2019 June

I’m thrilled to present a new chapter in the history of both the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra AND Yosemite National Park: our “Independence Day Spectacular!” Concert will be presented outdoors on the grounds of the historic (once and future) Wawona Hotel, now known as Big Trees Lodge. It’ll be the first-ever symphonic concert at that venerable location in the shadow of a hotel first constructed in 1876, the year of our nation’s centennial. The concert– this historic concert: will be held at 7PM on Saturday, June 29. The Big Trees Lodge is located on Wawona Road (the extension of Highway 41 – the South Entrance to Yosemite National Park) less than five miles from that entrance.

The Mariposa Symphony Orchestra is a program of the Mariposa County Arts Council.

And this concert is offered as a collaborative partnership, with gratitude to the MSO’s partners in Yosemite for making it all possible: The National Park Service, Michael T. Reynolds (Superintendent of Yosemite National Park) and his entire staff, as well as the park’s concessionaire Yosemite Hospitality, a subsidiary of Aramark. I’m also very grateful to Big Trees Lodge Manager Amanda Lee and her entire staff.

And together, we have some very important suggestions we have for you. PLEASE CARPOOL AND PARK IN THE LOWER LOT – the parking area for the Wawona Store/PioneerVillage. We need to maintain the hotel’s parking area for its guests.

The very first structure constructed at Big Trees Lodge is the Clark Cottage, built in 1876 – the year of America’s centennial. Think of it: that was a mere 25 years after Europeans first stepped foot in Yosemite Valley. Only 8 years after John Muir made his first visit to Yosemite. And as a very historic property, lighting outdoors is very limited and we strongly urge you to bring flashlights. The buildings have small lighting elements that don’t cast much light on the area where we’ll be playing. And the concert will end just before 9 PM on a nearly moonless evening. But that means the stars overhead will be an extraordinary sight!

The orchestra will be situated in a lovely forested little glade encircled by the Annex (the huge 1918 building perpendicular to the rest of the facility,) the Little White Cottage and the Washburn Cottage. It’s a beautiful area and as there will be only a limited number of chairs available, we strongly urge you to bring blankets for seating on the lawn area for this family-oriented concert. The facilities are a bit more rustic than other developed locations in Yosemite Valley. We also encourage you to bring personal bug repellent – and please, no glass containers.

The Big Trees will offer its Summer Barbeque that night from 5 – 7 PM, between the pool and the Annex. The all-inclusive meal price is $23 for adults, $13 for children 3-12 and free for those under 3. Full details including the menu for that feast may be found online at http://www.travelyosemite.com/lodging/dining/big-trees-lodge

This will surely be an unforgettable night spent under the Sierra stars, with a full symphony orchestra offering an all-American concert designed to celebrate America’s birthday – in one of America’s most beautiful locations!

This special concert will be located in a small glade as noted on the map above near the compass indicator. PLEASE park in the lower lot (just off the map, bottom left) and follow the marked path to the main facility. The Big Trees Lodge Saturday Barbeque will be on the lawn near the swimming pool and the Annex Building (far right) from 5:00 to 7:00 conveniently near our concert site. For more information about the Big Trees Lodge and its facilities, visit: https://www.travelyosemite.com/lodging/big-trees-lodge/

An additional map of the general area of the Big Trees Lodge – including the short walking trails from the Wawona Store/lower parking area and the concert site may be found by clicking here.

And now: the music.

In this concert, we celebrate America’s 243rd birthday, but we also commemorate Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s birth (190 years ago) and unfortunately, the 150th anniversary of that same composer’s death at 40. There’s more to celebrate, and it’s pretty special: During the height of the American Civil War, Gottschalk performed his piano piece “The Union” in the White House for President and Mrs. Lincoln on March 24, 1864. Just little more than three months later on June 30, Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act, preserving Yosemite Valley and nearby (to our concert) Mariposa Grove for eternity. Though not directly related, those two incidents in our American history are united by our Mariposa Symphony Orchestra concert on the grounds of this historic establishment. I’m pleased to offer my elaboration/orchestration of that very piece Lincoln heard 153 years ago. There’s something fitting about bringing that piece HERE—to these grounds saved by a president who’d never live to see them—in an anniversary celebration of a nation that same President: also preserved.

The Program:

Marsden: America – Still There Fantasy on a Tune by John Stafford Smith (World Premiere)
Smith: Armed Forces Salute
Gottschalk: The Union
Gershwin: Strike up the Band – March
Gottschalk: Marche des Gibaros – Souvenir de Porto Rico
Gould: American Salute
Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
Hanson: Symphony #2 “Romantic”
Sousa: Stars & Stripes Forever


America: Still There Fantasy on a tune by John Stafford Smith (Premiere) by Les Marsden (1957– .)

