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Karl King’s Greatest Hits
Karl Lawrence King: Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite – Military Life – Voice of America – Hosts of Freedom – Cyrus the Great – Neddermeyer Triumphal – Invictus – T.M.B. (Thayer Military Band) – Aces of the Air – The Premier – The Big Cage – Greater Canton – Royal Scottish Highlanders – Eternal Youth – Sarasota – Emblem of Freedom – The Flying Squadron – New Frontiers – The Chancellor – The Melody Shop

The United States Heritage of America Band, The United States Armed Forces Bicentennial Band, The Air Combat Command Heritage of America Band, The United States Air Force Band of the Rockies, The United States Air Force Band, The United States Air Force Band, The United States Air Force Tactical Air Command Band
Recording: 2014 – 45’39
Altissimo! # ALTO4002 – Booklet in English

Men on the flying trapeze, tightrope walkers, jugglers, clowns, dancing bears and elephants are just a few of the acts associated with the circus, but the thrill and excitement of such spectacles housed within a tented arena would not be complete without a musical backdrop. One of the most instrumental composers to create these “exhilarating little ditties” was a gentleman by the name of Karl Lawrence King.

Ohio-born King was a self-taught musician who, like the circus, would live a modified nomadic life, living and creating a plethora of catchy tunes for various companies that accentuated the thrill for audiences when the cadre of artists visited town. Karl King is to circus marches as what John Philip Sousa is to patriotic marches. In his lifetime, King would go on to compose over 300 waltzes, rags, galops, and serenades not to mention an additional 188 musical novelettes of circus marches and screamers.

Circus music doesn’t necessarily occupy the limelight at such an event, but it provides a heightened musical backdrop to intensify human reaction and emotion. The best of Karl King’s marches is now collected on this Altissimo! CD that will make one’s head spin based on the dizzying speed at which these pieces are played, all performed by some of our country’s leading military bands.

King’s pieces are never more than two to three minutes long, but the tempos are brisk and difficult to perform (typically categorized in level 4-5 within the ranks of American march music.) “Screamers” rank in a class by themselves, for they tend to move at an even slightly brisker tempo because it was their job to help audiences be turned upside down into a frenzy ahead of an upcoming number, similar to a modern-day television game show “fluffer” (i.e. The Price is Right.)

Altissimo!’s choice opening, Barnum and Bailey Favorite, created by 22 year-old King at the behest of the band director Ned Brill, is likely the best known of his works. This “screamer” is not without its companions, namely Invectus that opens with bars of menacing music and the sprightly The Melody Shop that will make one grin from ear to ear.

Only in a few of these selections does King create music that anchors in the minor mode, but those, too, quickly resolve into the major. Peppy and perky is a pithy description of Karl King’s intense, yet undeniably uplifting compositions...a nice side trip inside classical music.

Christie Grimstad




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