Sunday, November 18, 2012
Bryan Fine Arts Building, Tennessee Tech University
• 2 p.m., concert preview, Room 223
• 3 p.m., concert begins, Wattenbarger Auditorium
• 5 p.m. (estimated), post-concert reception, lobby
Gould: American Salute
Danner: The Greatest Generation
Holland: Motor City Dance Mix
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Bryan Symphony audiences appreciate the kind of diverse and creative programming their music director arranges each season. The November 2012 performance is unabashedly all-American, from the premiere of resident composer Gregory Danner’s award-winning and newly orchestrated “Greatest Generation” to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Jonathan Bailey Holland's "Motor City Dance Mix." Performing one of the Broadway icon’s most revered compositions, Rhapsody in Blue, is a BSO favorite soloist from 2004, Michael Chertock, whose solos with the Boston Pops have been described as “technically precise, wildly romantic and deftly elegant.”
The Bryan Symphony Orchestra Association gratefully acknowledges the sponsors of our November 2012 performance: Father Herb and Mrs. Betty Catlin, Bob and Gail Luna, MaryDell and Robert Sommers, and Luna & Birdwell Investment Group.
A limited number of individual tickets may still be available for this performance and may be reserved in advance of each concert -- or they may be available at the box office prior to each concert.
- Adult: $32
- Seniors (65+): $27
- Students: $8
Call the box office at 931-525-2633 for ticket reservations or stand-by ticketing.
Directions and Parking
The Bryan Symphony Orchestra performs all regular subscription and education concerts in Wattenbarger Auditorium, the concert hall of the Bryan Fine Arts Building on the Tennessee Tech University campus. The Bryan Fine Arts Building is located on the corner of 12th Street and North Dixie Avenue in Cookeville.
From Interstate 40, take Exit 286 (Willow Avenue). Turn north on Willow and travel approximately two miles to 12th Street and turn right.
Free parking on concert Sundays is available anywhere on campus. The nearest large parking lots are across Dixie Avenue from the Bryan Fine Arts Building, between Tucker Stadium and the Volpe Library, behind the Roaden University Center and at the former Prescott Middle School, two blocks away on 10th Street.
View Larger Map
• “BSO Backstage”: 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 8, and 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 16, on public television station WCTE-TV (Ch. 10 on Charter cable in Cookeville and Ch. 22 on Dish and Direct satellite). The series is an original production hosted by Desiree Duncan with guests Dan Allcott and Laura Clemons, interim executive director of the Bryan Symphony Orchestra Association.
• Cumberland County concert preview luncheon: 11 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Palace Theater on Main Street in Crossville. Cost is $10 and payable at the door. Call 931-484-6133 for reservations by Monday, Nov. 12.
• Concert preview lecture: 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 18, in Room 223 of the Bryan Fine Arts Building, led by Catherine Godes of the TTU music faculty.
• Concert: 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 18, Wattenbarger Auditorium in the Bryan Fine Arts Building.
• Post-concert reception: Sunday, Nov. 18, Bryan Fine Arts Building lobby, hosted by Sean and Michelle O’Neil.
• Post-concert dinner: Sunday, Nov. 18, Mauricio’s Italian Restaurant, located at 232 N. Peachtree Ave. Call 931-525-2633 for dinner reservations by noon, Saturday, Nov. 17.
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012
GOULD American Salute
DANNER The Greatest Generation
GERSHWIN Rhapsody in Blue for piano and orchestra
HOLLAND Motor City Dance Mix
In a train’s “steely rhythms, its rattlety-bang,” said George Gershwin, “I suddenly heard -- and even saw on paper -- the complete construction of the rhapsody from beginning to end. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America -- of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our blues, our metropolitan madness."
Every generation is convinced it faces unheard-of crises -- and that's probably true, because we’re nothing if not inventive. It could be argued that every generation genuinely does live with new challenges. But not since the 20th-century triple-threat of World War I, the Depression and World War II have Americans suffered a similar kind of deprivation and despair that our forebears in Europe, Africa and Asia were long used to.
As politics and economics divided the Old World in the years leading up to World War I, wave after wave of immigrants fled their homelands. The New World beckoned, seemingly with room for all. Italian, German, British, French, and Greek, all of Eastern Europe, all the countries of Asia – these are our grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, as are the African-Americans who managed to survive their enslavement. These are the men and women who contributed their own brand of spirit and courage to the vast American melting pot.