For years the MSO has performed my 2003 arrangement of “The Star- Spangled Banner” but I’ve wanted to come up with something new. A little more fresh, less formal, more fun, less bombastic—and finally, have. America: Still There references Francis Scott Key’s line “…that our flag was still there,” from Key’s poem which his brother-in-law amended to an existing bawdy English drinking song. But it goes deeper than that, to me: I want to think that America’s heart is still there. With her magnanimity, her welcoming embrace of others, her leadership, her true greatness—her compassion for others and for EACH other. That, to me: is the true America: the positive American spirit. And so, I’ve hoped to capture some of the many dimensions of that spirit—but especially our optimism, good humor, and yes, ultimately: the sort of “pageant and pomp and parade” which John Adams envisioned would be observed in celebration of our annual national birthday. We, the inheritors of the nation Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Franklin created. As for that tune? Englishman John Stafford Smith (1750- 1836) composed “Anachreon in Heav’n” in 1778 (with words by Ralph Tomlinson) as a bawdy drinking song for Britain’s elite Anacreontic Society. The song saluted 6th Century BC Greek poet Anacreon’s obsession with love and wine and was well-known on both sides of the Atlantic, though of course: derisively here. A month after the British burned the White House (and much of DC) during the waning months of the War of 1812 (1812-1815,) lawyer Francis Scott Key was briefly held aboard a British ship in Baltimore harbor, a witness to the September 13-14, 1814 bombardment of Fort McHenry. By dawn the failed attack ended but Key wrote a poem questioning the uncertainty of the young country’s survival: “oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave?” Titled “Defence of Ft. M’Henry”(sic), Key’s brother-in-law Judge Joseph Nicholson realized that poem’s words fit the 36-year-old song “Anachreon in Heav’n” like a glove. And so on September 17 1814, just three days after Key wrote his poem: Nicholson printed it (anonymously) as the new lyrics to the existing song. Bingo: the US had an anthem, though it wasn’t made official until 117 years later—in 1931—by an act of Congress. I’ve seen that actual 15- star battle-torn flag in person: the very banner which inspired Key as it flew over Ft. McHenry in 1814, in Washington, DC – in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. Once 30 by 42 feet, it was worn down by battle and time to 30 to 36 feet. John Stafford Smith (left) – musicologist, composer, organist, lay-vicar of Westminster Abbey— died in 1836 (at age 86,) 22 years after his tune became the anthem of those upstart Americans. What greater shame could befall a proper Englishman?!

Armed Forces Salute arranged by Dr.Phillip Smith (1955 – 2013)

Local treasure Phil Smith served for many years as composer, conductor, instrumental musician and arranger for the United States Army Bands. His Armed Forces Salute continues to be played by US Army Bands and of course, the MSO. Phil’s arrangement includes: “Army Song” (“The Army Goes Rolling Along”), “Anchors Aweigh” the official song of the US Navy, “Marine’s Hymn” (“From the Halls of Montezuma”), “Wild Blue Yonder” the official song of the US Air Force, and “Semper Paratas” – the official song of the US Coast Guard. Phil was the MSO’s Principal Tuba Player from our inception and created wonderful original musical works and arrangements not only for US military forces (and the MSO) but also for the Mariposa County High School Grizzly Band – an organization he shaped into a Grammy-award-winning, nationally- recognized force. His “Armed Forces Salute” honors the courage and sacrifice of all those who serve in our defense past and present. As we play, please stand when you hear the tune of the branch with which you or a family member is associated. We’re grateful for your service to our united America. And I’d like to personally dedicate this work in perpetual memory of one of the most dedicated and best Armed Forces veterans I’ve ever been privileged to call my friend – and the man who touched the lives of so many: Dr. Phillip Smith.

