Blogging Along the Brandywine: A series of disjointed ramblings

On the second floor of Chadds Ford’s Sanderson Museum, is an autographed photo and letter from America’s March King, John Philip Sousa to Chris Sanderson.  Dated Sept. 9, 1919, it says in part, “If we get down near Chadds Ford, it will give me great pleasure to visit you.”

John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), was no stranger to the Brandywine Valley. In fact he died just north of here in Reading.  Not only did he perform at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia and the old Willow Grove Park in Abington Township, but in June 1921 performed at Longwood Gardens on the outdoor stage.

As director of the 70-member Upper Darby Sousa Band, Thomas J. Hoey recently brought that Longwood performance to life on the same Longwood stage. A graduate of the School of Music at West Chester University, Hoey is former Band Director in the Garnet Valley District and a born showman.

A few weeks ago, Hoey contacted the Sanderson Museum to view the museum’s archival material on Sousa. Sanderson was a huge Sousa fan and went to all of his Philadelphia area concerts for more than 20 years – even met and spoke with the March King.

After attending a Sousa concert in 1900, Sanderson wrote home to his mother, ”Well, such music I have never heard. It was grand – and such motions as he goes through! My how I wish you might hear him.”

So I decided to attend Hoey’s concert last Saturday in the outdoor theater at Longwood Gardens, the very stage where Sousa had performed in 1921!

It was a spectacular performance from the first to the last note, but not until Longwood had a rather wet surprise in store for the band – and I don’t mean a passing spring shower.

In 1927, Pierre DuPont had set fountains into the floor of the stage of the outdoor theater. And yes, you guessed it, about 10 seconds into the opening number, “National Emblem”, a fountain right in the middle of the woodwind section went off.

At first it looked like the display was just a part of the evening’s magic, even though Longwood’s version of “Old Faithful” seemed to be erupting from the middle of the band.

But when some of the musicians started to scramble it became evident that this was totally unrehearsed, especially when Hoey halted the number and calmly asked for the fountain to be turned off.

“That was a refreshing march”, he ad-libbed.

A Longwood technician sprinted down the center aisle of the theater, turned off the gusher and returned with a stack of towels.

According to one band member, “The bass clarinets got soaked”.

Finally after 10 minutes, Hoey said “Take two” and they were off again.

Hoey interspersed the band numbers with pieces of trivia.  For instance, Meredith Wilson, composer of “Seventy-Six Trombones” had played 1st Flute in Sousa’s band and had performed with Sousa’s band on the Longwood stage.

The evening’s finale was Sousa’s masterpiece, “Stars and Stripes Forever”.

So sing a long with me…“Be kind to your web-footed friend, for a duck may be somebody’s mo-ther, be kind to your friends in the swamp, where the weather is very, very damp.”

The Upper Darby Sousa Band will perform again at Rose Tree Park, near Media on July 4th. Be there.

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About Sally Denk Hoey

Sally Denk Hoey, is a Gemini - one part music and one part history. She holds a masters degree cum laude from the School of Music at West Chester University. She taught 14 years in both public and private school. Her CD "Bard of the Brandywine" was critically received during her almost 30 years as a folk singer. She currently cantors masses at St Agnes Church in West Chester where she also performs with the select Motet Choir. A recognized historian, Sally serves as a judge-captain for the south-east Pennsylvania regionals of the National History Day Competition. She has served as president of the Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates as well as the Sanderson Museum in Chadds Ford where she now curates the violin collection. Sally re-enacted with the 43rd Regiment of Foot and the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment for 19 years where she interpreted the role of a campfollower at encampments in Valley Forge, Williamsburg, Va., Monmouth, N.J. and Lexington and Concord, Mass. Sally is married to her college classmate, Thomas Hoey, otherwise known as "Mr. Sousa.”



One Response to “Blogging Along the Brandywine: A series of disjointed ramblings”

  1. ccscurator says:

    Don’t be surprised at what music plays the next time you visit!

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