In Virginia, 'Daily Progress' on the March, Literally

By: Mark Fitzgerald To the grand ranks of newspapers that have their own marches -- think John Philip Sousa's "The Washington Post March" or the less-frequently played "Chicago Tribune March," composed by William Paris Chambers -- comes The Daily Progress, the 30,000-circulation Media General Inc. paper in Charlottesville, Va.

The march, simply titled "The Daily Progress," debuts Tuesday in a performance by the Charlottesville Municipal Band at its 83rd annual Spring Concert.

Charlottesville resident Paul Richards, a trumpet player in the municipal band for 15 years, said he was inspired to compose the march for the newspaper by the wisecracks of other musicians in the band. "We have some people who comment every time that we play 'The Washington Post March,' why don't we have a 'Daily Progress March?' And over time, that seemed like a good idea," Richards said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon.

The new composition was first reported by The Daily Progress in an article Monday by staff writer John Yellig.

Richards isn't one to brag, but his wife, Anne, said her husband is a prolific composer who has "written about a dozen or more marches, lately." Among them are "Northwest Expedition," in honor of the recent 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark's expedition, and "Home at Last," composed to mark the band's move to a new performance venue.

Richards, a retired furniture upholsterer, said he is continuing an old tradition by dedicating a march to newspapers.

"There are many, many marches in band literature that were composed for newspapers," he said. "Of course, everybody knows about 'The Washington Post March,' but there were marches for the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Free Press, Wichita Beacon, it just goes on and on. One band, I think, recorded a whole album of newspaper marches."

Getting a march, however, guarantees only musical immortality. The Wichita (Kan.) Beacon, for instance, closed in 1980.

While composing "The Daily Progress," Richards often recalled his experiences helping his wife when she delivered another paper, The News Virginian in Waynesboro.

"We'd go into the back room to pick up [bundles], and you could see there was a lot of energy, a lot of work going on, and the presses running, and it never ends," he said. "So I wanted my march to reflect that energy. There are places where normally a tune would have a pause, and I just kind of denied that opportunity -- the notes just go on and on."

The march is in 6/8 time with a frequent staccato repetition of notes, judging by the brief rendition Richards gave over the phone.

"I do it to sort of portray the frenzied, ongoing pace of the newspaper industry," he said.

Ironically, Anne Richards said, the couple had dropped its seven-day home delivery of the paper at the time Paul Richards began work on the composition. The couple lives about 35 miles outside of Charlottesville, and experienced inconsistent service on their rural route.

"We started having so many problems with the delivery," she said. "We were paying for papers we never got. But now we take it weekends only. He felt he needed to take the paper if he were going to finish this march."


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