February 18, 2014 Comments Off
In honor of Black History Month, we welcome guest Blogger Louis Arthur Norton, who shares the story of Principal Bassist Edward R. Rozie’s ancestor, Joseph Antonio Emidy:
A distinguished grey haired gentleman is usually seen on extreme right of the stage, half perched on a high stool during the concerts of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (HSO).
He wears a salt and pepper goatee that frames an infectious broad smile that radiates warmth. Reflecting musicianship and professionalism his eyes reflect melancholy or mischief depending upon the musical score, yet always watching for the expressive nuances of conductor Maestra Carolyn Kuan. A Connecticut native and a resident of Windsor, Edward R. Rozie junior better known as Rick, is the personable principal of the bass section and the holder of the HSO Claire and Millard Pryor Orchestra Committee Chair.
Rozie taught himself to play the family’s piano at age 5 then tinkered with learning the drums. Finally at East Hartford High School in Connecticut the band director suggested that they needed a bass player. He gave it a try and was “hooked.” The band director played in a jazz group and invited the budding bass player to sit in. This was an inspirational outlet for the young Rozie who went on to study double bass with Bertram Turetzky, William Rhein, and Orin O’Brien.
Besides being an artist the contra bass player is a teacher of on the faculty at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School. Rozie taught double base at the Harford Conservatory of Music and the University of Connecticut from 1977 to 1983. He then returned to the Hartt School, his alma mater, as Adjunct Professor Rozie at Hartt’s famed Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz. Rick brought a depth of musical knowledge, partly from the disciplined classical tradition that he loves when performing as principle bass with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and more free flowing interpretive jazz conventions. Being of African roots, Rick likes to teach using the West African groits oral storyteller’s tradition combining a sense of history of the musical genre and his own example as a performer.
Rozie’s musical resumé includes playing bass in both symphony orchestras and jazz ensembles. Under classical music Mr. Rozie has played with Philharmonica de las Americas (summer festival in Mexico City), Kansas City Philharmonic, Springfield Symphony, New Haven Symphony, Connecticut Opera and the Hartford Ballet. A longtime member of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, he currently is principal of the bass section and the holder of the HSO Claire and Millard Pryor Orchestra Committee Chair. In the field of jazz, he played with Mixashawn, Jay Hoggard Quartet, James Newton, Anthony Davis, Muhal Richard Adams, and Andrea Bocelli in recordings. He also appeared in jazz festivals in Switzerland and the Caribbean.
In a recent interview for the University of Hartford’s Observer, Rozie mentioned that he “blazed his own trail in the classical music arena. The former member of the Kansas City Philharmonic and the Philharmonica de las Americas in Mexico recalls that ‘in 1968, when I was hired to play in the orchestra in Kansas City, I was the first musician of color to be hired. At that time there were almost no minorities and very few women in the major orchestras in the United States. I wasn’t the first person of color to play in the Hartford Symphony, but I was the first to become a principal player.’ ” This fact leads to Rick’s fascinating genealogy; an ancestry traced to an eighteenth and nineteenth century slave, Joseph Antonio Emidy, with an unusual and touching history.
Joseph Antonio Emidy, was born in Guinea on the West Coast of Africa and sold into slavery to Portuguese traders as a young boy. His date of birth was simply recorded as 1775. Portugal was one of the earliest European slave trading countries, but was relatively humane as a slaving nation. Most of their slaves were sent to work in Brazil. Once there, the Portuguese tried to convert the slaves to Christianity and integrate them into the social life of the colony. Blacks and whites mixed freely and slaves were provided small plots of land to cultivate and sell the produce.
Emidy’s earliest history as a slave is unknown, but as a child he was likely assigned as someone’s personal attendant rather than a plantation laborer. The boy ultimately came to live in Lisbon with his owner. At the time it was fashionable in Portugal to have a few black household servants. One might presume that the young man went to Lisbon as part of some wealthy man’s retinue. While in Lisbon, his talent for music became apparent. His master allowed him to develop his natural talent, supplying him with a violin, a teacher and the opportunity for employment as a professional musician. After three or four years of study and countless hours of practice, in 1795 the twenty-year-old was admitted to the second violin section in the orchestra of the Lisbon Opera. This was a fine achievement for anyone of his age, but for an essentially under-educated African with a limited exposure to European culture, it was truly remarkable.