L’Union (The Union) (1862) by Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829 – 1869)

Freely elaborated/orchestrated from Gottschalk’s original piano solo by Les Marsden Gottschalk was one of the most sought-after, heart-throbbing, matinee-idolized concert pianists ever. Born in 1829 New Orleans of lineage combining French Creole aristocracy with Spanish Jewish forebears, he spent his early years in a New Orleans just removed from wild frontier but with French-influenced cosmopolitan urbanity. Prior to his arrival in Paris at age 13—hoping to study, many French people dismissed anything American as rough and uncivilized. Pierre Zimmerman, director of the famed Paris Conservatoire Gottschalk wished to enter: refused to hear the young man play, sniffing that “America was (merely) a land of steam engines – (a) country of railroads but not musicians.” But soon, word spread about this young American and after he WAS heard, he was immediately accepted into the Conservatoire. At 16 Gottschalk played Chopin’s 1st piano concerto in Paris to a stunned audience which included the composer himself. Chopin (of course a brilliant pianist) ran back to embrace the boy’s hands, anointing him the ‘King of Pianists’ – and considered the young man his equal as a composer. Described as ‘the American Liszt,’ he studied in Paris from age 13 to 24, where his friends included Saint-Saens, Bizet, Offenbach and Berlioz. Gottschalk single-handedly changed Parisian minds about what this country could produce: after hearing Gottschalk in concert, their attitudes changed from disdain to stunned acclaim. Back home, Gottschalk gave an extraordinary number of grueling concerts all over America: in Wild West mining towns, civil-war battlefields, throughout the 

Caribbean and in packed tents in humid South American jungles—raising funds for Union forces during the Civil War with “monster” piano recitals. His engrossing private diaries “Notes of a Pianist” describe life on the primitive road, during the Civil War, in a torn nation—and they’re amazing. Here’s an ironic case in point considering the location of our concert in Wawona:

“March 24, 1864. Concert at Washington. The President of the United States and his lady are to be there. I have reserved seats for them in the first row. The Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, accompanies them. Mrs. Lincoln has a very ordinary countenance. Lincoln is remarkably ugly, buthas an intelligent air, and has eyes have a remarkable expression of goodness and mildness. After an encore I played my ‘L’Union’ in the midst of great enthusiasm.”

Besides the irony of that very piece (in my orchestration) being on this program, just a mere three months and six days later Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act, preserving for all time the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove of Big Trees, a short distance from our concert. As for Gottschalk’s electric pianism? After a recital in Geneva, a well-built young woman literally picked up and physically carried off the slight pianist; Gottschalk finally reappeared five weeks later. Gottschalk died at age 40 in Rio de Janeiro three weeks after collapsing onstage during a concert. The cause was believed to be malaria (or rather: an apparent overdose of quinine, then as now used to treat it) simply worn out by his schedule. Though Southern-born, when the Civil War broke out, Gottschalk swore allegiance to the Union and composed many patriotic piano pieces, becoming by far the entire New World’s most well-known, well-traveled and beloved musician. “L’Union: Concert Paraphrase on National Airs” is a tour-de-force solo piano showpiece utilizing The Star-Spangled Banner, Hail Columbia and Yankee Doodle. Gottschalk performed the piece constantly—twice for the President: In addition to the performance described above, he played it for Lincoln again—sadly at a memorial service while the assassinated president lay in repose.

Strike Up the Band” March by George Gershwin (1898-1937) trans. F. Campbell- Watson

A tragically short-lived musical genius, George Gershwin was a song-plugger in New York’s “Tin-Pan Alley” in his teens, published his first song at 17 and just three years later became a household name with “Swanee.” The composer of a string of Broadway hits (with older brother Ira as his brilliant lyricist) by 1924 Gershwin made earth-shattering history with the premiere of his “Rhapsody in Blue” for piano and orchestra, featuring himself as soloist. More hits incorporating jazz into serious music include “An American in Paris,” “Concerto in F,” his Second Rhapsody and the extraordinary 1934-5 opera “Porgy and Bess.” “Strike Up the Band” march comes from his hit 1927/1930 musical. His immensely successful song output, all still well-known today is responsible for Gershwin (at left) to be considered – due to his ever- growing estate’s royalties: the wealthiest composer ever to have lived. Internationally celebrated as a pianist and well-known for his compositional style at that point in his life, he wished to study with famed French composer Maurice Ravel; upon meeting with Gershwin in New York, Ravel is alleged to have chided Gershwin with, “Why should you be a second-rate Ravel when you can be a first- rate Gershwin?” There’s another quote from a famed composer of Gershwin’s time which – may be spurious as well, but: it’s too good to not share. Gershwin met Igor Stravinsky, who (it was said) asked Gershwin how much money he made. Gershwin told him, to which Stravinsky is claimed to have replied, “Then I should take lessons with you.”

After conquering Broadway, altering the course of international concert music forever (with elements of jazz to permeate the works of composers as diverse as yes, the French Ravel and Darius Milhaud, Russian Shostakovich and Russian American Stravinsky, Argentinian Astor Piazzolla and of course, countless Americans including Copland) AND yes, even opera with “Porgy and Bess,” Gershwin was wooed away by Hollywood. After suffering from blackouts, pain and other symptoms for months, he collapsed on July 9, 1937 but unfortunately didn’t survive surgery on a malignant brain tumor, dying two days later on July 11 at age 38.

