"I want to hear a Yankee-Doodle Tune / played by a military band / I want to hear a Yankee-Doodle Tune / the only music I can understand."
George M. Cohan's patriotic plea may not have been on the bill of "A Star-Spangled Spectacular" Sunday afternoon at the Lied Center, but the sentiment was. Dressed in turn-of-the-century style band uniforms, the Sousa Band filled the Lied Center with Yankee-Doodle tunes as well as some classical favorites.
Announcer Hank Booth offered commentary on Sousa's composing and performing career, while Robert Foster, professor of music and former director of bands at Kansas University, made a splendid Sousa, dressed in a snappy military-style band uniform, and conducted the band with controlled panache.
Cornet soloist Steve Leisring gave a virtuoso performance in "Bride of the Waves," by Herbert L. Clark, a popular soloist in Sousa's band.
Sousa was responsible for introducing American audiences to much of the classical music popular in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so his concerts often featured arrangements of popular operatic arias. As second featured soloist, soprano Lindsay Ohse favored the audience with Musetta's Waltz from Puccini's "La Boheme" and a charming rendition of Adele's "Laughing Song" from Strauss' "Die Fledermaus."
Then xylophonist Kevin Bobo brought down the house with his graceful and spirited rendition of the "Steppin' Round Rag," followed by "Flight of the Bumblebee."
However, the afternoon belonged to the March King. Sousa was a prolific composer of a variety of musical forms, including symphonic poems and operetta; his "People Who Live in Glass Houses" suite was featured on the program's first half. Revealing both his composing talent and sense of humor, each movement is dedicated to various types of drink and musically represents the country of the drink's origin.
There also were the marches, played as encores throughout the program. Sunday's audience heard "The Gallant Seventh," "The Salute to Kansas," "The Thunderer" and "The Washington Post" marches. Closing the concert's first half was the stirring "Semper Fidelis," official anthem of the Marine Corps.
No Sousa event would be complete without the "Stars and Stripes Forever." Sunday's audience was all smiles as the players of the piccolo melody stepped to the edge of the stage.