CONDUCTOR’S NOTES BY JOHN CURRIE
To give a grand survey of American music in all its aspects - native, imported commercial, non-commercial, early and contemporary - would take a life-time of concerts. Hence the lighter title of this concert: AMERICANA. In it we hope to visit a number of pleasant musical areas which have become beloved and are typically American in history, style, and flavor. All national flavors are defined as much by foreigners as by the nationals themselves. What is typically German, English, Norwegian or whatever, is crystallized (and, alas, often caricaturized) by outsiders. I would like to think, then, that our program tonight would be recognized by members of any nation as a broad selection of typically American music. I also hope that the selection is broad enough not only to please by its variety, charm, and familiarity, but also to give some inkling of those indefinable things, national spirit and character.
From senior living composers who have entered the Americana hall of fame, I could not but choose, in one of his dimensions, Copland. In his long life, he has come to typify much that is essentially American in music. Here is the European tradition invested with the wide open spaces of a new land with its own folk-music and its own distinctive view of man's nobility. The Tender Land may not have made its way internationally as a whole work, but those "Americana" sections which we sing and play tonight are known and loved everywhere, as is the strong heroic Fanfare For The Common Man. (Copland , however, is a large and complex artist, and music in one of his other dimensions, cerebral and less extrovert, would not be recognized as belonging in a program of this title.)
Different, although of the same generation, is the music of Barber, whose late-Romantic glow has an unmistakably American color. I felt it would be right to choose slow music to represent him here. His setting of Hopkins' Heaven-Haven is typical both of the dissonance and sonority of Romantic American unaccompanied choral music. Structurally it is a perfect miniature, the climax perfectly placed. For me, Heaven-Haven is to the symphonic music of Barber what a motet of Bruckner is to his huge symphonies. The very familiar Adagio For Strings holds the same place in the U.S.A. as do Elgar's Nimrod variation and Vaughan Williams' Fantasia On A Theme Of Tallis in Britain. The string movement, like Heaven-Haven, is an amazing fusion of lyrical intensity and structural design. Its sanctified place in any gallery of Americana is, of course, now doubly assured after its highly effective use in the Vietnam War film Platoon.
The music of Gordon Getty, from the generation after Copland and Barber, seemed appropriate for inclusion under "Americana." The two premieres tonight are typical Getty. Direct, attractive, seemingly naive in musical idiom, they appeal by simplicity. These songs join one of the traditional streams of the American choral and orchestral repertoire.
In the realms of early Americana, the choice is wider than you may expect. Here I have not gone for the early military music, political songs, music of Spanish influence, nor for the early sacred music of the somewhat unskilled Mr. Billings. Rather, to represent all the religious musical traditions which planted themselves here, I have chosen the music of the Moravian Church. Those of you who heard their trombone choir, before the concert on the plaza, and later as the Curtain-raiser, will have had a taste of their trombone tradition. But we now include, also, two examples of the Moravian love of and delight in choral and orchestral music. I have included one work by an early immigrant (Peter) and one by a later fully assimilated composer, Hagen. After much suffering in early days in Europe their joyful tradition continues here today.
In the area of folk-song, we have stayed with the now standard arrangements by Copland. They have never been surpassed for liveliness and invention, without destroying the essential character of the songs. Similarly, from the vast repertoire of black spirituals I have chosen four titles which are known the world over, two in unaccompanied arrangements (the one by Shaw is particularly fine) and two with orchestra.
Hovering somewhere around folk, drawing-room ballad, and early music theatre, are the songs of Stephen Foster. Written in a time when social attitudes were different, and describing a romanticized South (which he had scarcely visited), why have these songs survived as world-famous Americana? Because, dammit, the man wrote good tunes. His list of world -wide hits is lengthy: Swanee River, Old Black Joe, Beautiful Dreamer, Camptown Races, and so on. Tonight we include Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair, typically slow and sentimental, and one from his fast, perky, "Southern" genre, The Glendy Burk. I have tried to preserve the original flavor of these gems of Americana. Foster has suffered cruelly from singing re-arrangement. The original harmony and piano accompaniment has been presented in both songs, with the addition of some simple orchestral backing.
