Page 2 - Kenneth Alford Eagle Squadron March
P. 2

Program Notes

         Kenneth J. Alford was a pseudonym for Frederick Joseph Ricketts; Alford was his mother’s family name. Born on
February 21, 1881, the son of a coal merchant, he studied both piano and organ as a child. At fourteen he enlisted in the 1st Bn.
Royal Irish Regiment as a band boy, playing cornet as well as violin and euphonium. Ricketts entered the Royal School of
Music at Kneller Hall in 1904, serving as organist and Assistant Director of Music from 1906 to 1908. He completed the
difficult course of study in 1908 and was appointed Bandmaster of the Second Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. In
the fall of 1925, the Highlanders became the resident band for the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in Wellington, New
Zealand. During a six-month stay, the band played two concerts daily before thousands of enthusiastic listeners. In the final
month, the crowd-pleasing conductor and his musicians played 85 requests, including several of his own marches and a fantasia
written for the occasion, Dunedin-New Zealand. He later composed Dunedin March and Old Panama March in memory of that
voyage. In 1927 Ricketts was granted a commission as Lieutenant and Director of Music for the Royal Marines at Deal (near the
English Channel), and in 1930 he was transferred to Plymouth where he remained until his retirement as a major in 1944. F. J.
Ricketts died at his home in Reigate, Surrey on May 15, 1945.

         Most of Rickett’s (Alford’s) marches were composed during the decades of his appointment as Bandmaster of the
Second Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Throughout the 1930’s most of his creative energies were consumed
producing arrangements for the radio broadcasts of the Band of Plymouth Division Royal Marines. As the dark clouds of World
War II began forming on the horizon, he turned his energies towards helping the war effort in the best way that he knew,
composing marches celebrating the efforts of the gallant men defending Great Britain, producing his last two marches, A rmy of
the Nile and Eagle Squadron. Army of the Nile was composed in 1941, celebrating one of the first decisive victories of the
conflict as 30,000 members of the British 8th Army defeated the 80,000 Italian troops that Mussolini had sent to add to his
possessions on the African continent.

         The legacy of the Eagle Squadrons is less well-known. The Battle of Britain is the name given to the aerial warfare that
raged over the skies of England and Northern Europe from May though October 1940. Most Americans followed the battle in the
news and suspected that in time the United States would become involved in the war. The stories of the Royal Air Force pilots
flying their Hurricanes and Spitfires inspired both Canadians and Americans to look into joining the RAF. As a result of the
Battle of Britain the RAF was short on pilots so a call went out for pilots to replace the depleted ranks. Of the thousands that
volunteered, 244 American pilots were accepted to fly with the Eagle Squadrons (so named as a tribute to the symbolic
American bald eagle): Numbers 71, 121, and 133 Squadrons of the Royal Air Force Fighter Command. It was the RAF’s policy
to pick Englishmen as squadron and flight commanders and 16 of these British pilots served with the Eagle Squadrons. From the
time the first Eagle Squadron was formed in September 1940 until all three squadrons were disbanded and incorporated into the
United States Army Air Force in September 1942, they destroyed 73 1/2 German planes while 77 American and 5 British
members were killed. Rickett’s (Alford’s) march Eagle Squadron incorporates a number of quotes from “The Star-Spangled
Banner,” “Rule Britannia”, and the “Royal Air Force March Past”, and the break-up strain clearly refers to the Siegfried motive
from Richard Wagner’s “Ring of the Nibelung”. Rickett’s valedictory march, and perhaps his greatest masterpiece, is a fitting
tribute to these valiant Americans, many of whom gave their lives in the service of liberty in the early days of the war.

                        About the Editor

         R. Mark Rogers has degrees from Texas Tech University and the University of Texas. As Director of Publications for
Southern Music Company from 1993 through 2012, he authored editions of the music of Percy Grainger and John Philip Sousa
that have entered band repertory worldwide. He is also widely published as an arranger and transcriber, with performances by all
five of the Washington, DC service bands. Dr. Rogers is the conductor of the Heart of Texas Concert Band and serves on the
adjunct faculty of San Antonio College, Texas Lutheran University, Trinity University and Texas A&M University-Corpus
Christi, and prior to coming to San Antonio was on the faculty of the University of South Alabama and a staff member with the
University of Texas Longhorn Band. A bassoonist, he performs with the orchestras of Corpus Christi, Victoria, Laredo, San
Antonio and Austin, as well as the Mid-Texas Symphony. He is active in church music and occasionally appears in music
theater, including numerous roles in the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Sudie, his wife of nearly forty years, his children and
their spouses (and grandchild), are the joy of his later years.

                        NOTE: Eur opean br ass par ts including E-flat Horns, B-flat Trombones in Treble Clef,
                   and Treble Clef Tubas in B-flat and E-flat are available for free download at: southernmusic.com
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