Souvenir de Porto Rico —Marche des Gibaros (1857) by Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829 – 1869)

Freely elaborated/orchestrated from Gottschalk’s original piano solo by Les Marsden Adding just a bit more to my biographical notes about Gottschalk under “The Union,” in his late thirties, his transcontinental concertizing tours took him to incredibly tiny towns, to the then-big cities (hundreds of concerts in New York alone) with a small company of fellow concert performers, though at times they might be stranded on the road, their trunks might be lost, they were (on occasion) stuck on a snowbound train caught in a record blizzard for days; somehow his pianos (two traveled with him everywhere, along with his technician/tuner, manager and others) were never lost. While in San Francisco in late 1865, Gottschalk was caught up in a scandal involving a well-connected young lady. It apparently was innocent enough: he took the young lady out for a carriage ride, and upon returning hours later, was accused (and this, after all: the Victorian era) of all manner of behavior which does NOT happen in polite company. He claimed the carriage never even once stopped, but rather than put up with vigilantism or the power of an influential family, Gottschalk just left the country, spending his remaining four years in exile. He considered – at times: returning to the US to clear his name, but never did. He died at 40 in Rio de Janeiro, simply worn out, as noted in my notes under “The Union.” Speaking of: I thought it would be great to show two sides of his art: the American music typified by “The Union” and his international side: his music reflecting South- and Central-American, as well as European musical traditions, gained first-hand during his constant concert tours. And thus, the Puerto Rican-inflected “Marche des Gibaros (Peasants)” in which Gottschalk used West Indian and African (and Cuban) rhythms in the piece, as well as a Puerto Rican Christmas song. And remember: this was in the 1860s, LONG before the advent of jazz and blues, which sourced their derivations similarly; Gottschalk was a true pioneer and he was hugely respected within the European “art music” circles for doing what Dvorak recommended to American composers: THIRTY years before Dvorak even came to this country. As a matter of fact, (Frenchman) Georges Bizet was so taken with the “habanera” rhythm after hearing it played in a piece by Gottschalk, that he composed his own VERY famous “Habanera” in his 1875 opera “Carmen.” But one last thing about the Gottschalk “Marche des Gibaros” – it’s a form that many composers of the Romantic era (including von Weber and Beethoven) enjoyed utilizing: a ‘patrol’ march. And in the case of Gottschalk’s “Gibaros,” one hears the Gibaros (‘peasants’) approach, make their presence known, and then recede away into the distance. Enjoy it in orchestral clothing!

American Salute (1942) by Morton Gould (1913 – 1996)

Gould was another of those enormously gifted American musicians who was equally at home in the concert hall or in popular music: terrifically adept as a composer, pianist, conductor, arranger and orchestrator – he wrote for ballet, the concert hall, Broadway, film and TV. His musical skills were apparent by age four – at which time he was already composing and playing the piano. At eight he was performing on the NYC radio station WOR – privately studying piano and composition at that same age. He became a staff musician at Radio City Music Hall (home of the Rockettes) at age 18. And the next year his career began as a radio musician/conductor/arranger for NBC – before changing over to the Mutual Radio Network at age 21 in 1934 to work with his own orchestra there. That served as a national outlet for his talent and he became a household name in his 20s. The 22-year-old’s Chorale and Fugue in Jazz was premiered by Leopold Stokowski with the Philadelphia Orchestra in early 1936. Gould’s early music included the fusion of popular forms and idioms – with “serious” concert music. Other conductors – including Toscanini and (later) George Solti: would become Gould’s champions. American Salute – built upon Patrick Gilmore’s Civil-war era popular song When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again – would become Gould’s most popular, most lasting work. It was first heard during an all-American concert broadcast on the Mutual Network on February 12th 1942, only two months after the United States was plunged into the second world war following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Probably the final word on this brilliant work we’ve performed a few times over the past many years belongs to Gould himself: “I have attempted a very simple and direct translation in orchestral idiom of this vital tune. There is nothing much that can be said about the structure or the treatment because I think it is what you might call “self-auditory.” Absolutely, Mr. Gould: enormously impressive, too!