If there is any lingering doubt that Foster was a "commercial" composer, that can be swept aside in the case of Gershwin and composers of the American Musical generally. Here is the style which, supremely, typifies "Americana" to the rest of the world. And yet Gershwin does not quite fit. For that reason, I have included his less well known orchestral Promenade side by side with the very familiar, but beautiful, Summertime from Porgy And Bess. Promenade is a mixture of urbanity, wit, and elegant orchestral restraint. And yet its roots are so distinctly American, with its sideways glance at the soft-shoe shuffle, and its gently jazzy clarinet solo. The selection from My Fair Lady stands for that unique world of American show business where theatrical and melodic talent combines happily with profits. Why My Fair Lady? Why not?
HISTORICAL NOTES BY
RICHARD H. TRAME, S.J. PH.D.
In August, 1942, Eugene Goosens, conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, requested Aaron Copland, as one of ten invited international composers, to produce a Fanfare. These ten Fanfares would in one way or another celebrate various facets of World War II. They would serve to introduce in patriotic fashion each of the Orchestra's 1942-43 concerts. Copland's Fanfare was premiered on March 12, 1943.
Wrestling with various titles for his effort, some seven of them, Copland finally decided on Fanfare For The Common Man. In 1944 he incorporated this Fanfare into the third movement of his Third Symphony.
Fanfare's success and popularity is succinctly summarized by William Schumann: "By now it is hard to imagine anyone who has not been stirred by the noble sound of the Fanfare For The Common Man."
Copland's opera The Tender Land was commissioned in 1953 by Rogers and Hammerstein and produced in New York in 1954. Subsequently in 1957 Copland excerpted selections from the not-too-successful opera for chorus and orchestra. Stomp Your Foot is a choral square dance with all the characteristics of a vigorous hoedown. The Promise Of Living is from the opera's thanksgiving quintet and glorifies neighborly love and cooperation.
The Moravian Church, also known as the United Brethren, traces its origin back to the 15th Century Czech theologian John Hus. The first group of Moravians to come to America arrived in 1735 at Savannah, Georgia. In 1740-41, however, they abandoned Georgia for Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which then became their center and the fountain-head of numerous subsequent Moravian communities. The strong musical tradition of the Brethren flowed out of the Church's renewal of 1722 which placed strong emphasis on both congregational and concerted music. Early Moravian composers were influenced by C.P.E. Bach, J.A.P. Schutz, Reichardt and Hiller among others; later ones by Haydn, Weber, and Mendelssohn. Moravian music has only recently begun to be known in the wider circle and mainstream of American sacred music.
Dutch-born Johann Friedrich Peter, while studying for the Moravian ministry in Germany, devoted a great amount of his time toward mastering music. Ordained to the ministry in 1780, ten years after his arrival in North America, he appears to have given music precedence over his pastoral duties and other secular occupations. His sacred music output includes nearly 100 anthems and sacred songs, most of which have elaborate orchestra accompaniment. "He was beyond question," asserts Karl Kroeger of the Moravian Music Foundation, "the most talented composer in America during his day." Harken, Stay Close To Him is scored for two equal voices, two flutes, bassoons and strings.
Johann Herbst was 51 when he sailed with his wife for America in 1786, bringing with him a large library of choral music. His own compositions date from 1765 and manifest him to be a gifted melodist. They consist of about 180 anthems for mixed chorus with instrumental accompaniment. To Us A Child Is Born is scored for double four-part mixed brass.
Of the three Moravian composers represented in this concert program, Francis Florentine Hagen is a native American. Inhibited by an accident in 1870 from pursuing the Moravian ministry further, he devoted the rest of his life to composition. His works signaled some revival of Moravian music which had been in decline since the 1840's. Some dozen harmonically daring anthems, a delightful overture for orchestra, and the beloved Morning Star for children's voices made his name known and respected. All The World Shall Sing His Praise, in this evening's arrangement by Clarence Dickinson, is scored for four-part mixed chorus and strings.
