Thoroughbred Thunder



Out Of The Gate Galops, Screamers & Patriotic Marches

Matthew H. Phillips & His Circus Band

Thoroughbred Thunder

Few will ever experience the heart-pounding excitement of looking outdoors some quiet afternoon to see a horse and rider speeding like greased lightning over the horizon straight for them! But who hasn't imagined it?

The warning in the nick of time. The rescue. The abduction. The triumph. The escape. When drama entered our ancestors' lives, it generally arrived on a galloping horse; when life flowed serenely on, the horse was there, too, a beloved and indispensable member of the household.

When that first prehistoric mount consented to that first prehistoric joyride, a partnership was formed that would transform the world as if by magic. In fact it has been suggested by pragmatists that the elusive unicorn, glimpsed as a silhouette in the distance by primitive man, was in fact a visitation from an advancing culture a warrior on horseback.

The symbiotic relationship between man and horse got off to a rocky start. The horse familiar to cavemen had four toes on his front feet and three on his hind feet, was the size of a small dog, and was considered an excellent meal. But, an intelligent animal even then, the horse bulked up in self-defense, and was promoted to beast of burden.

It was with the advent of the horse-drawn chariot of war that the animal's innate nobility was recognized at last. The association of the horse with prototypical brass band instruments dates from the Bronze Age as well. In fact, once the long straight horns (originally mastodon tusks and the like) could be fashioned of flexible metal they were curved once or twice into shapes resembling today's tubas, so that they could be more easily carried by the now high and mighty horsemen.

The Romans weren't the first to use trumpet calls as signals on the field of battle, but they established the equestrian traditions that would set the Western standard for well over a thousand years.

The Romans honored the horse, awarding celebrity status to their favorites. They recognized their strength, endurance and loyalty. Roman armies had prestigious military bands. The Roman trumpet heralded the horse in funeral processions and other ceremonies of state as well as in war. They made an art of the victory parade. They invited the public to witness the skill and fleetness of horse and rider at the Circus Maximus.

Horse races were said to have been held on this site long before the birth of Romulus. At first the word "circus" (Latin for "ring") referred to the official chariot race. In the original wooden structure, wooden ovals were used to mark the seven laps as they were completed. The starting signal was a white flag. Racing associations sprang up, providing horses from their breeding farms and training charioteers.

Professional racing proved popular, as did the equestrian sports that evolved into the circus, as we understand the term. The highlight of these shows was the bareback rider who would leap from horse to horse or ride a pair simultaneously as they sped around the ring. The Maximus was done over in marble and gilded bronze. Though it sat over 300,000, new arenas were soon under construction to satisfy the citizens' lust for sport. The arenas provided opportunities for slaves and others born in poverty to rise to the height of Roman society, often through their rapport with horses.

Long after the fall, Roman spectacle was preserved in European medieval pageantry. As in ancient times, the right to own a horse and to employ musicians was vested in the ruling class. As in ancient times, the warrior tended to his equine partner's comfort before his own; the wealthiest knight might be found sleeping at his horse's side. During the Crusades drums were added to the military bands, at first beating time with the steps of the mercenary infantry. The North African horses favored by the Romans were still prized for their speed, but the more powerful Norse horse was needed to carry the heavy encumbrances of chain mail and armor.

In peacetime, trumpet calls were invented to signal huntsmen rather than troops. Horses were star performers at tournament and fair; the increasingly sophisticated music played at these events mimicked and celebrated their gallop, canter and trot.

As the centuries passed, both horses and band instruments came within the province of the common man, who made them his own. A commoner didn't have to be wealthy to furnish his own sustenance, transportation and entertainment, especially in the New World.

Horses were valuable friends vital to transportation, communication and defense in the American colonies and, even among Puritans, the serious business of testing and proving the merits of a horse was fun for all men concerned. Spur-of-the-moment racing was inevitable; as towns grew into cities, streets named "Race" were the designated places to go. Quarter horses took their name from races that began at local taverns and ended a quarter mile distant.

