MUSIC and LITERATURE
John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) was very interested in the 1882
transit of Venus. In 1882-3 he wrote his 'Venus Transit March.' He didn't
write it specifically to commemorate the transit itself, but wrote it to
honor the great American physicist Prof. Joseph Henry who had died on May
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. asked Sousa to write this
march for the planned unveiling of the statue of Henry in front of the
Smithsonian Institution in 1883. The music was to be played while dignitaries
solomnly walked from the museum to a special receiving stand in front
of the Smithsonian. Sousa's Transit of Venus March remains a delightful,
and rarely-played addition to Sousa's opus of compositions.
Sousa's Transit of Venus March remains a delightful, and rarely-played addition to Sousa's very famous and much loved opus of compositions. If you would like to view the cover page of the 1889 sheet music, play the march on your piano, or listen to two versions of it, see below:
Transit of Venus cover page
Transit of Venus piano score Page 1
Transit of Venus piano score Page 2
Transit of Venus piano score Page 3
If you want to learn more about Sousa's march, visit the Library of Congress's I Hear America Singing page at http://www.loc.gov/rr/perform/ihas/ where you can download a full band score for this march that your students may be able to play - or your community marching band. The Library is honoring this rare event by providing access on its "I Hear America Singing" to the newly arranged score, band parts, recording, image gallery and background of John Philip Sousa's "Transit of Venus March":
Sousa's March doesn't exhaust all of the musical possibilities for this event that can be found at the Library of Congress. For example, here is a list of other musical compositions that probably have something to do with the transit of Venus in one way or another, especially since they appeared at about the same time as the 1874 and 1882 events, such as 'The Transit Polka' and the 'The Rapid Transit'. Going back even earlier, at a time (ca 1774) near the June 6, 1769 transit of Venus the British Public Library has a copy of an old song 'Come ye lads and lasses with speed. The Transit of Venus' published in London, although the author and circumstances are unknown.
Of course, Sousa wasn't the only musician producing music at the time. If you had the opportunity to visit a concert hall or opera, you would be hearing the music by such composers as Claude Debussy, while enjoying a painting by the new school of Impressionism with such young artists as Mary Cassatt!
Here is a list of the locations that plan to perform Sousa's Transit of Venus March
1. America's Hometown Band, Munci Community School Planetarium, Michigan
2. Steno Museum planetarium, University of Aarhus, Denmark
3. Tri-County Symphonic Band
http://www.tricoband.org/. Sicklerville, New Jersey,
4. Harvard Band, Science Center, Harvard University
5. Upper Darby Sousa Band
6. Cuyahoga Falls "Summit Winds" Community Band of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio,
- July 3 8:00pm Upper Darby HS Field, Upper Darby, PA with Fireworks!
- July 4 7:30pm Rose Tree Park, Media, PA
- July 6 7:30pm Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA
- July 8 7:30pm Garnet Valley HS Performing Arts Center, Glen Mills, PA
June 7, 2004 at our 7:30 P.M. concert at The Quirk Cultural Center, 1201 Grant Avenue, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
7. Virginia Grand Military Band, (www.vgmb.com)
8. Washington Wind Symphony in Kirkland, Washington
9. Hanover Wind Symphony, will be performing Sousa's march throughout the summer.
10. Whitehouse Wind Symphony (located in central NJ) will be playing the
march June 4th 7pm in front of the Somerville, NJ Borough Hall.
11. Penfield (NY) Symphony Orchestra performed Sousa's "Transit of Venus" march on June 6 at the annual Picnic Pops concert, for an audience of approximately 400.
12. Harrisburg, PA -- home of the Keystone Concert Band performance on June 12. if it goes well, we'll likely keep it in our folders for performance through the rest of the year.
13. Philip Aaberg will perform the Transit of Venus (piano arrangement) on June 7 at the Liberty Village Arts Center in Chester, Montana
14. Solo piano version of the Sousa March, "The Transit of Venus March" at my home here in Pound, VA tonight as the transit started. I heard about this event on NPR's Performance Today as I travelled home from work about 5 hours ago
Sincerely, Robert D. Holbrook
15. The Transit of Venus March was performed by the Plano Community Band of Plano, Texas. Our performance ocurred at 6:15 am CST on June 8th. We were very proud to be able to this and the right moment. Sousa holds a special place in our hearts as band members. It was our honor to play this rarely played piece for the first time during the actual event. Sousa's music is regularly played at several of our summer outdoor concerts under a gazebo with a lush park facility.
