mountain profile Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii

Transit of Venus March

Maintained by LG

In 1883, the Smithsonian Institution asked John Philip Sousa to write a march for the unveiling of the statue of Joseph Henry. Henry had been the first secretary of the Smithsonian, and a member of the U.S. Transit of Venus Commission set up for the 1874 event. Sousa titled the composition "Transit of Venus March," and it received its premiere on April 19, 1883.

Sousa's copy of the music was destroyed in a flood, and the music was deemed lost. But in 2003, while astronomer Sten Odenwald and librarian Susan Claremont were searching for music composed in connection with earlier transits of Venus, a copy of Sousa's march was found in the archives of the Library of Congress. Loras Schissel, a Sousa expert who also worked in the music section of the Library of Congress, reorchestrated the march for modern band instrumentation, modernized the clefs and key, and then made it available for free download from the Library of Congress web site. It was performed for the first time in 120 years in September 2003 by Loras Schissel and his Grand Virginia Military Band.

Click here for an MP3 recording of this march, as performed by the Honolulu Community Concert Band (since renamed the Honolulu Wind Ensemble) on July 7, 2004, at Ala Moana Shopping Center. Thanks to IfA astronomer David Tholen, a member of the band, and the band's board of directors for providing this recording.