By the end of the 1600's there were racetracks in New York and Virginia, operating in Roman style. The military band flourished, associated with local militias. Some horse shows featuring bareback riders acquired acrobats and menageries and called themselves circuses. Regional fairs showcased the best of an area's horses and riders. Everyone was an expert, or sought to be one, where the horse was concerned. It was inconceivable for a young person to carve his niche in the world without the assistance of a horse.

The American Revolution, the War Between the States and the occupation of the West gave Victorian Americans their own vision of the archetypal gallant cavalryman and his noble steed. The fearless exploits of rider and horse were fireside tales for generations. The flourish of the cavalry trumpet can be heard again and again in music by men such as Frederick Jewell, Joseph Richards and Karl King, who were bandsmen and conductors as well as composers. James Brockenshire's "Cavalry Soldier March" may have been written while he was working to equip army bands for World War I, but it harks back to his first military assignment; Brockenshire was a bandsman with George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry Regiment.

During the Civil War, the first genuine thoroughbred racetrack opened at Saratoga Springs, the fashionable New York spa. Several states held the first official steeplechase races in 1865, utilizing walls, shrubbery, ditches and water to simulate the virgin landscape noblemen throughout the Middle Ages traversed on horseback with their swords at the ready or their falcons on their wrists.

When the war ended, military-style bands survived. Every town had one, including the "one-horse" variety. So did fire departments and other municipal entities, countless clubs, lodges and societies, companies and corporations. An estimated 10,000 of these amateur bands were performing at the drop of a hat by the end of the century.

Circus bands went on tour with the circus, and thus belonged to everyone in a region proscribed by the fact that travel had to be accomplished by horse-drawn wagon. There were over a hundred circuses in the U.S. before the transcontinental railroad was born, each with its professional band, and when the circus came to town, there was always a parade. Perhaps King wrote the "Excelsior (Latin for 'upward') Galop" after marching with his band at the forefront of the mounted performers over a steep hill? The portability of the instruments was a factor even in these days; brass bands went where orchestras could not.

There were other professional touring bands led by top musicians who performed at fairs, expositions, carnivals, parks, racetracks and like venues. The greatest of these bands was Sousa's, and the occasion of his rise to international fame was the 1893 Columbian Exposition, a.k.a. the Chicago World's Fair. The military cadence of the selections included here, though written later, hints at the emotion felt by the 6,500 entranced spectators of all nations who listened to Sousa's concerts in the Roman splendor of the Choral Building. Also at the Exposition, on 14 acres just past the grounds, Buffalo Bill Cody staged his fabulous Wild West Show with the inclusion of his unprecedented "Congress of Rough Riders of the World." Buffalo Bill showcased the skill of the Native American and frontiersman, and the preternaturally close relationship these westerners developed with their steeds.

Cody is celebrated here in William Paris Chambers' "Equestrian March." Chambers, reportedly a phenomenal cornet soloist, performed at the Exposition as well, where his distinctive style catapulted him to fame. That he was also quite a man is evidenced by his activities in Denver the previous year, where

Chambers performed a cornet solo at the 14,500 foot summit of Pike's Peak.

Americans at the turn of the century found themselves with an increasing amount of leisure time and, true to their work ethic, they plunged into finding constructive and creative uses for it.

At the beginning of the century entertainment was home-based; the so-called front porch culture flourished in the small towns where most of these composers were born, like Emporia, Kansas, with its neat brick sidewalks and elm-lined streets. These were the days of buggy rides and hitching posts; music was by courtesy of family and friends, or there might be a concert in the square, courtesy of neighbors. The emphasis in any amusement was on participation.

By century's end public forms of mass entertainment predominated. The porch culture was transported to the porches wrapped around resort hotels. From Decoration Day to Labor Day Americans of all classes and genders could be found frolicking together at the midway attached to the local boardwalk or fair, or at one of the new amusement parks. The emphasis in amusement was on spectatorship, even at Coney Island, where otherwise sedate citizens felt free to loose their inhibitions on novel rides such as "Shoot-the-Chutes," whose inception was celebrated by 24 year old composer and veteran of vaudeville, carnival and circus Russell Alexander. In fact, galleries were built to encourage visitors to watch each other.

Buffalo Bill and his imitators took their Wild West Shows to Coney Island; Sousa and the other professional bands played there too, often during elaborate fireworks displays. The Island boasted three fancy racetracks, attracting thousands of gamblers. Both amateur horsemen and bandsmen were being eclipsed by professionals.

People in the cities were rapidly losing contact with the horse, more than ever renowned as a creature of romance. They rode carousels and mechanical horses, rented ponies for their children. Among the attractions at amusement parks and midways were the steeplechase, the Ben Hur chariot race, and water acts such as the Diving Horse. Tunes like Fred Huffer's "Thunderbolt Galop" and Guy Holmes' "The Challenge March" were performed to build the mood of excitement. When Huffer wrote his Galop, he was still leading a band sponsored by a large plumbing equipment manufacturer. Homes cited the clacking shuttles at local woolen mills as compositional inspiration. But any association between the brass band and the workaday world was quickly coming to an end.

One is tempted to assume that Gordon Newham's "White Horse March" referenced the traditional funeral procession, despite its frisky high spirits, as it was published in 1929, the year that threatened to end the country's flirtation with fun and games, pleasure jaunts and holidays. But middle class Americans clung to the excursion, the notion of packing an entire vacation into a single day. Country folks might go to a free band concert; city folks might go out to a farm and ride the horses. Municipalities might declare it Apple Pie Day or Daffodil Day, and have a parade.

By the 40's most of the company and other amateur bands had disappeared, along with many of the lodges and clubs which proliferated during Victorian times. The horse had again become the possession of the few, though symbolically embraced by all. World War II wasn't won by the horse; nevertheless victory was celebrated by horses on parade, accompanied by marching bands playing tunes like John Taylor's "Victory Parade March" and Joseph Richards' "American Ranger March." It is impossible to picture a day when composers will fail to be moved by the image of a splendid horse running at full speed with that exuberance in being alive and on the move embodied by their music.

Many Victorians felt keenly the loss of medieval tournament and romantic pageantry; they focused on the horse, and attempted to reinvent the Age of Chivalry. In their love of pomp and ceremony, their inspired horseplay, even in their band uniforms, bright silks and gold embroidery flashing in the sun, they recalled a grandeur that was also the stuff of dreams, given free rein in their leisured pursuits, aided and abetted by their musicians. They memorialized the rough employments of their ancestors in play.

This fanciful music, full of enthusiasm and fun, rife with the rhythm of horses galloping "prestissimo" (as fast as they can!), reminiscent of bugles and hunting horns, parades, thrilling rides and the circus, is as vividly engrossing to the imagination today as when it was written.

Sue Marra Byham

Matthew H. Phillips, Bandmaster

Twenty years ago, Matthew Phillips was a ten-year old child entranced by the sight and sound of his father, an amateur musician, entertaining thousands of beach goers in front of the old Ambassador Hotel in Atlantic City. In that magical moment, he chose his path.

Maestro Phillips began his musical career conducting the middle school orchestra in which he played the flute. While studying privately with a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Phillips gained experience conducting his high school orchestra, and discovered his flair for composing. By the time Matthew Phillips graduated from the Esther Boyer College of Music, Temple University, he had written three massive symphonies, three large symphonic poems, and a number of concertos and solo works in the Dramatic style.

A year after graduating from college, this young man founded the Bala Cynwyd Symphony Orchestra. Over several years Matthew Phillips began bringing the little known turn-of-the-century American compositions he loved to the attention of the public. Three years after the founding of the Symphony Orchestra Matthew H. Phillips presented a televised feature that was aired on several local PBS stations. This presented the music of Johnson, Humiston and Chadwick. It was at this point Phillips decided to turn producer and made a compact disc recording (Those Fabulous Americans, TROY103, Albany Records) including several selections from the video presentation.

