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National emblem

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National emblem

"National Emblem"
"National Emblem" cover
March by Edwin Eugene Bagley
Released 1906
Recorded May 19, 1908
Genre March
Label Walter Jacobs
Composer Edwin Eugene Bagley
Producer Edwin Eugene Bagley

"", as played by the United States Army Band.

"National Emblem", also known as the "National Emblem March", is an American march composed in 1902 and published in 1906 by Edwin Eugene Bagley. It is a standard of the American march repertoire, appearing in eleven published editions. The U.S. military uses the trio section as ceremonial music for the color guard when presenting and retiring the colors.


Played by the United States Army Band

Problems playing this file? See .

Bagley composed the score during a 1902 train tour with his family band. He became frustrated with the ending, and tossed the composition in a bin. Members of the band fortunately retrieved it and secretly rehearsed the score in the baggage car. Bagley was surprised when the band informed him minutes before the next concert that they would perform it. It became the most famous of all of Bagley’s marches. Despite this the composition did not make Bagley wealthy; he sold the copyright for $25.

Bagley incorporates into the march the first twelve notes of "The Star-Spangled Banner" played by euphoniums and trombones and ingeniously disguised in duple rather than triple time. The rest of the notes are all Bagley’s, including the four short repeated A-flat major chords that lead to a statement by the low brass that is now reminiscent of the national anthem. Unusually, Bagley’s march does not incorporate either a breakstrain or a stinger.

John Philip Sousa was once asked to list the three most effective street marches ever written. Not surprisingly, Sousa listed two of his own compositions, but he selected "National Emblem" for the third. When Sousa formed and conducted the 350 member U.S. Navy Jackie Band at the Naval Station Great Lakes he chose five marches for World War I Liberty bond drives. Four were by Sousa—Semper Fidelis, Washington Post, The Thunderer, Stars and Stripes Forever, and Bagley’s "National Emblem". "National Emblem" was the favorite march composition of Frederick Fennell, who made an arrangement of it in 1981. Fennell called the piece "as perfect a march as a march can be".

Besides Fennell’s arrangement, there are also band arrangements by Albert Morris (1978), Andrew Balent (1982), Paul Lavendar (1986), and Loris J. Schissel (2000).

The band of Arthur Pryor made the first recording of the march on May 19, 1908, followed by a United States Marine Band recording on March 21, 1914 (both recordings by the Victor Talking Machine Company).

The best-known theme of this march is popularly sung in the United States with the doggerel verse "and the monkey wrapped his tail around the flagpole"; less demeaning words were written by lyricist Robert Levenson in 1918. In Britain, the same theme is sometimes sung with the words, "have you ever caught your bollocks in a mangle". Puerto Rican comedian José Miguel Agrelot constantly scat-sang this section in his public appearances whenever he referred to military topics or personnel. The theme is also used as the intro to the Phil Ochs anti war song "The War is Over". Jazz players in the 1920s sometimes "quoted" the third (trio) strain because it fit over the chords in the solo strain of Tiger Rag. The Tubachristmas arrangement of "Jingle Bells" incorporates the "trio" section before returning to the holiday tune.

In popular culture

The march has been featured in films such as Protocol, Stripes, and Hot Shots!. It ends The Brady Bunch Episode 82 from Season 4 ("The Show Must Go On") in which Peter and Bobby play the music to accompany Mike and Greg's rendering of the poem "The Day is Done" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Further reading

  • Duffy, John J. (2003). The Vermont Encyclopedia. UPNE. p. 46. 

External links

  • at website of Indiana UniversityIN Harmony: Sheet Music from IndianaPiano score at
  • United States Marine Band Ceremonial Music at the Wayback Machine (archived October 17, 2013), MP3.
  • "National Emblem", 78 RPM.
  • "National Emblem", MIDI.
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