Emidy’s life would radically change, all because of a partly submerged rock off Cape Finisterre. The British 44–gun frigate Indefatigable, commanded by Captain Sir Edward Pellew, collided with a rock on 7 May 1795 while pursuing a French ﬂeet during the Napoleonic War. Badly damaged, the Indefatigable limped into the Tagus River and onto the Lisbon dockyards for repairs.
The following passage describes what happened next:
While thus employed [as violinist at the Lisbon opera], it happened that Sir Edward Pellew, in his frigate the Indefatigable, visited the Tagus, and with some of his officers, attended the Opera. They had long wanted for the frigate a good violin player, to furnish music for the sailors’ dancing in their evening leisure, a recreation highly favourable to the preservation of their good spirits and contentment. Sir Edward, observing the energy with which the young negro plied his violin in the orchestra, conceived the idea of impressing him for the service. He accordingly instructed one of his lieutenants to take two or three of the boat’s crew, then waiting to convey the officers on board, and watching the boy’s exit from the theatre, to kidnap him, violin and all, and take him off to the ship. This was done, and the next day the frigate sailed: so that all hope of his escape was vain.
Emidy was no longer a Portuguese slave, but now unwillingly pressed into the British Navy. He was a lowly seaman who would never be allowed to go ashore for fear of escape. Exacerbating his situation, he did not speak English and was completely unfamiliar with shipboard life. Now as a sailor/musician he would play several shipboard roles: entertainment for the officers and the crew, a melody and rhythm for the sea chanteys (the crew’s rhythmic work songs), and finally music for dance. Although unusual today, men danced with each other for exercise and entertainment. Good musicians, like skilled cooks, were important assets to a ship away from shore for months at a time. As a landsman musician, he also labored as a deckhand — an especially dangerous job on a warship.
The muster book of 1 September 1795 listed Emidy as number 316 of the ship’s crew three of whom, including Emidy, were described as “Lisbon volunteers.” His rating was landsman, the lowest rank of sailors and his pay was16/6 shillings per month. For comparison, an ordinary seaman received 17/6 shillings per month and an able seaman was paid £1-2/6 shillings per month.
The lone black man, a slave and sailor serving against his will, stood on the deck of HMS Indefatigable. A violin cradled under his chin, he looked longingly at the land only a league distant across the water. It could have been a continent away. He then played a tune, a cheerful hornpipe so that his fellow crewmen might temporarily forget the monotony and drudgery of shipboard life.
Emidy’s life as an impressed black crewman was described as follows:
Poor Emidee [sic] was thus forced, against his will, to descend from the higher regions of music in which he delighted – Gluck, Haydn, Cimarosa, and Mozart, to desecrate his violin to hompipes, jigs, and reels, which he loathed and detested: and being, moreover, the only negro on board, he had to mess by himself, and was looked down upon as an inferior being – except when playing to the sailors, when he was of course in high favour. As the captain and officers judged, from his conduct and expressions, that he was intensely disgusted with his present mode of life, and would escape at the ﬁrst possible opportunity, he was never permitted to set his foot on shore for seven long years! [Royal Navy records indicate that Emidy actually served for under four years], [He] was only released by Sir Edward Pellew’s being appointed to the command of a line-of-battle ship, L’Impetueux, when he was permitted to leave in the harbour of Falmouth, where he first landed, and remained, I believe, till the period of his death.
On 1 March 1799 Pellew was transferred to become captain of the captured French ship, L’Impetueux. A change in command of a naval ship always led to a major reorganization of the crew. Some sailors followed a captain to his new command, but Emidy was discharged from his impressment on 28 February 1799 at Falmouth, Cornwall County England, and the homeport of the Indefatigable. He was now a free man as well.
In 1799, Cornwall’s cultural and social life was largely centered on the theater, assemblies and balls, and “harmonic societies” of amateur musicians. Truro and Falmouth, the Cornwall towns Emidy was most associated with, had small theatres and theater companies that presented contemporary melodramas and comedies, adaptations of the classic repertory, as well as comic operas and burlesques. A small band of instrumentalists played an important part in these presentations. Because of Emidy’s background and his diverse skills, he likely participated.
A resident of Falmouth, England, James Silk Buckingham, wished to study music. He thought “it a most agreeable recommendation in female society, of which I was always fond.” He elected to take lessons on the ﬂute, an instrument that he assumed would be easy to play, and was readily available and quite portable. After Emidy’s discharge from the Royal Navy, he earned part of his living as a music teacher in Falmouth. The African Negro had by this time earned a reputation as a proficient musician and fine violinist, a composer of some renown and a conductor of local English county concerts. His teaching versatility was extraordinary offering instruction in piano, violin, violoncello, clarinet and ﬂute. Buckingham started his lessons and diligently practiced four hours a day. There are no records about how Buckingham’s flute playing affected his romancing the local ladies, but his close contact with his teacher did have one important and lasting result. Buckingham became very sympathetic to the plight of African slaves. Later in life as a Member of Parliament he was staunchly opposed to the slave trade and an ardent abolitionist.
