Dec. 7, 1892:
John Phillip Sousa marched right into Scranton on the first Wednesday in December with his new military-style band for their first performance in the Electric City.
Sousa and the group played before a small but appreciative crowd at the Academy of Music, opening the show with selections from Rossini’s opera “Semiramide” and the “Peer Gynt” suite by Grieg.
Adding to the performance were a group of singers: soprano M’ile Lindh and Signors Galassi, Raffayolo and Liberarti. Lindh performed the arias from “Lucia di Lammermoor” by Donizetti and the “Bobolink Song.” Galassi followed with the aria “Song to the Evening Star” from “Tannhauser” by Wagner. Raffayolo and Liberarti’s performance drew calls for encores.
The reviewer from the Scranton Times called the music “sonorous and grand. It flowed as grandly as the lines of a great epic poem.”
Tickets for the show cost 50 cents, 75 cents and $1.
From this show until his death on March 6, 1932, in Reading, Sousa and his band performed numerous times in Scranton, last appearing there on Oct. 8, 1930, at the Masonic Temple. This stop featured matinee and evening performances.
A review of the 1930 concert in the Scranton Republican noted that the walls of the Masonic Temple seemed to tremble during some of the pieces Sousa’s band played.
The matinee performance saw Sousa conduct the Dunmore Symphony Orchestra and featured several of Sousa’s marches – “The Washington Post,” “El Capitan” and “King Cotton” – plus classical pieces from Tchaikovsky, Wagner and Handel.
The evening performance featured such pieces as “Turkey in the Straw,” selections from the Wagner’s “Parsifal,” Strass’ “Morning Journals,” Sullivan’s “Lost Chord” and a new march by Sousa, “The Royal Welsh Fusiliers.”
After conducting his last note, Sousa was remembered in the Scranton Times. An editorial noted that “his music stirred the feet and made the blood tingle,” and “for many years to come, Sousa’s fame will be secure by at least one of his many compositions, ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever,’ said to be his own favorite.”
A memorial concert broadcast over the radio also honored Sousa. The Crusade chapter, Order of De Molay, band performed a live concert of Sousa’s marches on March 8 on WQAN.
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 15 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast