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Columbia College Chicago
The Princeton Grand March

The Princeton Grand March

Frank Johnson (1792-1844) BMI

Princeton Grand March (1840) is one of the impressive marches of its period. "Composed for and Respectfully dedicated to the graduates of Nassau Hall" in Princeton, New Jersey, the march is marked "Maestoso" on its printed sheet music and has a grand and stately presence.

According to the available evidence, Frank Johnson's Band was the first American band to make a European tour (in 1837). Known in most parts of the United States between 1818 and Johnson's death in 1844, the band performed frequently in its home of Philadelphia, where it had established an association with the State Fencibles Regiment, often featuring Johnson himself on the Kent bugle and the violin. The band also performed frequently at the Saratoga Springs resort and traveled widely in the United States, having been traced as far south and west as St. Louis, Missouri, and as far north as various points in Canada. Frank Johnson's Band consisted variously and occasionally of woodwinds, French horns, bell harmonicon, harp, ophicleide, cymbals, triangles, bells, and drums; its repertory consisted of marches, cotillions, quadrilles, ballads, and a variety of other musical genres and styles, which it performed at parades, ceremonies, dances, balls, and private parties. Johnson's band had a long-time influence on the musical development of Philadelphia.

In addition to being a bandleader, Johnson was a prolific composer, with many of his more than two hundred compositions remaining popular for years after his death. Known for his impact on Philadelphia musical traditions, his famous promenade concerts, his prowess as a composer, his talent as a band director, his musical innovations (he employed "remarkable taste in distorting a sentimental, simple and beautiful song into a reel, jig, or country dance"1), and for his instrumental virtuosity, Johnson was honored posthumously in 1980, in Philadelphia, when he was elected to honorary membership in the Artillery Corps Washington Grays.

In the early nineteenth century, because the instrumentations of bands were so disparate and because the parlor society of the period demanded that easily playable piano music be available, almost all of the composed social dance music of the early nineteenth century was written in piano-score form. The music on our program from this period has been arranged for the instrumentation of the Black Music Repertory Ensemble by composer Hale Smith, who has taken into consideration the temper of the era, in spite of the distances of time and technology.

   1. Robert Waln, quoted by Eileen Southern in The Music of Black Americans: A History, 2nd Ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1983), 108.