There is no painting or physical description of the musician, but in Buckingham’s autobiography he candidly and somewhat cruelly wrote, “[Emidy] was one of the very ugliest negroes I ever remember to have seen, he had charms enough to fascinate” Jane Hutchengs (or Hutchins), the white daughter of a local tradesman. They were married in 1802 and had eight children, five of whom were baptized at the Church of King Charles the Martyr in Falmouth before the family moved to Truro around 1815 where he continued to play his violin, teach and compose.
Seacoast towns such as Falmouth and Truro had a regular military or naval presence during the anxious Napoleonic War years. Candlelit theatres in the town halls or large rooms at local taverns or inns provided an assembly place, the principal focus for social life during that time. Assemblies often included officers and their families who called upon the militia bands to provide music for the balls. The highly popular balls were usually preceded by a concert and the principle source of music was from harmonic societies, amateurs who met for private recreation, but gave performances to invited audiences, generally closely associated with the assemblies. Emidy was one of the chief organizers of some of these harmonic societies.
Over approximately a quarter century Emidy built a wide following. The concerts preceding the balls frequently included Emidy and his students in an ensemble. They performed orchestral works by Haydn, Stamitz, Pleyel and Beethoven, as well as lesser figures of the contemporary scene such as Johann Paul Martini, Eichner and Gyrowetz. Throughout his career, Emidy continued to compose and introduce major works of his own in these provincial concerts. He advertised a wide range of musical employment enterprises in the Royal Cornwall Gazette on 3 December1825. These included lessons for the violin, tenor and bass viol, regular guitar, and Spanish guitar, availability to provide music for balls and assemblies and services to tune harps, and buff, regulate and tune pianofortes.
The locally highly regarded Emidy, an accomplished multifaceted musician, composer, teacher and concert leader, was musical leader in southwestern England. Attempting to advance his friend’s career, Buckingham contacted Johann Peter Salomon, the well-known musical impresario and arranger of Joseph Haydn’s music. Salomon was impressed by the samples of Emidy’s compositions and suggested that The African Negro come to London to give a concert of his works. Concerned that his color might be held against him, many in Cornwall debated about the wisdom of introducing him into London’s musical society. They finally advised him to not accept the invitation because of the risk of failure, a failure that might take him from the musical sphere in which he was making a comfortable livelihood.
The only known drawing of Joseph Emidy, A Musical Club in Truro, by an unknown artist.
Emidy remained in the Falmouth area where he continued to teach, organize concerts, found amateur harmonic societies and ascend to be named music director of the Truro Philharmonic Orchestra. His own chamber works, concertos and symphonies made him perhaps the most celebrated and influential musical figure in early nineteenth century Cornwall. Joseph Antonio Emidy died in Truro on 23 April 1835, an extremely talented but now a relatively unknown music history footnote. No known copies of his many compositions have been found.
His tombstone is in Kenwyn Churchyard. The obituary in the 25 April 1835 in The (Truro) Gazette stated: “His talents may be said to have ranked under the first order while his enthusiastic devotedness to science was rarely exceeded. As an orchestral composer his sinfonias may be mentioned as evincing not only deep musical research, but also those flights of genius which induce regret that his talents were not called into action in a more genial sphere than that in which he moved.”
Joseph Antonio Emidy had a grandson also named Joseph who revived the family’s musical heritage. He became the bandmaster with Howes’ Great London Circus and Sanger’s English Menagerie. James Anthony Bailey purchased the Howes’ Circus and, in turn, combined his show with the circus of Phineas T. Barnum. The Howes name was dropped when the circus became “Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth.” Joseph Emidy remained bandmaster throughout these two circus mergers.
Rozie’s British ancestors first immigrated to the United States late in the 19th century. His great grandmother Julia [Emidy] Julia Emidy, survived of the shipwrecked American bark Frances on Cape Cod, the aftermath of the fierce December 1873 gale. Julia had inherited a talent for music and worked as a vocalist, eventually joined the Barnum and Bailey’s circus in Connecticut. She married the circus orchestra’s banjo player Charles Van Allen, a Mohegan Indian, in Windsor in 1882. A daughter, Mary, married Peter Rozie of Bonevento, Italy. One of their grandsons is Edward R. Rozie junior.
