE Texas Symphony
Kevin Mayse, Los Angeles free lance, Band dir. Riverside CA Community College

Rich Chasen, Los Angeles free lance
Chris Hart, Principal trumpet Battle Creek Symphony
Tom Barnett, Athens GA free lance

Doug Edelman, formerly Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Larry Zalkind, Principal trombone, Utah Symphony
Wayne Dyess, Trombone prof., Lamar Univ., Princ. tromb. SE Texas Symphony, soloist, US Navy Band
Josh Hatcher, Capitol Brass Quintet
Bill Whitaker, Connecticut and NY City free lance

Earle Louder, Retired Prof. of low brass at Moorehead State Univ., Solo Euphonium Blossom Festival Band, formerly soloist with the Detroit Concert Band and the US Navy Band.
Gail Robertson, Member of the Walt Disney World Tuba/Euphonium Quintet

Doug Tornquist, Long Beach and Santa Barbara symphonies, Los Angeles free lance.
Willie Clark, Member of the Walt Disney World Tuba/Euphonium Quintet Ev Gilmore, formerly principal tuba, Dallas Symphony, Tuba prof. North Texas State Univ.

Brian Holt, Ringgold and Allentown Bands, Reading Symphony
David Myers, Ringgold Band
John Beck, former xylo. soloist US Marine Band, Jack Daniels Silver Cornet Band, Univ. of Utah
Bob Ayers, NY City Free lance, Goldman Band
Matt Maholland, Wichita State Univ.

Soprano soloists
Charleen Ayers, Wichita KS, Solo performer with many American orchestras, teacher Friends Univ.
Virginia Croskery, Des Moines IA, soloist with many orchestras, appears with Phantom of the Opera touring company.

News Leader - Thursday, May 8, 1997
Opera House full for New Sousa Band performance
An evening of foot stomping and applause
By Elide Reney

CLAREMONT - For those who heard Keith Brion and his New Sousa Band at the Claremont Opera House last Saturday night, it will be an evening long remembered.

From the opening notes of "The Star Spangled Banner", which brought the singing capacity audience to its feet, to the final reprise of Sousa's own "Stars and Stripes Forever", people applauded, tapped their feet and sang along to the stirring martial music.

Brion, who has assembled an extraordinary corps of musicians, many college deans of music and younger conservatory musicians, has carefully studied the Sousa style, and each concert is almost an exact duplication of those early concerts. The musicians are dressed in replicas of the original band uniforms, and conductor Brion has perfected the walk and body movements of Sousa himself.

Each of the more formal selections of the concert was followed by encores of Sousa's marches, such as "Semper Fidelis," "King Cotton, etc. with the shining brass instruments and the rolling drumbeats of the 45 musicians filling the theater with moving music.

In addition, there were featured soloists. Earle Louder gave a virtuoso performance on the euphonium, a tenor tuba, and teamed with Fred Mills on the clarinet for the duet, "Side Partners". Soprano Virginia Croskery, a former Pavarotti winner, delighted the audience with her first operatic solo and won even stronger applause with a humorous lament about wanting to sing on an opera house stage. She returned during the second part of the program to sing the familiar "Thine Alone" and to lead the audience in the George M. Cohan sing-along.

Soloist Janet Axelrod's expert piccolo playing drew repeated applause from the audience.

Most impressive was the Parade of the Services with a color guard of area veterans standing at attention, and audience veterans standing to applaude as their signature songs were played, and the stars and stripes came down backstage. One could almost feel the emotions of pride and patriotism of a half century ago.

The concert ended with many Sousa marches, and red, white and blue balloons descending on the musicians.

The evening was a fitting climax in the year-long 100th anniversary series at the Claremont Opera House (It is also the 100th anniversary of the "Stars and Stripes march), and Brion noted Sousa and his band had played not once but four times here just after the turn of the century. (If Sousa's ghost was just offstage, he would have been applauding also.)

Keith Brion and his New Sousa Band was sponsored by Claremont Savings Bank, Bob and Ginny Holbrook, John and Carol Bennett, Radio Station WNTK, and the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.

Eagle Times - Monday, May 6, 1997
Rousing Sousa tribute delights Opera House crowd
By Sharon Wood, Contributing Writer

When Yankee magazine's "Traveler's Journal" listed the scheduled performance by Keith Brion and the New Sousa Band at the Claremont Opera House in their May issue, the item was under the heading "Well Worth the Drive."

The monthly feature, which offers "advise, wisdom & lots of fun things to do all across New England," caught the eye of Sousa fans in New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland, sending them on the road to Claremont for the illustrious performance.

The year of publicity leading up to Saturday night's gala, which included a gourmet picnic before the show and an after-show party following, resulted in a packed house for the Opera House's 100th anniversary celebration.

Brion, portraying the beloved Sousa, was fun to 'watch.' His baton movements were finely controlled, but his legs bounced, jumped and danced with excitement on the red carpeted podium.

