“Geneviève de Brabant” By Jacques Offenbach
The music for “The Marines’ Hymn”
“The Marines’ Hymn” is inspired by the Jacques Offenbach operetta “Geneviève de Brabant,” which debuted in Paris in 1859. It is interesting to note that the Corps’ legendary bandmaster John Philip Sousa joined the orchestra conducted by Jacques Offenbach at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.
Sousa once wrote: “The melody of the ‘Halls of Montezuma’ is taken from Offenbach’s comic opera, ‘Geneviève de Brabant’ and is sung by two gendarmes. The music is from the ‘Gendarmes’ Duet.’ ”
Major Richard Wallach, USMC said that in 1878, when he was in Paris, the aria to which “The Marines’ Hymn” is now sung was a very popular one. Correspondence between the officer in charge of Marine Corps Recruiting, Colonel Albert S. McLemore, and Walter F. Smith (the second leader of the United States Marine Band) traces the tune. The name of the opera and a part of the chorus were secured from Maj Wallach and forwarded to Mr. Smith, who replied: Maj Wallach should be “congratulated upon a wonderfully accurate musical memory, for the aria of the ‘Marine [sic] Hymn’ is certainly to be found in the opera, ‘Geneviève de Brabant’... . The melody is not in the exact form of the ‘Marine Hymn,’ but is undoubtedly the aria from which it was taken. I am informed, however, by one of the members of the band, who has a Spanish wife, that the aria was one familiar to her childhood and it may, therefore, be a Spanish folk song.”