December 13, 2014 7:30 PM
Vernon Cook Theater
Clinton High School
Trepak (from Nutcracker)
arr. R. R. Bennett
Waltz of the Flowers (Nutcracker)
Wine, Women and Song
Canadian Brass Christmas
I N T E R M I S S I O N
How Great Our Joy
A cappella pieces
George Frederick Handel
And the Glory
Glory to God
A Tribute of Carols (sing-a-long)
White Christmas is considered the most popular song in America's history. The composer of the tune came to America with his family from a backward Russia, hoping to fulfill the great promise of his adopted land: In America, one can become whatever he wants to be, limited only by his own ambitions. Arriving in New York City in 1893, Irving Berlin (1888-1989) - Israel 'Izzy' Baline - and his family settled into an apartment on the squalid East Side, and 'Izzy' and his sisters started school. Fate intervened, however, and young Berlin found himself, following the sudden death of his father, on the streets of the city hawking newspapers to do his part in keeping the family together. With only two years of formal education, the young lad took in the flavor of his paper route, observing and noting the sights and sounds that drifted from the saloons and parlors that were part of his borough. His keen natural skills allowed him to quickly advance. In 1908 he was hired on at a saloon as a composer; in two years, he was hired by a song writing firm in Tin Pan Alley. He was moving on up by virtue of his abilities and for this he gave thanks to America - "God bless America," he would often quote his mother's favorite expression.
Berlin had his first world-wide success in 1911, Alexander's Ragtime Band, a tune so infectious that it revived the ragtime mood that had gripped the country a decade before with Scott Joplin. From there, the rest of his life was the American dream, something he mentioned at every opportunity. In his sixty years plus of songwriting he estimated he had written more than 1,400 songs; for a time, he wrote a song a day, most often at night while the rest of the city slept. Berlin tirelessly supported the efforts of the country during two world wars. During World War II, he maintained a troupe of entertainers who traveled from camp to camp to keep up the morale of the troops; he was away from home and family for three and a half years. Fellow songwriter Jerome Kern gave Berlin the ultimate praise by stating that Berlin was not part of American music, but that "[H]e is American music."
Where, when, and how White Christmas came to be written is open to question. Berlin, as he often did with other of his songs, gave conflicting accounts. One account by Berlin states that in 1940 he was poolside at a hotel on a hot day in Phoenix, Arizona, when the words and tune came to him. He called his secretary in New York City and told her to get pencil and paper and copy down the words to the "greatest song that's ever been written." Another account relates that he was away from his family for an extended period in 1937 when his agent visited him and brought a short film of Berlin's family waving, laughing, and playing in the snow back East. Berlin, missing his family during the holiday season, waxed nostalgic and the words and music flowed easily from him.
Whatever the truth may be, the song was introduced in the wartime film Holiday Inn (1942), starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Marjorie Reynolds. It became an immediate hit and provided Crosby his most enduring legacy. But for Berlin, of all his songs, God Bless America was the best.
Alan Anthony Silvestri (born 1950) is an American composer and conductor noted for his scores for movies and television shows. Born in Teaneck, New Jersey, he attended the local schools and then studied for two years at Berklee College of Music. At age 21, he scored his first movie, The Doberman Gang, and was on his way to a thriving career as a composer for movies and television.
During the 1970s Silvestri nurtured his career by composing for television shows such as T. J. Hooker, CHiPS, Starsky and Hutch, and Tales from the Cryst. among others. He composed four scores for movies during the decade, and in so doing took advantage of these opportunities to foster relationships with big screen producers and directors.
Silvestri, in the three and a half decades since 1980, has composed music for more than a hundred films, reaching a decade high of forty four in the 1990s. He was fortunate to team with producer Robert Zemeckis in 1984, writing the score the highly entertaining film Romancing the Stone. From that production, the two have collaborated on all of Zemeckis's films, including the blockbuster Back to the Future triology, Forrest Gump, and The Polar Express. Besides Zemeckis, Silvestri has found regular work with director Stephen Sommers and has scored several of that director's action movies - The Mummy Returns, Beowulf, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers.
Silvestri and Zemeckis have joined forces once again to produce a stage musical of Back to the Future, to open in 2015, the thirty year anniversary of the film. Along with Glen Ballard, the composer plans an entirely new score for this stage show.