AMERICAN SALUTE (1942)
Morton Gould (1913-1996)
The American timeline rises and falls between wars, a nation's most profound crisis. In the early days of World War II, American conductor, composer and pianist Morton Gould wrote "American Salute," which harkened back to the devastating national crisis of the Civil War. Gould used a song written during the War Between the States, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again," as the foundation for his tribute to every branch of the military in every era.
"Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" was written by Patrick Gilmore, bandmaster of the 22nd New York Regiment. Its melody, akin to Irish folksongs popular throughout the United States, appealed to people above and below the Mason-Dixon line -- perhaps because of the shared Irish heritage in both the North and South. Its lyrics, set in four verses, still comfort the families and friends of soldiers, with their reassurance of a reunion with the survivors of war. The song begins and ends with these hopeful lines:
When Johnny comes marching home again, Hurrah, Hurrah,
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then, Hurrah, Hurrah;
The men will cheer, and the boys will shout,
The ladies, they will all turn out,
And we’ll all feel gay,
When Johnny comes marching home.
Let love and friendship on that day, Hurrah, Hurrah,
Their choicest treasures then display, Hurrah, Hurrah,
And let each one perform some part,
To fill with joy the warrior’s heart,
And we’ll all feel gay,
When Johnny comes marching home.
THE GREATEST GENERATION * (2012)
By Greg Danner (1958- )
*A joint world premiere for orchestra
The image of America that George Gershwin gave the world was largely a reflection of the Jazz Age -- that beautiful, flashy, devil-may-care backlash to the horrors of World War I. Like any bright flame, the Jazz Age sputtered out, leaving in contrast the Depression and then the first echoes, across the Atlantic, of the war to end all wars.
Americans of the 1930s and ‘40s – many the sons and daughters of recent immigrants – were no strangers to economic ruin. If they had not personally suffered it by the time of the Depression, their parents almost certainly had – in the slums of Russia’s cities, the agriculturally deprived countryside of Ireland, the industrial serfdoms of England. The stories of how you “make do” were as familiar as the books of the Old Testament or the Torah.
So when Franklin Roosevelt declared that day of infamy in 1941, Americans rose to the occasion with pluck, determination and something resembling the “national pep” Gershwin attributed to the American persona.
Composer Greg Danner’s father, Fred Lee Danner, served as a gunner’s mate onboard the destroyer USS Cowell during World War II and was highly decorated. Danner grew up with stories of heroism in a time of war and stoicism on the homefront, as families waited for word of their loved ones in combat. While television began bringing us moving images of the European and Pacific theaters, some of the most poignant descriptions of life during World War II are captured in the letters between husbands and wives, siblings and friends, parents and children. Some of these letters informed mothers that their sons had died. They chronicled the pain of separation between lovers. They made jokes about how you couldn’t find a decent pair of stockings any longer, and they tried to give comfort where none was truly possible.
The phrase “the greatest generation” is one of utmost respect for the Americans who grew up during the Depression and went on to serve in World War II and build and sustain a support system for the troops here at home. Journalist Tom Brokaw coined the phrase first in his news broadcasts and later, in 1998, in his book of the same name.
Danner, like a historian or journalist, tells his story of the greatest generation using primary material -- the letters of the people with the most at stake – in this case, the soldiers and families of World War II. The setting begins during the Depression, a time of “lost opportunities for many Americans.” The work is informed by both the writers of the letters themselves and the descendents of those writers, who unanimously embraced the composer’s intent of setting their families’ stories to music.
Commissioned for concert band by the American School Band Directors Association and premiered at its 57th annual convention, “The Greatest Generation” won the 2010 Composers’ Guild Grand Prize. The Bryan Symphony Orchestra commissioned, in collaboration with the Oak Ridge Symphony, an orchestrated version of “The Greatest Generation” as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.
Its narration quotes four letters written by a soldier trying to console his parents, a soldier whose daughter was born while he was overseas, a soldier who survived D-Day, and an infantry soldier interviewed years later, who tried to put the experience of his generation into perspective for those of us who follow.
MOTOR CITY DANCE MIX (2003)
Jonathan Bailey Holland (1974- )
Today's program extends into the modern-day American experience, encompassing the work of a young composer, Jonathan Bailey Holland, who was also influenced by the "metropolitan madness" Gershwin described -- if from a different city, Detroit. In "Motor City Dance Mix," you find fragments of much of today's popular music.
"The work celebrates the multitude of musical influences associated with Detroit, the Motor City," says Holland. "With this work I wanted to create a composition that drew on popular music influences, both because that is what Detroit is known for, and because popular music styles are a part of my own musical interests and inspiration."
