John Philip Sousa had a special relationship with Enid | News
By Joe Cummings
News & Eagle Special
Christmas has been woven into the fabric of Oklahoma from the start. Bessie Truitt recalled that her family went to celebrate with the Stetler family in Hennessey on Christmas 1892 with a meal of sweet potatoes and possum.
Christmas trees were nonexistent, as the wood was too valuable to waste, if a tree could be found. Most of the pioneer houses were far too small for a Christmas tree. The gifts were handmade toys, corn husk dolls, and clothing. Christmas was a church, a family meal and a visit to the neighbors. Enid quickly became a city of culture. The first ward, the Kenwood District, had a house with a ballroom on the third floor for dances and gatherings. The Enid Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1905 before statehood and is the oldest in the state of Oklahoma.
The 1919 Christmas season reserved a special surprise for the start of Enid. The famous John Philip Sousa and his group of 65 musicians would perform on Thursday, December 18, 1919 at the Tabernacle, a tin building on the northwest corner of Broadway and Washington.
The occasion for this Christmas treat was donated by the Lake View Assembly at Phillips University. Sousa was a child prodigy attending a music conservatory at the age of 6, displaying extraordinary talent. He played many instruments, such as the trombone and the alto horn. He excelled at the violin. His father, John, was a member of the Marine Corps Band. At age 13, Sousa was hired as a violinist with the Marine Corps Band. He was only 25 when he was appointed conductor of the US Marine Band and the first US-born conductor, serving from 1880 to 1892. Sousa invented his own instrument, the Sousaphone. He wrote the official US march “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Semper Fidelis” the official Marine Corps march.
John Phillip Sousa came to Enid and was the Enid Rotary Club speaker. The Nest Daily News reported that he gave a humorous talk. He said for many years that he was entertained by the Rotary clubs. Then one day he was elected an honorary member of Rotary International, and that’s when he discovered that every Rotarian had to pay for their own “food.”
A record 1,500 people came to hear the famous conductor. Sousa brought with him soprano Mary Baker, violinist Florence Hardeman and cornettist Frank Simons. Several new compositions have been performed, including “A Rhapsody”, “The American Indian”, “Showing Off Before Company” and “The Washington Post March”.
The Enid Daily News reported that “The Washington Post March” had had a profound impact on the public. It became so popular that it spawned a dance called “The Two Step”. Sousa ended with “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, leaving the Christmas season on a high note of patriotism and fun for all.
In July 1921, Fifth Avenue was buzzing with the event at a New York City glove store. A man entered the glove store and ordered 1,200 pairs of kid leather gloves at $ 5 a pair. The Boston Globe even reported an expense of $ 6,000 for gloves. The man turned out to be Lieutenant Commander John Philip Sousa. He was starting a tour through the United States and Cuba. His favorite superstition was that if he wore the same pair of gloves to more than one gig, bad luck would ensue – the kettle would break or the man playing the bass horn would swallow his cough lozenge just upon reaching the high do.
“The Finest Band In All The Land” returned to Enid for Christmas 1925 for a concert at Convention Hall. Sousa arrived at Enid on Wednesday, December 9 at 11:05 am and spoke to the Lions Club. He couldn’t break bread with them because he never ate in the middle of the day. The Nest Daily Eagle reported that he was well received as his speech was “punctuated with applause from the Lions as he freely answered many questions regarding his career and gave advice to those who asked. “.
He said: âWe are just starting to realize that America has as many great talents as any country on Earth. His advice to those seeking a career in music can be summed up: “Their success will depend primarily on sincere study. Out of 100 who are successful in music, 75 do so through hard work, 25 through unusual abilities, two through exceptional talent, and one through genius.
The concert was sponsored by the Ladies of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) and the proceeds were donated to the construction of the first Presbyterian Church. However, Sousa demanded a cash collateral before his group performed. The ladies didn’t have enough in their treasury, so Enid resident Mrs. John F. (Harriet) Curran borrowed the money from Enid’s National Bank herself. She was sure Sousa would have a full house, which he did with an overwhelming majority. According to the Enid Daily Eagle, several hundred people, young and old, paid for the standing area because all seats were occupied.
This concert included a new suite from Sousa – “Cuba under Three Flags”, as well as his “Jazz America” ââand soprano Marjorie Moody. It was Sousa’s own marches, “The Black Horse Troop”, “The Washington Post”, “Liberty Bell”, “The US Field Artillery” and “Stars and Stripes Forever”, which drew thunderous applause and numerous callbacks. that Sousa gave freely.
Christmas was brightened up as the Enid Daily Eagle headlined “Sousa Music Brings Chills To Enid Folk!” At the end of the performance, Sousa came to the center of the stage and bowed deeply to the audience. It was truly a Christmas present.
Doug Newell, the current director and conductor of the Enid Symphony Orchestra, said: âWhat we don’t know about Sousa is that he did not intend that his music is walking tunes. His goal was to popularize the music of his time. Sousa liked the openings, the steps and the airs. During his concerts he not only presented his compositions, but others such as “The Light Calvary” by Von Suppe and even the traditional Irish tune “Oh, Danny Boy”. In fact, Sousa had a group that never paraded anywhere.
John Phillip Sousa has appeared in Enid two other times. Shortly after the completion of the new Palais des CongrÃ¨s in 1921, his concert there was very warmly received by the residents of Enid. This was a fundraiser for the DAR who wanted to build a memorial to honor the men who fought in WWI.
Sousa’s concert, as well as a performance by famous ballet dancer Anna Pavlova and opera star Madame Schumann-Heink, paid for the ‘Doughboy’ statue on the east lawn of the town library . It was created by sculptor Stephen A. Rebect with the bronze plaque design by Enid resident Maureen Frantz at a cost of $ 2,250.
Enid’s last performance on October 16, 1928 was Sousa’s Golden Jubilee, his 36th tour of the country and his 50th anniversary of large groups. It was again under the sponsorship of Harriet Curran at Convention Hall.
Sousa told a reporter he was proud to announce that his group was made up entirely of Americans for the first time. He had to use European musicians to fill the ranks before. Sousa took the time to listen to Dean Claude Newcomb, who sang three voices accompanied by Gulla Harp on piano as well as conducted and worked with the Enid High School Band.
Everyone knew that at 74, Sousa probably wouldn’t be back in Enid. The performance was overflowing with people standing wherever they could as all the seats were occupied. Sousa brought with him soprano Marjorie Moody, horn player John Dolan and Howard Goulden on the xylophone. The new Sousa songs performed were “Among My Souvenirs”, “Love’s Radiant Hour”, “The Golden Jubilee March”, “Minnesota March” and “University of Nebraska March”. The applause was deafening as the band performed “The Washington Post March”, “Semper Fidelis” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever”.
The people of Enid loved Sousa and his music. At the end of his last performance of Enid, Sousa removed the white leather gloves he had originally put on new, signed them, and presented them to Harriet Curran.
In 1934, the first Enid Band Festival was held at Phillips University, the future Tri-State Music Festival. The âStar and Strips Foreverâ had only just begun.
Mrs. Gerald L. (Mary) Brown Sr., the grandmother of this writer’s wife, Becky, received Sousa’s white leather gloves from Catherine Curran, daughter of Harriet Curran. The Brown family donated them to the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center, where they are located today.
Hats off to Aaron Preston, archivist at the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center, for all of his help.