Fanfare for the Common Man (1942) by Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

Brooklyn-born and bred, Aaron Copland was the youngest of five children of Lithuanian Jewish parents who had immigrated to the US from Russia, and in the process, had changed their original last name of “Kaplan” to “Copland.” The Coplands did pretty well; they lived above their family store, which was somewhat of a turn-of-the-century Brooklyn catch-all bodega described by the composer many years later as a sort of “neighborhood Macy’s.”

A rail-thin, bookworm kid who was fascinated by his older sister’s piano practice, he was compulsively drawn to music. Fortunately his mother made sure her children were exposed to music, though in his early years that exposure was limited to music heard in Jewish religious ceremonies or other services. The children received music lessons when possible although young Aaron’s first piano teacher was merely his older sister Laurine. But fortunately, his childhood lessons wouldn’t be the end of his training and sis Laurine was to wholeheartedly support young Aaron’s interest in all things musical AND his burgeoning career for decades. By the age of 15 his musical horizons had broadened, and after attending a concert by the great Polish pianist Ignaz Jan Paderewski, Copland decided to be a composer, and from that point on, did whatever he could to make his dream reality. He received private lessons in composition and piano in New York and in 1921 took off to study in Paris because he knew Igor Stravinsky was there, but also because (as he said) “that’s where the action seemed to be.” He eventually signed to study privately for a year with the famed Nadia Boulanger despite not having a clue who she was at the time. And just who WAS she? Nothing less than a brilliant composer, conductor, pianist, pedagogue, all-around musician – who later, during her tours of the US in the 1920’s – 40’s was to become the first woman to ever conduct many of America’s top symphony orchestras – and Boulanger was only 13 years Copland’s senior. Perhaps most relevant to us: Boulanger was also to be the most important teacher of 20th-century composers and was well on her way to becoming the legend who eventually trained more great composers and musicians than any other teacher in history. Copland was the first American student she took on, and she immediately recognized Copland’s talents. He ended up studying with her for not one but three years and remained in close contact with her until her death in 1979, an association of nearly 60 years. And the admiration was mutual: she was to ultimately and unequivocally cite Copland as the most important and accomplished of all her important, accomplished pupils. When Copland’s money ran out in 1924 during his final year in Paris, Boulanger actually commissioned a new composition from her student to keep him going – the piece which was to become his Symphony for Organ and Orchestra. It was premiered back home in the states in 1925 by the New York Symphony Orchestra under the hugely influential Walter Damrosch, with Nadia Boulanger herself as the organ soloist. After the lengthy applause finally died down following the work’s conclusion, Damrosch silenced the audience, walked downstage and uncharacteristically spoke to that audience. Pointing at Copland, Damrosch uttered a line which was to take on legendary fame: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sure that you will agree that if a gifted young man can write a symphony like that at twenty-three, within five years he will be ready to commit murder!”

Though acclaim came swiftly with other early compositions like the 1926 Piano Concerto and Music For Theatre well accepted, Copland struggled for money until he became the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1925, which helped for a short time. He was, incidentally, the first composer to be awarded that prize and it was renewed the following year. He began to produce some of the most modern and (perhaps) avant-garde music of anyone in the late 1920s and into the 1930’s. But his personal philosophy of populist humanism asserted itself over this artistic philosophy and his music – which could be thorny, academic and uncomfortable for the casual listener – gradually began to give way to a more accessible, even more “American” sound. As more and more Depression-era Americans gathered around their radios and phonographs for comfort and sought relief from the travails of life in the movie theatre, Copland wondered about the alienation of “serious music” listeners – and in fact, all music-lovers – when contemporary classical composers seemed to be heading down a stand-offish, formula-mandated and intellectually forbidding path which held little harmony, melody or (frankly, in my word:) attraction. He wrote, “…we composers were in danger of working in a vacuum.” And he was concerned about this “new public” whose taste was shaped by the new technology of radio: “It made no sense to ignore them and to continue writing as if they did not exist. I felt it was worth the effort to see if I couldn’t say what I had to say in the simplest possible terms.”

And so he did. By the mid-1930’s his music became sparse, tonal, harmonically simple (even when bitonal,) melodic – and accessible. Oh – and did I mention its “Americanism”? Copland effortlessly tapped into the elemental simplicity which Czech composer Antonin Dvořák had impressed upon America’s home-grown composers in the 1890s during his sojourn in the US (and which – you’ll recall from our MSO performances of the piece: Dvořák brilliantly applied in his own Symphony #9 “From the New World.”) From 1936’s

El salon Mexico, 1938’s An Outdoor Overture (performed by the MSO at last year’s “Independence Day Spectacular!” Concert) and Billy the Kid ballet, and the radio music piece John Henry Copland was suddenly on a new roll: and it was noticed. Drafted by Hollywood to compose the now-classic scores to 1939’s Of Mice and Men and Our Town in 1940, the floodgates really opened that year with his concert music, too. The simple beauty of Quiet City, and the ensuing Danzon Cubano and Rodeo ballet established Copland as one of America’s greatest composers. A composer for the people – all the people.

