Opening Concert

Thursday, February 12, 1953

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

14th Annual American Music Festival opening concert featuring:

Sonata for Piano and Percussion by Peggy Glanville-Hicks
Music for Woodwinds by Arthur Berger and Ivan Langstroth
Suite for Piano by Douglas Moore
Concerto for Trombone, Oboe and Strings by Sam Raphling
Songs by Aaron Copland, John Duke, Paul Nordoff and Richard Hageman
Quartet by Benjamin Lees

Performers include:
Maxim Schapiro, piano
Eldin Baily [Elden Bailey?], Phil Kraus, Walter Rosenberger, Al Howard, percussionists
David Glazer, clarinetist
William Arrowsmith and Elden Gatwood [Eldon?], oboists
John and Mildred Hunt Wummer, flutists
Davis Schuman, trombonist
Valarie Lamoree, soprano
Israeli Quartet
Carlos Surinach and Harold Glick, conductors

Begins with introduction by Seymour Siegel asking for listeners to write in with their opinions of the station.

After Sonata for Piano and Percussion, Mayor Siegel introduces Wallingford Riegger of the American Composers Alliance, who presents Mayor Impellitteri with an award from the Alliance for the work of WNYC. Impellitteri continues to discuss specific American Music Festival programming and the municipal sector's dedication to music education. Thanks Siegel and WNYC staff for their imagination, planning and many hours of hard work in making the festival possible.

After Suite for Piano, a pause for an intermission and news bulletins: CIO transport union requests reopening of Memorandum of Understanding with Board of Transportation; (extended silence) death of former Governor of Arizona, Ralph Cameron; decline in the flu outbreak; actions of jets in Korea; Lester Pearson will resign as Canadian Foreign Secretary to become Secretary General of UN if offered; weather forecast.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 8514


William Arrowsmith, Eldin Bailey, Arthur Berger, Aaron Copland, John Duke, Eldin Gatwood, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, David Glazer, Harold Glick, Richard Hageman, Al Howard, Vincent R. Impellitteri, Israeli Quartet, Philip Kraus, Valarie Lamoree, Ivan Langstroth, Benjamin Lees, Douglas Moore, Sam Raphling, Wallingford Riegger, Walter Rosenberger, Maxim Schapiro, Davis Schuman, Seymour N. Siegel, Carlos Surinach, Hunt Mildred Wummer and John Wummer


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About American Music Festival

Conceived in 1939, the first WNYC American Music Festival hit the air in February 1940. For more than forty years, it was a station tradition of live events and concerts, reflecting "the culture of a peaceful people, in a land where men and women of any race and creed were free to compose and perform music based on any and all themes." From Lincoln to Washington's birthdays the festival's concerts filled WNYC's airwaves, providing listeners with the full range of live American music from classical, to folk, to jazz and everything in between both in-studio and from concert stages around the city.

The festival was a response to the dominant Euro-centric musical attitudes of the time. Reflecting on the festival's birth, station Director Morris Novik wrote in 1945, "It was obvious that something should be done to fill the gap that was a serious hindrance to the furthering of the cause of native American musical genius. There were no provisions for encouraging and fostering this talent, and only a very limited means of presentation of Americans works that deserved to be heard."

Four Objectives of the American Music Festival

  1. Provide a sounding board for talented young American musicians.
  2. Grant a hearing and performance to any meritorious works or compositions of native composers.
  3. Promote the cause of American classical music, which is heard all too rarely on concert programs.
  4. Interest the public in the appreciation of good American music.

In its first six years, listeners heard Morton Gould, Leonard Bernstein, Paul Bowles and Deems Taylor, some for the first time on radio. On the folk front, Woody Guthrie, Josh White, Burl Ives, and Pete Seeger were regular performers. In jazz, listeners heard from the likes of Benny Goodman, Sam Price and Albert Ammons.

The first ticket, to a "POP CONCERT," was for the All Star Army Band with Private Johnny Messner conducting and Private Buddy Moreno as vocalist. Also performing was the U.S. Maritime Service Orchestra with Ensign Philip Lang conducting.

The second ticket, part of the closing concert for the series, was for admission to a concert featuring the music of Aaron Copland. This program included:

  • "Dance of the Adolescent" with Aaron Copland and Leo Smith, pianos.
  • "As It Fell Upon A Day" performed by Shirley Sinclair, soprano; Anabel Hulme, flute; and Meyer Kupferman, clarinet
  • "Three Pieces from Our Town" with Aaron Copland, piano
  • "Danzon Cubano" with Aaron Copland and Leo Smit, pianos and Isaac Stern, violin

During a concert intermission at one of the early festivals, (the final concert of the 1941 season), Aaron Copland stated that the radio audience was key to developing American music. In fact, he closed his remarks by hoping for "bigger and better WNYC festivals in the future." Following his intermission speech, the Brooklyn Academy audience heard a world premiere of a choral work by another American composer, Roy Harris.

By the mid-1980s WNYC's American Music Festival had run its course. The last few festivals were a shadow of their former glory as eleven days of live concerts were compacted into a day-long "Americathon". This single day of performances was sandwiched between broadcasts of American music from the studios on record only.

In the early 21st century the days between Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays were still a time for WNYC to focus on American music. In fact, in 2001 the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) recognized WNYC last year with one of their first-ever Concert Music Awards. It honored WNYC for "75 years of enlightened broadcasting featuring the music of our time."

Thanks to the NYC Municipal Archives and its Director, Kenneth R. Cobb, and to Andy Lanset for his research and preservation work.


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