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"Seventy-Six Trombones" is the signature song from the 1957 musical play The Music Man (1957), written by Meredith Willson. The song also appeared in the 1962 film and in the made-for-TV movie adaptation in 2003. It is also a piece commonly played by marching and military bands. The song's opening lines are:
Seventy-six trombones led the big parade
With a hundred and ten cornets close at hand ...
Leroy Anderson wrote a popular arrangement of the piece that integrates other popular marches including Stars and Stripes Forever and The Washington Post March by John Philip Sousa (in whose band Willson had played), the National Emblem march by Edwin Eugene Bagley, the Swedish march "Under blågul fana" ("Under the Blue and Yellow Flag") by Viktor Widqvist, and the Second Regiment, Connecticut National Guard march by D. W. Reeves.
In The Music Man
In the musical, "Professor" Harold Hill uses the song to help the townspeople of River City, Iowa visualize their children playing in a marching band by claiming to recall a time when he saw several famous bandleaders' bands in a combined performance. While an average-sized high school marching band might have about 10 musicians playing the trombone, and a large college marching band seldom has more than 30 trombonists, the band that Harold Hill describes to the citizens includes 76 trombones, 110 cornets, "more than a thousand reeds", double bell euphoniums, and "fifty mounted cannon" (which were popular in bands of the late 19th century).
The love ballad "Goodnight My Someone", which immediately precedes "Seventy-Six Trombones" in the musical, has the same tune but is played in 3/4 time, at a slower tempo. At the end of the musical, lines from "Seventy-Six Trombones" and "Goodnight My Someone" are sung in alternation with each other.
In Willson's hometown of Mason City, Iowa, the song is honored (along with the whole plot of The Music Man) in a building called "Music Man Square", which is located next to Willson's boyhood home. In one large room, there are 76 donated trombones hanging from the ceiling.