In 1942, (the same year Copland composed his “Lincoln Portrait”) Copland was one of 18 mostly-American composers contracted by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s music director Eugene Goossens to write brief patriotic fanfares for the orchestra’s 1942-43 season. Goossens had carried out a similar commissioning project during the first World War in his native England, with British composers. Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man was premiered on March 12, 1943 in Cincinnati (16th of the 18 to be performed during that season, between Oct. 9, 1942 and April 16, 1943) and of the 18, Copland’s made a striking, immediate impression, becoming one of the most oft-played works of ALL music. Ever the populist – as I’ve noted above: Copland was inspired by a speech FDR’s Vice- President Henry Wallace made in 1942 in which he referenced “the century of the Common Man.” That’s really all I need to say: you know this one and know it will from its ubiquitous use in film, TV, commercials, internet presence and really: everywhere there the need for a remarkably effective audio attention-getter!

There’s an unfortunate, ugly postscript. In 1950 the infamous publication Red Channels ran its “Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television.” After already attacking those in the arts such as Orson Welles, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Dorothy Parker and Burl Ives, Red Channels vehemently targeted many musicians across the board, including Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Lena Horne, Pete Seeger and Artie Shaw as (flat-out) “Communist sympathizers.” In Congress, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) had already blacklisted singer Paul Robeson and numerous other entertainment figures including the “Hollywood Ten.” Why Copland? During the 1950’s McCarthy era of suspicion and divisiveness, it was probably Copland’s populism, ethnic background, homosexuality, anti-fascist work of the 1930’s in opposition to the rise of Hitler and Mussolini and other factors that led to him becoming a target. As a matter of fact, Copland’s great A Lincoln Portrait was scheduled for performance as part of President Eisenhower’s 1953 first-term inauguration festivities. But (apparently after protests from witch- hunters) this great piece of all-Americana was banned and removed from the program. Later that same year, Copland was actually called to testify in his own defense before Congress. He testified that he was not, and never had been a communist. As American an artist as Copland – the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in music for his 1945 Appalachian Spring – this was how he was treated by his own country. From that time on, he found composing music no longer to be as effortless and enjoyable as it always had been for him and he greatly reduced his output; for the remaining 37 years of his life he focused on conducting, performing as a pianist, writing, lecturing and teaching. There was some validation years later, at least: in 1964 he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1986 he was awarded the National Medal of the Arts and perhaps most ironic of all, some 33 years after being forced to testify before Congress, Aaron Copland was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1986.

Symphony #2 in Db Op 30 “Romantic” (1930) by Howard Hanson (1896-1981)

