A Battery of Army Canons

Various degrees of difficulty

8 minutes

Composed for Army soldiers and singers everywhere

  1. A Sergeant Named William
  2. All Ate Up
  3. The Pace of Life
  4. Pond Water
  5. March Along

When I was Officer-in-Charge of the U.S. Army Chorus, we brought in a guest conductor every year for a special concert. One year, our guest brought some wonderful canons composed by the late, great former organist for the National Cathedral, Dr. Richard Wayne Dirksen. At about the same time, I had studied the wonderfully zany rounds of P.D.Q. Bach’s The Art of the Ground Round. At the time, I thought it would be fun to try to write some rounds with an Army element to them because audiences always seemed to enjoy music that offered humorous glimpses into Army life.

As usual, it took me years to finally sit down and make myself write, but I did and here is the result. It’s a compositional challenge to write melodies that can provide their own harmonies when they wrap around themselves, but I think I was successful. I would be disingenuous, however, not to recognize the fact that while these pieces are wholly original, they clearly borrow/steal from the Peter Schickele comedy playbook.

The first round, “A Sergeant Named William,” is a pretty straightforward telling of a artilleryman’s surprising turn of events. “All Ate Up” is a montage of Army euphemisms describing a soldier who’s (how do I put this delicately) less than stellar. “The Pace of Life” humorously describes the dichotomy of action versus inaction in military life. “Pond Water” is a setting of a very simple phrase which has become a cliche in the Army, and yet is as apt as ever. Finally, “March Along” is a kitchen-sink closer setting of a common Army cadence call that quickly devolves into chaos and disorder, as can sometimes happen if an Army leader loosens the reins on a group of young soldiers.

This piece is free for use by U.S. Army personnel. Contact me if you want the music.