Saturday, March 28, 2009

Origins of E T Paull's 'The Ice Palace March'

John Philip Sousa was an American bandmaster and composer, born in Washington DC on November 6, 1854. As a teenager, he apprenticed to the Marine Band, the official band of the President of the United States. At 18 [1872], he won appointment as leader of the band, and served for twelve years. In 1884 he resigned to form his own band. Sousa's Band toured the United States and Europe to enthusiastic crowds. Along the way he composed so many exceptional and stirring marches, he became known as the March King.

John Philip Sousa

Sousa composed 'Semper Fidelis' [1888], 'Washington Post March' [1889], 'King Cotton' [1897], and the electrifying 'Stars and Stripes Forever' [1897.] Among his other works were eleven comic operas---including 'El Capitan' [1896], 'Bride Elect' [1897], 'Queen of Hearts' [1886], and 'The Smuggler' [1882] The popular El Capitan March came from the eponymous opera of 1896. 'Stars and Stripes Forever' was designated as the National March in 1987, 100 years after it's composition.

As another contribution to the musical world, he perfected the 'Sousaphone,' a spiral circular bass tuba. Originally known as the 'helicon', it was probably developed in Russia with improvements in Vienna about 1849. Sousa's design in 1892 made the instrument more portable, thus leading to it's regular use in marching bands. Originally of brass, it's now sometimes made with fiberglass parts to reduce the weight.

His fancified biography movie was produced in 1952 and called 'Stars and Stripes Forever.' He died on March 6, 1932 [age 77] in Reading Pennsylvania. The last march he led was 'Stars and Stripes Forever.'

E T Paull

Lesser known, but almost as popular at the time, was E T Paull. Born on February 16, 1858 in Gerrardstown, Virginia, [He died on November 27, 1924 in New York City.] Paull was a composer, arranger, and music publisher. He was something of a hustler, but his sheet music covers were extraordinary both in design and in the use of vivid colors. These days, his covers are a collectible universe across the nation. Sadly, the music inside these covers was not always equal to the artwork. However, in a society that was into a march fad, his songs and those of Sousa and others were sold regularly. Apparently, though, Paull's marches were easier to play on the living room piano than those of Sousa. His first 'known' published march was an instant hit in 1894. 'Ben Hur or the Chariot Race' seemed to come from nowhere. Until that time, Paull's name was not on the national radar. With the huge popularity of the march, however, his name instantly became known. The Chariot Race or Ben Hur March' sold 60,000 copies in the first year. Remember, this was 1894, and that number of sales was stupendous---probably equivalent to a couple of million copies sold these days. In 1898, Paull wrote and published "The Ice Palace March." It was written to commemorate his Mount Vernon, New York home after an Arctic blast froze his water pipes and turned the home into an ice palace.


There has been no Tinsel Town bio-pic for Paull, probably because so little is known about his life, especially before 1894. But, come to think of it, why should that bother Hollywood? None of the already produced bio-pics has been accurate. History is normally altered for 'dramatic purposes' in each case. Nevertheless, 'The Ice Palace March' has it's story. Below are quotes from several contemporary newspapers. From the New York Evening Journal He Went Away Without Turning Off the Water, and the Cold Wave Did the Rest. Mount Vernon, N. Y., Feb. 3.—By an odd mishap the handsome residence of E. T. Paull, a composer of music, at No. 210 South Fifth avenue, has been transformed into an ice palace. It was visited to-day by all the neighbors and friends, who put on their skates in the cellar, ate icycles from the chandeliers and explored the upper chambers to see if the host were not entertaining some Eskimo. Mr. Paull and his family went South for the winter without turning off the water. The cold wave burst the pipes. It will cost him $5,000. A later item: It goes without saying that Mr. Paull was on the next Mount Vernon bound train. As soon as things could be set to rights at his frappéd residence he summoned his wife home from the South and moved in. The other evening, as his nimble fingers strayed over the keys of the piano in his parlor, he evolved some strains which he considered worth preserving, and which very soon grew into a stirring march, one of if not the best Mr. Paull has ever composed. Then he cast about him for a title. The newspapers had all spoken of his frozen residence as an "ice palace," why not an "Ice Palace March," with a view of his Klondike-like villa on the title page. "The very thing!" he cried, and that is how "The Ice Palace March" came to be written. It is now in press. Mr. Paull never lets any grass grow under his shoe leather, you know.

Original 1898 Issue

1924 Re-Issue

In 1914, the march was re-published with a different cover, this one depicting a large castle built with ice blocks. Such 'Ice Palaces' were popular in many colder states and Canada, and they served as a central features for winter festivals. Our northern areas are now experiencing severe weather, but for the rest of us winter weather is finished---though I must say that here in Connecticut we experienced a massive freezing rain and ice storm back in the 1970s one May night and day.

I remember ice coating everything in sight---including destruction of most of the shade tobacco crop in the center of the state. Now, that could have inspired an icy march. Actually ice building is still in use. Each winter, an Ice Hotel is constructed in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, about 200 km north of the Arctic Circle. The ice comes from the pure water of the Torne River, running through Lapland. And the whole shebang is an artistic masterpiece each year, never being the same twice in a row. This coming winter will be the twentieth. I'm not able to travel there, but a room in the ice hotel runs about $175-$250 a night per person.

Ice Hotel Main Hall - Design by Anders Eriksson & Arne Bergh
Lighting design by Julia Engberg, Ola Carlsson Fredén, Kristoffer
Langerbeck, Janne Haglöf & John Pettersson.

Unfortunately, there's no heat nor any doors, and I don't know of any special music composed for the icy edifice. And oh yes, the Kirona Airport is about twelve miles away in case you're hang gliding and want to stop by. There are plenty of pictures and detailed information about the hotel at

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