Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Lost National Geographic Theme: Part III - The Barely Known History

I have finally heard back from the National Geographic Society concerning the recently found National Geographic March.

The official historian of the society wrote back saying that they do have one recorded performance of the march being played.  The one write up on the march, however, was only accessible via their employee-only intranet.  The text is copied below:

1935: The "National Geographic March"

Pomp and circumstance
Captain Thomas F. Darcy Jr., leader of the U.S. Army Band, composes this year the "National Geographic Society March, "dedicating it to Dr. Gilbert H. Grosvenor in honor of many years of cooperation between the Society and the Army Air Corps, especially in the development of aerial photography and the successful launch of the Explorer II stratosphere balloon.

The September 13, 1935 edition of the
Washington Star carries an announcement that this new piece of music is "of a stirring military type," intended for use at any or all of the Society's formal occasions. Its musical movements, featuring each of a band's sections in turn, are supposed to reflect the world-wide activities of the Geographic, whether on land, sea, or in the skies. Captain Darcy, the announcement goes on to say, "plans to include it in radio and concert programs." Fischer & Brothers of New York agrees to publish it, and Darcy supplies them with three arrangements: one for military band, one for orchestra, and one for piano solo.

The "National Geographic Society March" debuts on Wednesday evening, December 11, at Constitution Hall, where an audience of nearly 3,700 is gathered for the Society's
Hubbard Medal presentation to the Explorer II balloon aeronauts.
Despite Captain Darcy's good intentions, it will not be played much thereafter. Its musical evocation of the spirit of the Geographic will only be heard now and then on the odd formal occasion, and after Elmer Bernstein composes the "National Geographic Society Fanfare" in 1965--the familiar theme everyone knows now--it will lapse into obscurity.

Select one of the formats below to listen to the "National Geographic March":

The bit about how each section is meant to be played by different musical instruments is interesting.  I can really imagine how different instruments can give the march a much more international theme vice 1930s newsreels.  Sadly this is lost in the piano solo.

Meanwhile, reader Jan Nijhuis preformed the piece via his computer imitating an electronic keyboard.

Thanks Jan!  And thank you readers for enjoying this Geographic Travels find and investigation!

1 comment:

Twelve Mile Circle said...

The certainly got the "lapse into obscurity" part right. Thanks for following this through to the end. It's been a fascinating and enjoyable journey.