Critics cite Holland's "ear for effective orchestration, a fine theatrical sense and real skill in formal layout."
“I am as influenced by contemporary classical music as I am by jazz, rap, r&b, neosoul, and all other good music," says Holland. "I am fascinated by color, both visually and aurally. I studied classical music as a student, but I've been influenced by many other types of music. I felt like 'Motor City Dance Mix' was a good opportunity to bring all of those popular music influences into my own composition -- something I had resisted for various reasons.
"The real draw for me with popular music is the fact that any number of musicians can get together with whatever instruments and voices they have and recreate a song. Classical music often calls for a prescribed set of material and conditions in order to perform any work, whereas most popular music allows for more freedom. I'm interested in bringing these two worlds together. The work doesn't make reference to particular pieces, but rather hints at different styles. I hope it's a fun piece for the orchestra to play and the audience to hear."
A member of the faculty at Boston's Berklee College of Music and Vermont College of Fine Arts, Holland is a doctoral graduate of Harvard. He's served as composer-in-residence with several ensembles and music series, and his work has been performed and commissioned by numerous organizations. Appropriately enough, "Motor City Dance Mix" was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony and written to celebrate the opening of the Max M. Fisher Music Center.
Today's performance will be the second collaboration between Maestro Allcott and Holland. Their first was the premiere of "Primary Movements," a ballet commissioned by the Dallas Symphony and Dallas Black Dance Theater.
LULLABY (1919 or 1920)
RHAPSODY IN BLUE FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA (1924)
George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Orchestration by Ferde Grofé
In the late 1800s, Russia, split apart by ethnic cleansing, wasn’t safe for Jews. Within a few years of each other, friends Moishe Gershovitz and Rose Bruskin fled their native St. Petersburg to New York, desperate to leave a country that had turned against them. By 1895, they’d reunited and married, renting the first of many tiny apartments on the overcrowded Lower East Side of Manhattan. By the time they began their family, they had smoothed out their name to Gershvin, or Gershwin. Their first child, Ira, was born in 1896, and George came along in 1898, a few months after Moishe and Rose had become citizens of the United States.
School didn’t interest George, and when the family bought an upright piano, he found a creative outlet in music. Within two years, he’d outpaced his local teachers, moving on to study with a man who created a challenging classical curriculum for the budding pianist.
Gershwin entered the work force early, hiring on at one of his father’s restaurants. He hated the work and railed against the low pay. At 15 years old, frustrated with the food service and academics, but smitten with music, the boy leapt at an opportunity to apply for an opening at a publishing house on Tin Pan Alley.
The job, as song “plugger,” was in sales. Pluggers pitched a publisher’s songs by playing them for potential buyers. Gershwin not only played piano, but sang, and he began composing his own songs in this timeframe, too.
After three years, Gershwin moved on, finding new work on Broadway as a rehearsal pianist for the Jerome Kern-Victor Herbert show “Miss 1917” at the Century Theater. People started noticing not only his playing but his composing skills, and he was signed by a major publishing house. By 1919, at just 20 years old, he’d written his first full Broadway score, for “La La Lucille.” By 1920, Al Jolson had recorded Gershwin’s “Swanee,” cementing Gershwin’s reputation and making him a small fortune.
At the same time, Gershwin wrote "Lullaby," a piece that most of America didn't get to hear for nearly 50 years -- at least, not as originally written. It first gained notice as the basis of the aria "Has Anyone Seen My Joe?" in Gershwin's 1922 one-act opera, "Blue Monday." It wasn't until 1967 that"Lullaby" was finally performed as originally written. The next year, George's brother, Ira, wrote that "it may not be the Gershwin of Rhapsody in Blue, Concerto in F, and his other concert works, but I find it charming and kind.”
“Rhapsody in Blue” came along four years after "Lullaby," premiering in 1924 in New York’s Aeolian concert hall before an audience that included Sergei Rachmaninoff and conductor Leopold Stokowski. Both attended to hear a series of performances dubbed “An Experiment in Modern Music.” Organized by dance band leader Paul Whiteman, the concert was intended to help legitimize the new and distinctly American musical form, jazz. Gershwin wrote “Rhapsody” in two weeks; a member of Whiteman’s team, composer and arranger Ferde Grofé, orchestrated it for Whiteman’s ensemble; and it became the sensation of an otherwise mediocre evening of new compositions.