In 1930, Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Serge Koussevitsky commissioned 34-year-old American composer Howard Hanson to compose a piece marking the 50th Anniversary of the BSO. Hanson hit it out of the ballpark—as was immediately realized from the November 28, 1930 premiere of Hanson’s 2nd symphony with the BSO conducted by Koussevitsky. In my estimation, it’s one of the GREAT American symphonies: a beloved piece that has also entered our pop film culture. Hanson was born in Wahoo, Nebraska with an early compulsion for music. He earned his BA from Northwestern in 1916 and that same year was hired (at the age of 19) to teach music theory and composition right up the road from us at College of the Pacific in Stockton, becoming Dean of its Conservatory of Fine Arts in 1919—at the age of 22! In 1920, Hanson composed “The California Forest Play,” winning the 1921 Prix de Rome in Music, which allowed him to live in Italy for three years. While there, he wrote his first symphony and another of my great favorites, The Lament for Beowulf. Back stateside, he caught the ear of George Eastman, creator of the Kodak empire and endower of Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester (NY). Eastman pressed Hanson to take the school’s directorship—and for the next 40 years, Hanson created and ran one America’s most prestigious music schools, encouraging countless American composers and championing their works. Hanson conducted the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and estimated that more than 2,000 works by over 500 American composers were premiered during his tenure, creating an inestimable number of great recordings. His 2nd “Romantic” Symphony earned the title not due to soap-opera/smoochy connotations but from Hanson’s lifelong adherence to the idealism of the romantic arts movement: emotions-based communication, tonality, melody—for which he was scorned by some critics while most around him embraced academic music theory detached from the human experience. For those who don’t know Hanson’s 2nd, you may recognize the music’s iconic use in the blockbuster 1979 film “Alien.” The first movement’s last few minutes were used to close the film. It’s strikingly effective, but that use of Hanson’s music in “Alien” was unauthorized. He wasn’t amused, but friends wisely talked him out of suing the filmmakers. Good, because “Alien” brought Hanson a huge new audience. Film composer John Williams unabashedly borrowed heavily from Hanson’s 2nd symphony’s style—and occasionally, even its substance—for his masterpiece score to Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” And – in the third movement particularly, fans of the “Star Wars” film franchise will recognize some VERY familiar-sounding cadences, harmonies, scoring and orchestration – composed 47 years BEFORE that serie’s first film! But then again, as the legendary Igor Stravinsky noted, “Good composers borrow; GREAT composers STEAL!” Hanson’s 2nd Symphony is a superbly great work from a man to whom many owe much. And there’s a touching local connection between the composer and the MSO’s musician membership: as noted earlier, Hanson taught at, and then served as the Dean of the University of Pacific’s Conservatory of Music, in Stockton That Conservatory had been founded in 1878—the first such institution west of the Mississippi. In 1978 Hanson, that former dean (from over a half century earlier in his career) returned for the centenary celebrations, now a hugely well-known internationally beloved composer, educator and elder statesman of American concert music. He conducted the UOP’s University Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the West Coast premiere of his “Sea Symphony.” And here’s where it gets REALLY good: the Dean of the Conservatory in 1978, at the time of its centennial and celebrations? Howard Hanson’s former student (at Rochester, NY’s Eastman-Rochester School of Music) – our very own Ira Lehn, whom Hanson regarded and publicly described as one of his favorite, best students. A man we’re honored to call our friend: Ira Lehn, who has guest-soloed with the MSO in many of the great cello concerti, regularly sits in with us as a sectional player—for the joy of making music, with us. But regretfully he couldn’t make this concert due to his travels. Incidentally: Ira turned 90 years of age on May 26! A very small world, isn’t it?

commissioned 34-year-old American composer Howard Hanson to compose a piece marking the 50th Anniversary of the BSO. Hanson hit it out of the ballpark—as was immediately realized from the November 28, 1930 premiere of Hanson’s 2nd symphony with the BSO conducted by Koussevitsky. In my estimation, it’s one of the GREAT American symphonies: a beloved piece that has also entered our pop film culture. Hanson was born in Wahoo, Nebraska with an early compulsion for music. He earned his BA from Northwestern in 1916 and that same year was hired (at the age of 19) to teach music theory and composition right up the road from us at College of the Pacific in Stockton, becoming Dean of its Conservatory of Fine Arts in 1919—at the age of 22! In 1920, Hanson composed “The California Forest Play,” winning the 1921 Prix de Rome in Music, which allowed him to live in Italy for three years. While there, he wrote his first symphony and another of my great favorites, The Lament for Beowulf. Back stateside, he caught the ear of George Eastman, creator of the Kodak empire and endower of Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester (NY). Eastman pressed Hanson to take the school’s directorship—and for the next 40 years, Hanson created and ran one America’s most prestigious music schools, encouraging countless American composers and championing their works. Hanson conducted the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and estimated that more than 2,000 works by over 500 American composers were premiered during his tenure, creating an inestimable number of great recordings. His 2nd “Romantic” Symphony earned the title not due to soap-opera/smoochy connotations but from Hanson’s lifelong adherence to the idealism of the romantic arts movement: emotions-based communication, tonality, melody—for which he was scorned by some critics while most around him embraced academic music theory detached from the human experience. For those who don’t know Hanson’s 2nd, you may recognize the music’s iconic use in the blockbuster 1979 film “Alien.” The first movement’s last few minutes were used to close the film. It’s strikingly effective, but that use of Hanson’s music in “Alien” was unauthorized. He wasn’t amused, but friends wisely talked him out of suing the filmmakers. Good, because “Alien” brought Hanson a huge new audience. Film composer John Williams unabashedly borrowed heavily from Hanson’s 2nd symphony’s style—and occasionally, even its substance—for his masterpiece score to Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” And – in the third movement particularly, fans of the “Star Wars” film franchise will recognize some VERY familiar-sounding cadences, harmonies, scoring and orchestration – composed 47 years BEFORE that serie’s first film! But then again, as the legendary Igor Stravinsky noted, “Good composers borrow; GREAT composers STEAL!” Hanson’s 2nd Symphony is a superbly great work from a man to whom many owe much. And there’s a touching local connection between the composer and the MSO’s musician membership: as noted earlier, Hanson taught at, and then served as the Dean of the University of Pacific’s Conservatory of Music, in Stockton That Conservatory had been founded in 1878—the first such institution west of the Mississippi. In 1978 Hanson, that former dean (from over a half century earlier in his career) returned for the centenary celebrations, now a hugely well-known internationally beloved composer, educator and elder statesman of American concert music. He conducted the UOP’s University Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the West Coast premiere of his “Sea Symphony.” And here’s where it gets REALLY good: the Dean of the Conservatory in 1978, at the time of its centennial and celebrations? Howard Hanson’s former student (at Rochester, NY’s Eastman-Rochester School of Music) – our very own Ira Lehn, whom Hanson regarded and publicly described as one of his favorite, best students. A man we’re honored to call our friend: Ira Lehn, who has guest-soloed with the MSO in many of the great cello concerti, regularly sits in with us as a sectional player—for the joy of making music, with us. But regretfully he couldn’t make this concert due to his travels. Incidentally: Ira turned 90 years of age on May 26! A very small world, isn’t it?