Musicologists disagree among themselves as to the origins of the Spiritual. Some see African origins in transformations effected by the Black slaves. Others see both the White and Black Spiritual transformed through religious meetings in the South from European sources.
Black Spirituals fall into various categories. Some are slow-paced "sorrow songs" exemplified by Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child, or Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.
The rhythmically vital quick-paced "jubilees" are often characterized by call-and-response settings with a more positive, hortatory, and optimistic text. Such are Little David, Play On Your Harp; Set Down, Servant; and Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho.
The origins of one famed Spiritual offers insight into how some arose from the Blacks' historical circumstances.
When on April 14, 1861 Fort Sumter fell to Confederate forces, large numbers of slaves fled to the Union-held Fort Monroe, commanding the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. General Butler rebuffed demands that the slaves be returned to their masters, stating that they were "contraband of war." In the September following, Rev. Lewis Lockwood went to Fort Monroe on behalf of the Y.M .C. A. to investigate the ex-slaves deplorable poverty with an eye to its relief. There he became the first to report on hearing "Contraband Singing," a name which came to characterize the Black's singing there, especially of the great "Contraband Freedom Hymn" Go Down, Moses or Let My People Go. Numerous versions of this Spiritual were published beginning with the December 14, 1861 version. The version derived from that publication with which we are most familiar today was published by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in their great collection of 1872 entitled Jubilee Songs. Indeed, the 1861 publication marked the first true Black Spiritual to be published with its music.
Gershwin's Promenade, published only in 1960 as a piano piece, was originally an instrumental interlude in the movie Shall We Dance. The interlude, entitled Walking The Dog, features Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers actually doing just that to Gershwin's music. On February 26, 1934, George Gershwin wrote to the librettist and co-lyricist Du Boss Heyward that he had begun to compose the music for Act l of the American folk-opera Porgy and Bess. He observed that he was starting with the composition of that act's songs and spirituals. Hence, the well-beloved lullaby Summertime, heard shortly after the opening & Jasbo Brown Blues, was the first composed of the opera's songs. Porgy and Bess premiered at the Alvin Theater, New York, October 10, 1935.
Samuel Barber derived his ever popular Adagio for Strings from the second movement of his String Quartet composed in 1936. The same movement Barber again transformed in 1967 into his choral Agnus Dei Lamb of God. While in Italy during 1935 Barber had the opportunity of showing Arturo Toscanini some of his composition. Subsequently in 1938 Toscanini performed with the N.B.C. Symphony Orchestra Barber's First Essay for Orchestra (1937) and the Adagio. He then recorded the Adagio, launching it as Barber's most popular and frequently performed composition.
1989 marks the centenary of the death of Gerard Manley Hopkins, an English Jesuit, whose stature as one of the 19th Century's most significant poets constantly grows. At Oxford in 1864 while wrestling with his decision to convert to Catholicism, Hopkins produced A Nun Takes The Veil, a haunting evocation of the peace of cloistered life away from life's storms and "out of the swing of the sea."
Samuel Barber in 1937 enhanced the poem's sentiments with his setting entitled Heaven Haven. He incorporated it into Four Songs Opus 13 (1940), which were premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra on April 4, 1941.
Copland incorporated the old minstrel song Ching-A-Ring Chaw coming from the 1830's into the second set of his Old American Songs. Choral arrangements of it were made in various voicings by his accomplished collaborator, Irving Fine.
Boatmen's Dance incorporated into the first set of Old American Songs (1950), was a banjo melody by Dan D. Emmett, the composer of Dixie. It was first published in 1843. Included also in that first set was the Shaker song of 1837, Simple Gifts or as it is also known, T'is The Gift To Be Simple.
Stephen Foster's songs, close to 200 of them, comprise two general categories: songs of the "hearth and heart" and "Ethiopian" songs for minstrel shows. In the former classification Foster manifested familiarity with several different European song traditions of the 19th Century. Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair falls within the Irish popular and folksong tradition. It is one of five songs Foster composed in witness to his affection for his wife, Jane McDowell, whom he married in 1850. Published in 1854, its sentiments express genuine longing for his wife, at that time separated from him.
