Cincinnati native Henry Fillmore (1881-1956) was prolific composer and arranger and a beloved band leader whose music and performances delighted audiences. He started his own professional band (the Fillmore Band) in Cincinnati in the 1930s, one of the last great professional bands of its kind. He was also prolific in creating pseudonyms, including Harold Bennett (whose young band books were famous), Will Huff, Al Hayes, Gus Beans, Henrietta Hall (a rare female name), Ray Hall, Harry Hartley, and others. Over the span of his 50 year career, he (and his pseudonyms) wrote more than 250 original compositions, including 113 marches. He also created more than 750 arrangements for band, many of which are gold standards of the genre. After a long career in Ohio, he moved to Miami (the one in Florida, not the one in Ohio) and became involved with the bands at the University of Miami, where he had a lasting impact and where he left most of his estate.
His Honor is just one of his many famous marches. Written in 1933, it is a brisk circus march with challenges for every instrument. Here is an excerpt of the program notes prepared by legendary conductor (and eventual founder of a wind ensemble at the University of Miami) Frederick Fennell for his edition of His Honor from 1978:
Fillmore dedicated [His Honor] to Mayor Russell Wilson of Cincinnati, and according to Paul Bierley, it was probably played for the first time by the Fillmore Band during their concerts at the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens in August 1933. The Fillmore Bros. Co. [the family publishing house] copyrighted it 22 January 1934.
Henry Fillmore probably never played His Honor (or anything else) exactly as he had approved it for publication; this would have been too confining for his imaginative and expansive musical personality. […] In the tradition of its composer, infinite varieties of format are open to the imaginative conductor. Many variations in scoring and nuance almost seem to be invited by the music itself, although its robust nature does not suggest a “precious” approach.
Fennell goes on to describe how the University of Miami Band of the Hour played it, which I will recount after this video performance of the “as is” version:
The Miami band made the following changes:
- 2nd strain, quarter note people play ff first time, pp 2nd time. Woodwinds play 2nd time only
- Trio played only by oboe, horn, trombone, and bass, “with muted solo cornet punctuating all whole-note F’s as they occur and with suspended cymbal scraped lightly with a coin at the same places.”
- 2nd Trio either as is, as it would have been the first time, or as it would have been PLUS the active woodwind counter melody from the 2nd time.
- 3rd Trio as is, with option of trumpets and trombones with melody standing
In my performance with the Ironwood High School Wind Ensemble, I’ve done it a little differently:
- Intro, 1st strain as is.
- 2nd strain, 1st time: quarter note people pp, lyrical woodwinds ff, 2nd time all ff. This change highlights the contrast with the trio to follow.
- 1st trio as is.
- 2nd trio, woodwind counter melody ff with big crescendos on trills, all others pp throughout.
- 3rd trio, all as written.
A young band version of His Honor also exists, arranged by Larry Clark. Listen and see the score at J. W. Pepper.