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"Putnam's Camp," by Charles Ives, depicts a small town Fourth of July fantasy. (iStockphoto.com)

Marches Madness: Patriotic Pandemonium

by Mark Mobley
Mar 13, 2013

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Mark Mobley

It's Marches Madness! Throughout this month, we're posting some of our favorite marches — from the concert hall, opera stage and parade ground. Got one we should hear? Played any yourself? Let us know in the comments section.

"Putnam's Camp" from Charles Ives' Three Places in New England is a raucous fantasy of a small-town Fourth of July with amateur bands. After an explosive start, a little boy wanders off, falls asleep and has a vision of the goddess Liberty before awakening again to join in singing and dancing.

Ives' beloved father was a Civil War bandmaster who once marched two bands in opposite directions to hear the clash. There are echoes of that here as patriotic songs and stumbling rhythms tumble all over each other. Yet there is order in the chaos — and you can see English composer and conductor Michael Tippett teasing it out of a youth orchestra in 1969.

In the clip above, conductor Dennis Russell Davies also leads the final movement of the suite, "The Housatonic at Stockbridge," a souvenir of a riverside stroll Ives took with his fiancée Harmony. They heard a hymn from a small church on the opposite bank.

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