Matthew Phillips continues to both delve into the past, and focus on the future by making forgotten music new again. Recording experienced artists such as Brian Kovach (who is a noted concert pianist as well as a recorded Albany artist) and various ensembles, Phillips also produces debut albums for outstanding young soloists who share his passion for late 19th and early 20th century music. In this mission he relies on those early memories of his father, Donald P. Phillips, who with other successful businessmen performed that afternoon on the beach at Atlantic City, just for the fun of it! From the sweeping sounds of orchestral masterworks by Edgar Stillman Kelley to the swirling notes of Karl L. King, Matthew continues to make his music and move his listeners into new frontiers.

The Circus Band

Bandmaster Matthew H. Phillips brought together musicians who have performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Temple University Band and Orchestra, and ensembles at Curtis and Juilliard.

Circus bands have often formed around a family of musicians. This one is no exception; talented parents Brian (bass drum) and Jackie Kovach (oboe) and sons Joshua (clarinet) and Gabriel (French horn) are a musical family very much in demand in the Philadelphia Tri-State area. With this phenomenal core group of players, the combination was serendipitous; this circus band has been stirring audiences with exciting Screamers and Galops since the summer of 1995.


Flute/Piccolo: David DiGiacobbe · Oboe: Jackie Kovach ·Clarinets: Joshua L. Kovach & Peter Heinemann ·Alto Saxophone: Kathleen Mitchell · Tenor Saxophone: Marc Moroz · Bassoon: Brian Zappasodi · French Horns: Gabriel Kovach & Jennifer Stahl · Trumpets: Joseph M. McNichols, Joseph

Panebianco & Michael G. Franchetti · Trombones: Peter Andrew Jensen, Peter Holmes & Brad Schoener · Tuba: Michael J. Norton · Percussion/Snare Drums: Randall Jay Rudolph & Brian E. Kovach · Double Bass: Curtis Datko

Executive Producer: Donald P. Phillips · Producer: Matthew H. Phillips · Associate Producer: Joshua Kovach Sound Engineer: Michael E. Harmon · Assistant Sound Engineer: Ken Gregory · Recording made on January 4, 1998 at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA · Editing: Howard M. Fievel · Mastering: Michael E. Harmon, Third Story Recording Studios, Inc., Philadelphia, PA

The producers wish to thank Dr. Alfred Blatter, Jennifer Morris, Federico J. Piantini, Dean I. Orloff, Barnhouse Publications, Drexel University and the Theodore Presser Company for their help in making this recording possible.

Cover Photo: © William Strode · Cover Design by Bates Miyamoto

Thoroughbred Thunder

Out Of The Gate Galops, Screamers & Patriotic Marches

Matthew H. Phillips & His Circus Band

Joseph Richards

1 Con Celerita Galop (2:03)

2 Speedway Galop (1:41)

Karl King

3 Home Stretch Galop (1:49)

Guy Holmes

4 The Challenge March (3:55)

Russell Alexander

5 Shoot The Chutes Galop (1:47)

Fred Huffer

6 Thunderbolt Galop (1:58)

Gordon Newham

7 White Horse March (3:06)

Karl King

8 Emporia Galop (1:47)

Russell Alexander

9 Steeplechase (1:48)

Joseph Richards

10 American Ranger March (2:42)

Karl King

11 Excelsior Galop (1:47)

Guy Holmes

12 Winter Sports Galop (1:53)

Joseph Richards

13 Show World March (2:12)

Karl King

14 Prestissimo Galop (1:41)

William Paris Chambers

15 Equestrian (Buffalo Bill) March (2:34)

Frederick Jewell

16 They're Off, Galop (1:44)

John Philip Sousa

17 Black Horse Troop March (3:10)

Russell Alexander

18 Bastinado Galop (2:30)

Karl King

19 Majestic Galop (1:44)

Joseph Richards

20 March "To The Frontier" (2:43)

Russell Alexander

21 Round-Up (2:04)

Joseph Richards

22 Geneva Galop (1:40)

23 Ozark Trails March (2:29)

Karl King

24 Walsenburg Galop (1:52)

James Brockenshire

25 Cavalry Soldier March (2:39)

John Philip Sousa

26 Riders For The Flag March (2:17)

Frederick Jewell

27 "In The Lead" March (2:17)

John Taylor

28 Contest Winners March (3:53)

29 Victory Parade March (3:14)

Total Time = 64:05