Liberty Bell (march)

The Liberty Bell is a patriotic military march composed by famous bandmaster John Philip Sousa in 1893. The march since then has remained one of Sousa's finest works, and is most recognized as the theme song for Monty Python's Flying Circus (MPFC).



The Liberty Bell came very close to being called "The Devil's Deputy." But due to financial arguments, Sousa abandoned this title and its soon-to-be dedication.

Sousa and his band manager George Hinton were touring in Chicago observing the spectacle America, when a large backdrop depicting The Liberty Bell was lowered. Hinton suggested the title "The Liberty Bell" for Sousa's recently completed march.

Concidentially, Sousa received a letter from his wife, saying that his son marched in a parade which honored the Liberty Bell, which was on tour in Philadelphia.

These two events helped Sousa make up his mind. The march was named "The Liberty Bell" and sold to the John Church Company for publication. It brought Sousa a very large sum of money.


The melodies in The Liberty Bell have a very lively and bouncy feel to them. It is said that the themes come from a whistling tune, much like Kenneth Alford's "Colonel Bogey March".

The march follows the standard form (IAABBCDCDC).

The bass line is a prominent part, which is usually played out more.

The first strain of the march carries an agreeably catchy tune, but the fact that it has very simple and similar phrases is not obvious. The second strain holds some more diverse phrasing and dynamic contrasts than the 1st.

The trio is a definite contrast, combining the two ideas of repeated phrasing and diverse phrasing.

Unlike most trios which carry a more mellow and simpler feel, The Liberty Bell's trio jumps right in, first with two identical phrases rising up the scale, both with a different fanfaric note. Separating these two phrases are two identical phrases holding three sudden low notes, and then a phrase of quarter and eighth notes. The first two indentical phrases repeat, and take you to the breakstrain, a typical low brass statement with woodwind responses.

What makes the trio unique is the use of tubular bells, which symbolizes the Liberty Bell ringing in the distance. The bell part is usually started during the first breakstrain, but some bands start it right away at the first trio.


  • The fact that it carries such catchy and bouncy melodies probably was the reason it attracted the creators of Monty Python. Terry Gilliam said that the theme was chosen as they thought it could not be associated with the programme's contents, and that the first bell strike and the subsequent melody gave the impression of getting "straight down to business." (The word "down" is instrumental here, as Gilliam's MPFC  lead-in cartoon, accompanied by the Liberty Bell, ends with a large foot stomping down all the other contents of the screen.)
  • The Liberty Bell remains as an all time favorite of band musicians and a signature piece of "The March King." It is performed worldwide.

External links

Template:American songs


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