Semper Fidelis

 

 
 
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Official March of the United States Marine Corps

Written in 1888 by U S Marine Band Conductor John Philip Sousa


The march takes its title from the motto of the U. S. Marine Corps: Semper Fidelis -- Always Faithful. It was dedicated to those who inspired it - the officers and men of the United States Marine Corps. In Sousa's own words: "I wrote Semper Fidelis one night while in tears, after my comrades of the Marine Corps had sung their famous hymn at Quantico." It became one of his most popular marches, and Sousa considered it his best march, musically speaking. According to Sousa, Semper Fidelis is one of the five most effective street marches. The others are The Thunderer, National Emblem, Washington Post, and High School Cadets. There is a MIDI file to go with each section of the march.

Semper Fidelis introduction
Semper Fidelis is in the Key of C with a time signature of 6/8. The introduction opens on a G chord (the dominate chord for the Key of C) and then slides to a G diminished 7 and back to G. This figure is repeated and followed by a 4 measure unison section which leads to the 1st Strain.

Semper Fidelis 1st strain
The first strain features a bouncy melody in the upper voices and a smooth harmony from the lower brasses. The chords alternate between G and C leading to a bugle call measure by the trumpets which is answered by an upward scale (to a D) in the upper voices followed by a downward scale in the low brass (to a G). The first strain is then repeated.

Semper Fidelis 2nd strain
The second strain carries a broader melody with 2nd & 3rd cornets bugling underneath the melody. The chord progressions are a standard C to F to G7 and C to G7. The strain ends with a sustained Ab7 leading to a bugle call in the upper voices which is answered by the low brass. The second strain is repeated.

Semper Fidelis trio
The trio is one of the best constructed pieces of music that I have ever played. The Key changes to F and the trio repeats twice and builds to a grand finale. It begins with an eight measure snare drum solo. Fourteen of the 16 measure trio are in the Key of F. The trumpet theme was written earlier by Sousa as a trumpet and drum piece named With Steady Step. Underneath the bugling trumpets is a low brass run pattern which is repeated 8 times. On the first repeat, the upper woodwinds are added with an ornamental melody. The third time through the trio, the trombones and baritones add a brilliant 4th melody. Each of the four melodies in the trio could stand alone, and that is the beauty of this march.

Semper Fidelis 4th strain
The trio leads into the grand finale. The upper voices play a broad melody which is augmented by bugle passages in the 2nd & 3rd cornets. Underneath all of this is a quick countermelody by the trombones and baritones.

Semper Fidelis

Sousa's Anchor & Star, written in 1918, is very similar to Semper Fidelis in construction, key, rhythm, and contrapuntal devices. Anchor & Star is dedicated to the United States Navy. Sousa wrote more than 30 marches that were dedicated to military organizations or people in the armed services.

 

 

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