Among his many awards, Silvestri has had two nominations each for Academy Awards and for Golden Globes, both for Forrest Gump and for the song 'Believe' from The Polar Express. In addition, he has won two Grammy Awards and two Emmy Awards.
Johann Strauss, Jr. (1825-1899) showed remarkable musical skills quite early. His father, Johann Strauss, Sr., was a noted band leader in Vienna, but he wanted his sons to pursue business-oriented occupations. In opposition to his father's wishes, the younger Johann took violin lessons from one of his father's musicians. After his father deserted the family, Johann began his music studies in earnest. Two years later in 1844 he conducted his first concert and within another year, he had his own orchestra and was competing with his father's ensemble. Soon, Strauss was writing his own material in a variety of dance styles: quadrilles, polkas, mazurkas, and waltzes. He did not restrict his repertoire to his own works, but featured the compositions of other composers, including those of his father.
Strauss married singer Henrietta Treffz in 1862 and settled in the Hietzing section of Vienna. His wife proved to be an excellent business manager, organizing his show dates and managing the family's financial affairs. It was she who encouraged him to write operettas. Strauss's initial entry in operetta was Indigo and the Forty Thieves in 1871, followed in 1873 with his greatest triumph in that genre, Die Fledermaus. Other of his stage scores followed, including the international favorites One Night in Venice and The Gypsy Baron.
Following the death of his wife in 1878, Strauss quickly married again to a young actress. The match was destined for failure and after four years, the two separated. He then took up with Adele Deutsch, a woman who exercised some of the same stable influences and management skills as his first wife. As a divorcee, Strauss, a Roman Catholic, had to leave the church and lose, as well, his Austrian citizenship to marry Adele in 1887. Strauss died on June 3, 1899, from pneumonia. He was working on another operetta, Cinderella, at the time.
Wine, Women and Song is one of over five hundred dances Johann Strauss, Jr., composed.
Although a composer of original material, Calvin Custer (d. 1998) is best known for his rousing arrangements of other composers' works. A graduate of Carnegie-Mellon and Syracuse Universities, Custer served as an all--purpose performer with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra (SSO) for twenty-four years.
Four years after joining the SSO as a keyboardist and horn and brass performer, in 1966 Custer was appointed Associate Conductor and Resident Conductor for the group. He was instrumental in the orchestra's community outreach programs and performed regularly with the SSO Percussion Ensemble and the Syracuse Symphony Rock Ensemble.
Custer's arrangements have been performed by many major orchestras and recorded by the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler. His original compositions include Concert Piece for Horn and Orchestra (1978), Music for Brass and Percussion (1982), and Fanfare (1985).
The Clinton Symphony Orchestra played Custer's arrangement of well-known James Bond themes at a previous concert and at the free public Symphony in the Park summer programs.
A Canadian Brass Christmas Suite is a medley of six Christmas pieces based on arrangements for the popular Canadian Brass ensemble.The six carols referenced in the suite are Jingle Bells; Good King Wenceslas; Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming; Carol Of The Bells; Silent Night; and O, Come All Ye Faithful.
Peter Ily'ich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) considered his music for The Nutcracker ballet to be "infinitely poorer" than that of The Sleeping Beauty. Following the success of his opera Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades), Tchaikovsky accepted two commissions from the director of the Imperial Theatres - one for a ballet and another for a one-act opera. The director gave Tchaikovsky no options on the subject for the ballet; it was to be based on Alexandre Dumas père's adaptation of E. T. A. Hoffman's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Tchaikovsky liked neither Dumas' adaptation nor Hoffman's original story but felt compelled, for financial reasons, to fulfill his obligation.
He began work on the score in early 1892 prior to leaving for a successful tour of the United States. He finished the piece by late summer of the same year. To generate public enthusiasm for the ballet, the composer made a suite of eight of the numbers he had already completed and presented The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 72a to the St. Petersburg branch of the Musical Society on March 19, 1892. The complete ballet debuted in December 1892 to generally poor reviews. While the suite was an immediate success, the complete ballet did not achieve great popularity until the 1950s. It has since become standard Christmas fare.
Trepak and Waltz of the Flowers are two of the pieces from the original Nutcracker Suite of 1892. Of special interest is Tchaikovsky's use of the then newly-invented instrument, the celesta. The composer was particularly intrigued by the heavenly sound the celesta produced and used it in several places throughout the score.