While The Glendy Burk, published in 1860, is in the words of one biographer "a song by no means equal to O Susanna (1848) or Camptown Races ( 1850), it is at least a reminder of the youthful Foster."
By 1860 Foster had drifted away from the use of Negro dialect in his songs. In The Glendy Burk, however, it reappears, testimony to his having probably visited the moored Ohio River steamboat once again to hear the Black deckhands' and stevedores' jargon.
Gabriel Pascal, the celebrated Hungarian movie producer, had to await the death of George Bernard Shaw in 1950 before he could even think of proceeding to produce a Musical from Shaw's play Pigmalion. While Shaw had grudgingly granted leave for Pascal to make Pigmalion into a movie, he adamantly forbade any tampering with the play's "own verbal music" with a view to a musical setting.
Even before Pascal could get rights from the Shaw estate to produce the proposed musical, he approached Noel Coward, Cole Porter, and Rodgers and Hammerstein, among others, to compose the work. All turned him down. He then approached Lerner and Loewe who agreed. Pascal, however, himself died before the two finally secured legal clearance. They then renewed their collaboration to create My Lady Liza, later to be renamed My Fair Lady.
When they commenced work on the play's transformation Lerner observed, "It was a big surprise - we hardly had to enlarge the plot. We just added what Shaw had happening off-stage."
While Rex Harrison was the obvious choice for Henry Higgins, Eliza Doolittle's casting according to Shaw's injunction that she be between 18 and 20 created problems. The invited box office bombshell Mary Martin rejected the part because she did not like the five songs Lerner and Loewe played for her. Then after auditioning some fifty English girls, they chose Julie Andrews, in spite of her qualms about her rightness for the part!
My Fair Lady opened at the MKark Hellinger Theater in New York, March 15, 1956. It ran for 2,717 performances and by December, 1958 had earned a record $10 million.
COMPOSER’S NOTES BY GORDON GETTY
The six choruses collected as Victorian Scenes were begun as separate a cappella works. All Along the Valley was published in this form in 1959, and the rest in 1982 and 1983. Accompaniments were an afterthought, evolving bit by bit from discreet pitch cues to full melodic partners with lives of their own.
The idea of performing the choruses together was there form the start. In source and spirit, all six are campfire songs. So it isn’t by chance that all the poems are resonant of nature when “natural philosophy” and melancholy were the special genius of English verse.
We northerners are not so long accustomed to cities as our Mediterranean cousins. In the end we would rather trust the forests and mountains, the sea and stars, the immense and self-replenishing. It was ever so in England, and never more so than when Victorians were attempting a gallant stand against the skepticism inherent in their own science. The two generations that separate our pets are simply another proof of the persistence and compass of the vision that unites them.
By all accounts, Poe’s marriage was as idyllic as his life outside it was desperate. But his wife-cousin bore the lung disease that had killed his mother when he was two. By the spring of 1846 her condition was dangerous. A neighbor at that time happened to see Poe in a cherry tree, tossing the fruit down to Virginia. She was laughing as she caught them in her lap. All at once blood came from her lips. Poe leapt down and carried her into the house.
In January 1847, Virginia Clemm Poe died of tuberculosis. Like Poe’s mother, she was twenty-four. They had been married over ten years. She was buried near their home in Fordham. A friend reported that “Many times…was he found at the dead hour of a winter night, sitting beside her tomb almost frozen in the snow…” Annabel Lee was finished by mid-1849. Poe’s own death at forty followed within the year.
The poem is a unique challenge. Critics will not need their spectacles to find its faults of taste. But any who are not moved by it might as well give up reading poetry, or at least romantic poetry. It invites us to re-examine our prejudices against sentimentality. It puts us through the wringer, like it or not. Mawkish and melodramatic, towering and harrowing, it will not leave us in peace.
Each of us recognizes the kingdom by the sea, where the angels cannot be trusted. We knew it before we knew any other world, the world of first helplessness, first beauty, a homeland older than memory. We cannot return without pain. And each of us recalls something of ourselves in the haunted innocent whom the gods, out of mercy, had made mad.