The Stars and Stripes Forever—March (1896) by John Philip Sousa, (1854—1932) freely adapted/orchestrated by Les Marsden

Sousa—one of America’s truly iconic musicians: was born in Washington DC and from the ages of 6 to 13 was trained on violin, voice, piano, cornet, baritone horn, flute, trombone, alto horn as well as in theory, harmony and composition. At 13 he was apprenticed to the US Marine Corps Band by his father, a trombonist in that band. The multi-talented, multi-instrumental Sousa would prove to be a real catch when – years later, he began working in a theatre pit orchestra where he learned to conduct while performing duties on multiple instruments. In 1880 he made an impressive return to the US Marine Band he had left as an apprentice; now at a mere 25 he was its music director and conductor!

He led the “President’s Own” Marine Band during the administrations of five presidents from Rutherford B. Hayes to his own (initial) 1892 retirement from military service during Benjamin Harrison’s presidency. (He later re-enlisted in the active reserves at age 62 during World War I, but due to his age performed his service stateside.) At his own request, Sousa received that initial discharge from the Marine Corps because he realized the lucrative career open to him on the public circuit, leading his own band. He conducted his own farewell concert at the White House on July 30, 1892, receiving his discharge the following day. He immediately created his own, famed John Philip Sousa Band – which during its ensuing 39 years under his direction, played nearly 16,000 concerts internationally, to extraordinary acclaim. The Sousa Band made a great many early cylinder and later disc recordings in the early days of sound reproduction and those best-sellers helped to spread the fame of this magnificent, well-drilled musical organization wide and far — internationally as well.

Sousa’s masterpiece, designated in 1987 as the official National March of the United States – closes this concert as it’s closed every MSO Independence Day Spectacular! Concert in our history. In 1896 Sousa was returning home on an ocean liner from a successful European concert tour when he received word that his band manager and good friend David Blakely had died back in America. Sousa ruminated aboard ship on the loss of his friend and the now-bittersweet joy of homecoming manifested itself in a march honoring Blakely. Ironically, the first four notes of this triumphant march quote the initial notes of the medieval Latin chant “Dies Irae” or “day of wrath.” Sousa mentally composed the march aboard ship, then set it to paper when he reached home—without changing a single “mental” note. Thus he produced his greatest, most brilliant and immediately-successful march, and that’s saying a lot. He composed 136 marches and many other works including ballets, operettas and theatre-pieces. And: was also a distinguished trapshooter and successful novelist! He composed (nearly unknown) words to this march:

“Let martial note in triumph float —
and Liberty extend its mighty hand.
A flag appears ’mid thunderous cheers —
the banner of the Western land…”

Ironically, “Stars and Stripes Forever” was the last music Sousa heard. He died of heart failure on March 6, 1932, in the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading, PA the day after conducting a rehearsal of the piece.

The Mariposa Symphony Orchestra’s historic “Independence Day Spectacular!” Concert will be held on the grounds of the Big Trees Lodge (Wawona Hotel) in Yosemite National Park on Saturday, June 29 beginning at 7:00. This FREE concert is made possible by the kind assistance of the National Park Service, Michael T. Reynolds – Superintendent of Yosemite National Park and his staff, as well as Yosemite’s concessionaire: Yosemite Hospitality, a Subsidiary of Aramark. Great help and cooperation have also been provided by Big Trees Lodge Manager Amanda Lee and her staff.

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