Composer John Milford Rutter (1945- ) is a British composer, arranger, and conductor who has been compared with English author Charles Dickens for the impact he has made on the Christmas season. Dickens produced the now classic A Christmas Carol and Rutter has composed and/or arranged more than thirty carols since he graduated Claire College, Cambridge. His Shepherd's Pipe Carol which he wrote while still in school has sold in sheet music alone nearly one and a half million copies.
Rutter, who specializes in choral music, considers himself in line with those British composers of the immediate past who had themselves written carols, composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Benjamin Britten, and others.
I think I’ve...been drawn to writing carols because there’s such a strong native [English] tradition. Christmas carols were the earliest form of vernacular choral literature permitted by the Church, back in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. So even before the Reformation you could hear carols that combined English and Latin texts. The Christmas carol is, after all, one of very few musical forms which allows classically trained musicians to feel it’s permissible to write tunes without worrying about a kind of composers’ ‘political correctness’!
How Great Our Joy was written for The Bach Choir and its then conductor, Sir David Willcocks, for performance at the choir’s hugely popular Christmas concerts in London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Messiah premiered the evening of April 13, 1742 as one of a series of charity concerts in Dublin, Ireland. George Frederic Handel (1685-1759), the German-born, Italian-educated, English citizen, composed this masterpiece over a three-week period during the summer of 1741 set to a libretto by Charles Jennens. Handel, depressed and in debt, followed his usual manner in composing, incorporating material from his earlier works and the works of other composers along with his original ideas. At the premiere, Handel led the singers from the harpsichord while Matthew Dubourg, an Irish violinist, composer, and conductor, led the orchestra. The original composition took approximately three and a half hours to perform, and little is known of the reception the work received at its premiere, but it was a success when Handel led a performance in London the following year. Not until 1818 did an American premiere take place in Boston.
Handel altered and revised Messiah depending on the occasion and the musical forces he had at his command, and it was only in 1754 that an 'authentic' version was presented at a benefit performance for London's Foundling Hospital. Yet, other notables have sought to improve on the original modest orchestration. Mozart expanded Handel's scoring by adding woodwinds and organ. Later, in the twentieth century, Eugene Goossens augmented Mozart's arrangement with the addition of more woodwinds and brass. Goossens' version was popular for a period of time, but it is seldom heard in a live performance today. The trend in performance today is to opt for the more modest requirements of the original.
The choruses from Messiah offer some of the most inspiring and stirring music that Handel ever wrote. Of particular note is the most famous of them, the Hallelujah chorus. The text is taken from three verses in the New Testament book of Revelation in the King James version of the Bible. The chorus comes at the end of part two and tradition dictates that the audience stands at this point, as King George II did in Handel's time, to show deference to the King of Kings
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Philip Gordon (1894-1983) was a composer, arranger, conductor, and music educator. Born in Newark, New Jersey, Gordon began his music training with violin lessons at age six. Gordon received bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees from Columbia University, where he studied English Literature and Germanic Languages. His master's thesis was on German Singspiel, and his dissertation, completed in 1950, was titled Contemporary Music for Performing Groups. In the 1950s, Gordon married author and educator Julia Weber, and the couple settled in Princeton.
Gordon served as director of the orchestra department of the Master Institute of the Roerich Museum in New York, and as conductor of the Bach Cantata Society in New York, the YM-YWHA Symphony in Newark, and the Newark Civic Symphony.During the Great Depression of the 1930s, in cooperation with the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Gordon organized several orchestras and bands, which performed concerts in parks, schools, community centers, hospitals, and other public institutions.
As a composer, Gordon strove to balance the experimental ideas and techniques of the 20th century with more traditional compositional techniques. He also believed in the importance of hearing one's own compositions performed. Accordingly, he often created works for particular groups to perform at specific occasions. (This sketch of Gordon is adapted from another source.)
Five traditional Christmas carols comprise the sing-a-long A Tribute of Carols: O, Come, All Ye Faithful; O, Little Town of Bethlehem; Deck the Halls; Silent Night; and, Joy to the World.
Programs Notes © 2014 William H Driver and Clinton Symphony Orchestra Association.