Performed by Gershwin and Whiteman’s band, “Rhapsody” went on to Carnegie Hall, and then on tour, and then into a recording studio. In 1925, Gershwin made the cover of Time magazine. His earnings for “Rhapsody” alone, over the next 10 years, exceeded a quarter of a million dollars. He moved his family to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, became an art collector, traveled extensively, and was in constant demand as a performer and composer.
All this from the son of recent immigrants, a boy who worked in his dad’s restaurant, a boy who may not have graduated from high school, but did graduate from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway.
No one else could have written “Rhapsody in Blue,” let alone “An American in Paris” and “Porgy and Bess.” It took a composer with a certain sensibility and a receptive ear for the sounds around him on the streets of New York to hear all the threads he ultimately wove into the piece. New York was the “vast melting pot,” with neighborhoods clannishly composed of immigrant groups -- and the unwilling immigrant groups – namely, black Americans. Gershwin, from the minute he was born, would have heard the city’s clamor: its voices; the mechanics of street cars, trains and heavy industry; the music spilling out of speakeasies and churches, schools and concert halls, brownstone stoops and street corners.
From the cadence of Yiddish to the slow, sexy rhythm of jazz – that opening solo clarinet wail! – “Rhapsody in Blue” captured the spirit of New York in a way no other music had. And in doing so, given the time, it also captured the essence of how the world saw America. This was a country as wed to its native -- and assimilated – music as it was the European classics. This was, truly, the melting pot.
Conductor Arturo Toscanini declared that “Gershwin’s music is the only real American music.”
Because Gershwin was as adept with “popular” music – Broadway and popular song – as he was symphonic music, critics sometimes doubted his seriousness. He seemed always to be aware of his lack of formal training in the classics, having only those few years of music lessons as a teenager. He repeatedly approached musical luminaries about the possibility of studying with them, and there are stories – perhaps apocryphal – in which he is famously rejected. Maurice Ravel, for instance, supposedly told the young composer, “Why be a second-rate Ravel, when you are a first-rate Gershwin?” Arnold Schoenberg said, “I would only make you a bad Schoenberg, and you’re such a good Gershwin already.”
Schoenberg also said, in response to criticism of Gershwin the composer, that he was “a man who lives in music and expresses everything, serious or not, by means of music, because it is his native language. There are a number of composers, serious (as they believe) or not (as I know), who learned to add notes together. But they are only serious on account of a perfect lack of humor and soul.
“It seems to me that this difference alone is sufficient to justify calling the one a composer, but the other none. An artist is to me like an apple tree: When his time comes, whether he wants it or not, he bursts into bloom and starts to produce apples. And as an apple tree neither knows nor asks about the value experts of the market will attribute to its product, so a real composer does not ask whether his products will please the experts of serious arts. He only feels he has to say something and says it."
We should never forget that we Americans are the sons and daughters of immigrants – either recent or as far back as the pilgrims. Some are the descendants of brave people who sought a different life, who actively looked for opportunity, and others were brought here against their will. Bowed by the Depression and an inclination to look inward, it took us a few years to remember our roots and respond not only to the attack on our own shores in 1941, but the ongoing crisis in the lands our people came from.
Our response to these times of crisis, as much as anything, defines 20th-century America. Today, members of the greatest generation are in our audience – and without them, and hundreds of others over the years, the Bryan Symphony Orchestra might not exist. One of those audience members from years ago was one of our founders, Joan Derryberry, who tirelessly championed Allied support of her native England as first lady of Tennessee Tech and who brought to her new home the story of her bowed but undefeated homeland in the war’s aftermath. In 1946, she sailed home for Devon, Plymouth and London, and in one of her letters to her husband, Tennessee Tech President Everett Derryberry, she wrote:
“The thing that gets me the most are places like Regent Street, Picadilly and Pall Mall, which used to be so dignified and glossy and rich-looking. Now they give an impression of shabby greyness, discoloration, tiredness, and the people are exactly the same. The shoppers on Bond Street and Seville Row? That is absolutely gone. For everyone, rich and poor alike, look shabby and tired and grey. Just think, you hardly ever see a woman in a hat. No more nice shining shoes and kid gloves! Everyone is drab and down at heel, parched and turned and mended.”
There is nothing drab and down at heel, parched or turned or mended about Morton Gould's "American Salute," Greg Danner's "Greatest Generation," Jonathan Bailey Holland's "Motor City Dance Mix," or George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” The music of these unabashedly American compositions is a reflection not of any national despair, but of realized opportunity.
-- By Laura Clemons and Dan Allcott