The program listed l0 pieces the band was scheduled to play, but these were interspersed with a variety of Sousa's own compositions. A sign would pop up at the back of the stage, announcing the title of the piece, and murmurs of recognition could be heard at the opening strains of old favorites like "Semper Fidelis," King Cotton" and "Fairest of the Fair".

While Sousa's was an all-male band except for a female soloist, harpist, and violinist, one-third of the New Sousa Band members are women. Made up of professional musicians from all over the country, the band' plays together only two or three times a year for one or two weeks at a time.

When asked if he auditioned musicians who want to join the band, Brion answered emphatically, "I never audition. Band members are hired based on recommendations. They are hired, and if they work out, they stay in.

Featured performers included Earl Louder on the euphonium, a small baritone tuba, from which he was able to coax playfill low notes that brought chuckles from the audience, and cornetist Fred Mills, who joined Louder for a duet.

Vocalist Virginia Croskery, a Greenwich, Conn., native now living in Chicago, entertained with several selections, both operatic and popular. Her strong soprano carried through the hall with or without the microphone as she graced the stage in turn-of-the-century style.

When oboist, Alecia Lawyer left the stage before the band began to play "U.S. Field Artillery," many assumed she was ill. The perky, red-headed Texan provided one of the big surprises of the evening by returning to the stage with a pistol in each hand. Taking several steps down toward the audience while five trombonists marched to front of stage, Lawyer fired off both guns to punctuate the drum beats in that familiar chorus, ending the first act with smoking guns and the audience's roars of delight.

Janet Axelrod's piccolo solo, her fingers flying as Brion picked up the tempo of the band behind her, had the audience psyched by the time she began the playful "Whistler & His Dog." Brion turned to direct the audience to whistle along with the piccolo, while a percussionist in the rear began a series of old-fashioned sound effects. Suddenly, the music stopped, leaving the audience whistling alone and the whole band barking in response!

The eight-city tour to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever," which began in Lansing, Michigan, and included stops in Milwaukee and New York, closed the final "Stars and Stripes Salute" here in Claremont.

The Japan Times - Sunday, August 25, 1996
Sousa Band marches forward in time
By Robert Raker

The New Sousa Band under Keith Brion presented eight performances during 11 days in Japan recently. With the blessing of John Philip Sousa IV, the 48-member ensemble was making its first appearance here.

In 1892, having served as conductor of the United States Marine Band, 38-year-old John Philip Sousa formed the concert band which carried his name, his music and particularly his marches around the world. In 1979, Yale University band director Brion, then 46, planned, prepared and presented an authentic Sousa-style revival concert, reflecting not only the popular programming style of the world-famous Sousa Band but also the showy personal style of the eminent composer/conductor himself.

The most immediately apparent aspects of this recreation were the carefully designed reproductions of Sousa Band uniforms, and the white gloves, military medals, period spectacles and full mustache essayed by the conductor. Still more pertinent were the quick turns and immediate starts of the musical numbers, and the inclusion of Sousa marches and other favorites as encores following each of the selections on the fast-paced program. More to the point, though, were the crisp conducting and excellent playing—a credit not only to the tradition of Sousa and His Band, but also to the remarkable skill of the American musicians.

Due principally to the great demands it places on the woodwind section, the overture to Weber's "Oberon" is regarded a distinct challenge by most concert bands. Any impression of technical difficulty disappeared however in the fine musicality of the performance. The subtle accentuations were brought out with taste, and the verve of the playing was energizing.

Simone Mantia's virtuoso euphonium solo ''AII Those Endearing Young Charms" was just the sort of popular potboiler, long on technique, that endeared itself to audiences in America a century ago. Earle Louder's acrobatic playing drew a warm applause, and has to hive impressed the young brass players in the audience.

Piccolo soloist Janet Axelrod was given the spotlight in August Damm's "Through the Air," and managed to maintain a very pleasing tone through a lot of nonstop rapid tonguing. Virginia Croskery's silvery soprano solos in each half were expressive, moving and nicely characterized.

Brion guided the accompaniments with skill, discretion and excellent musical judgment. He must be credited too with selecting an ideal programming mix to reflect Sousa's knowledge of the audience.

Sousa's compositions included some 200 works which were not marches, such as the selection "Songs of Grace and Songs of Glory" written in 1893. A potpourri of 18 well-known melodies designed to please, it contained little of substance but was permeated with a delightfully showy sense of theater.

Percy Grainger's arrangement of the Bach chorale-prelude "O Mensch" provided, the moment of greatest depth on the program. Played standing, the beauty of the resonant tonal column was magnificent.

Sprinkled throughout the program as encores were 11 of Sousa's 137 marches, including four (one of them untitled) that I had never before heard. A band is surely at its best playing marches, and Sousa's marches number among the best of the best: He knew how to add a little theater to make them utterly captivating moreover, and the New Sousa Band brought all this charm again to flourishing life. Don't let the theatricalism fool you. This was a fun program-performed by a first class ensemble, and it's worth catching the next time they appear.

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