Sousa portrayer kicks off Cape visit

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Few Cape Girardeau residents who witnessed John Philip Sousa's visit to the city 75 years ago are still around, but thanks to Keith Brion the rest will have a chance of their own.

Brion, a retired Yale music professor who portrays Sousa, arrived in Cape Girardeau Friday night and started his official visit off on Monday with a visit to the Cape Girardeau Rotary Club, where he talked about Sousa's life during a slide show. He played a recording of Sousa speaking and showed film footage of the conductor.

Brion will spend the rest of the week alternating between more visits and presentations and rehearsals for Friday's and Saturday's "Stars, Stripes and Sousa!" concerts with the Southeast Missouri State University Symphonic Wind Ensemble.

Brion said the rehearsals are going well. The hardest thing to teach the ensemble is not the music itself, Brion said, but the musical inflections that make the music sound the way it would have in Sousa's day.

"Musical inflection has changed tremendously over the years," he said. "I'm trying to teach how Sousa was originally played."

All of this is meant to commemorate and to try to recreate the 1929 visit of Sousa, known as America's "March King" for the famous marches he composed and performed with his band.

Sousa visited Cape Girardeau on one of his nationwide tours and was greeted with much fanfare and ceremony from the moment of his arrival in the city. In 1929, Mayor James A. Barks presented Sousa with a key to Cape Girardeau, telling him, "This occasion will linger long in our memories."

And so it has.

Today at 11:30 a.m., the city will try to recapture that moment when current Mayor Jay Knudtson presents Brion as Sousa with a key to the city of Cape Girardeau at the gazebo in front of the Common Pleas Courthouse.

Then there are more stops for the man who will be Sousa.

At 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Brion will visit Shivelbine's Music Store at 535 Broadway, followed by a visit to the city's Lion's Club meeting.

On Thursday he will visit the Chateau Girardeau Retirement Center for a presentation and lunch.

Then come the two concerts that Brion and the university's Symphonic Wind Ensemble will be rehearsing all week.

Friday's show is a free matinee mainly for schoolchildren and will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. at Academic Auditorium on the Southeast Missouri State University campus.

Saturday's show starts at 8 p.m. at Academic Auditorium and features narration by Dr. Tom Harte, professor emeritus of speech communication and theater at the university, and solos by contralto Dr. Leslie Jones and Mark Fulgham on cornet. Both Jones and Fulgham are faculty members in the Department of Music at the university.

There will be a post-concert reception Saturday at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri's galleries at 32 N. Main St.

Tickets are available at Shivelbine's, Schnucks, the Arts Council and Country Mart in Jackson.

"I'm looking forward to it very much," Brion said of his planned activities for the rest of the week. "It's just a thrill."

335-6611, extension 182

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