Sincerely, Sheila Winsor
16. I am the Pastor of Creative Arts at Christ Community Church in Beatrice, Nebraska. I heard about the Sousa march on Performance Today on NPR. I downloaded the music for the march and our church wind ensemble is going to read through it at our rehearsal tomorrow night. We are interested in using it for our patriotic concert on July 4th this year. Kevin Boesiger Pastor of Creative Arts, Christ Community Church, Beatrice, NE.
17. Thank you for providing access to this exemplary, commemorating work by Sousa written in observance of the 1896 Transit of Venus. I will attempt to reproduce the work in a solo piano performance in our World Headquarters offices at the appropriate time, if you would be so kind as to inform me of the time of transit. Allen S. Kent, Lafayette, CA
18. Our performing group, the Napa Valley Symphony, is planning a series of concert band concerts, and is interested in including John Philip Sousa's "Transit of Venus March." Pat Tolman, Music Librarian, Napa Valley Symphony
19. Will program it for our 4th of July Concert in Orange, TX this year! Arthur D. Ferris, Director, Orange Community Concert Band
20. Guam Territorial Band. Our function is to play for official events for the Government of Guam. We are always looking for music and were so pleased to see and hear this selection. Thank you for providing a copy of "The Transit of Venus" for our use. We will possibly use this selection for performance on Guam.
Thanks again, Michelle McKinzie
21. We will perform this piece with the North Platte Area Municipal Band of North Platte, Nebraska. We perform 8 concerts a summer in the park. This is a band of community members, and we have been in existence for 83 years. We have performed one Sousa march at every concert. This will be an exciting new one for us to perform. Again, thank-you for this opportunity. Karen Marsh, director
22. The Truro Concert Band wishes to perform Sousa's Transit of Venus March at a "Sunday in the Park" concert in Truro Nova Scotia on July 11, 2004. Ken Henderson, Musical Director
23. Bettendorf Park Board Band, Bettendorf, Iowa.
Tonights performance (june 18) is part of an ongoing salute to John Philip Sousa this summer that I am conducting. Every concert features one of his compositions. As an aside, I have dedicated myself to conducting everyone of his published Marches during my career as a conductor. The Transit of Venus March is approximately the 45th march that I have conducted out of the 114 marches that he had published. Thanks again, Steve Montgomery Associate Conductor
24. Cedarburg Civic Band, Cedarburg, Wisconsin (cedarburgcivicband.org)
25. The Honolulu Community Concert Band will be performing
Sousa's "Transit of Venus March" on Saturday, July 3,
at the Aloha Tower Marketplace, and again on Monday,
July 5, at the Ala Moana Shopping Center as part of
our Independence Day concerts.
26. Ocean Pops Band Ocean County, New Jersey.
We are celebrating the works of John Phillip Sousa all summer long and will be performing the Transit Of Venus at our various free concerts. I will make sure to mention the NASA website and the Library of Congress during our introduction of the piece. Ed Brennan
Recordings being Played:
1. Smithsonian Institution Dibner Library 'Chasing Venus' March 22, 2004
2. Lakeview Museum of Arts & Sciences Peoria Illinois
3. Denver Public Library, Denver Colorado
4. Radio Netherlands, Venus Transit radio program.
Philip Sousa, when he was not composing his famous legacy of marches, was
himself a writer who penned a short story 'The Transit of Venus' in 1920.
It was an imaginative story of a group of women-haters who embarked on a
voyage to South Africa to photograph the 1882 Venus Transit. Their goal was
to have an adventure and to get away from women for a few weeks.
By the way, the 1882 transit happened a year after the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. In other areas of literature. Jules Verne had written his novel 'Mysterious Island' in time for the 1874 transit towards the end of his career.By the 1882 transit, H.G. Wells was the up and coming new 'science fiction' author of the day. His very first novel 'The Time Machine' was published in 1893.