One distinctive ancestor, a gifted multifaceted former slave Joseph Antonio Emidy, likely accounts for Rick’s musicianship. The Hartford symphony Orchestra and The Hartt School is fortunate to have the services of this talented musician, a modern “all American” of Guinean, English, Native American, and Italian lineage and a descendent of a talented black musician with such a distinctive background and unusual history.
Louis Arthur Norton
 University of Hartford Obsever, Spring 2013, 13.
 The life of Joseph Antonio Emidy is recounted in pages 165 through 169 of the autobiography of the British abolitionist/politician James Silk Buckingham.
 Portugal transported 178,000 African slaves to Brazil between 1780 and 1790, mostly from what is now Angola.
 The frigate at the time had been cut down (razeed) from a 64-gun ship. It was armed with 42-pounder carronades 24-pounder long guns.
 Buckingham, James Silk, Autobiography of James Silk Buckingham, (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1855) Ibid., 167-168.
 Ibid., 168-169.
 Ibid., 165.
 Ibid., 169.
 Richard McGrady, “An African in Cornwall,” The Musical Times, vol. 127, no. 1726, (Nov., 1986), 621.
 The exact inscription on his gravestone reads:
HERE LIE DEPOSITED The mortal remains of Mr Jos:h Antonia Emidy Who departed this life, On the 23:rd of April 1835 AGED 60 YEARS
And sacred to whose memory This tribute of affection is erected By his surviving family.
He was native of PORTUGAL Which country he quit about forty years since and pursuing the Musical Profession, resided in Cornwall until the close of his earthly career.
Devoted to thy soul-inspiring strains, Sweet Music! Thee he hail’d his chief delight And with fond zeal that shunn’d nor toil nor pain His talent sear’d, and genius mark’d its flight In harmony he liv’d, in peace with all Took his departure from this world of woe, And here his rest, till the last Trumpet’s call, Shall ‘wake mankind to joys that endless flow.
 This event occurred at off Meadow Beach at North Truro, Massachusetts.
The 704-ton, 143-foot bark Frances was under the command of Captain William Kelley and was owned by D.D. Kelley of Boston. There are no surviving records of the passenger list or survivors. Reference: American Lloyd’s Register of American and Foreign shipping 1873-74.
 Van Allen’s circus banjo still survives as a family heirloom to this day.
December 18, 2013 Comments Off
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra is teaming up with the South Park Inn for a food drive at the time of year when our community needs it most. We encourage you to bring non-perishable food items to the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Cirque Spectacular on December 21 to help out those in need this holiday season. The items that are most needed are:
Jarred baby food
There will be drop off tables throughout the lobby at The Bushnell where you can leave your food donation.
Looking for a place to eat before or after the show? On December 21, Peppercorn’s Grill will donate 5% of their food sales to South Park Inn. Help feed someone in need as you enjoy a meal at one of Hartford’s finest restaurants.
Thank you for lending a hand to help our neighbors in need and see you at the Hartford Symphony’s Holiday Cirque Spectacular.
December 3, 2013 Comments Off
The days after Thanksgiving have become synonymous with the pursuit of bargains. From “Black Friday” to “Cyber Monday,” retailers try to pull us away from the intended purpose of the holiday season. This year, the HSO is joining a group of charitable and socially conscious organizations that would live to encourage you to give thanks and give back this Thanksgiving.
Today is “Giving Tuesday.”
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we hope you will show your thanks by giving back to the charitable organizations that make this community thrive. Please consider making a gift to the Hartford Symphony Orchestra today.
Your gift makes it possible for us to bring the highest level of artistry to Connecticut.
From the concert hall to the classroom, the HSO enhances the lives of young people from throughout Connecticut through our educational and community engagement programs.
The HSO has been bringing the joy of music to the region for 70 years. We invite you to help us keep the momentum going and create harmony in Hartford for years to come.
Our music would not be possible without your generous support. Please give generously and join us in celebrating 70 seasons of artistry, community, harmony and symphony.
Make your gift by December 31 to take advantage of potential tax savings!
Three easy ways to give:
• Donate Now online
• Call 860-246-8742, ext. 326, Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm
• Mail to: 100 Pearl Street, 2nd Floor, East Tower. Hartford, CT 06103
A contribution to the HSO’s Annual Fund is an investment in our community and the music you love.
October 1, 2013 Comments Off
To kick off our 70th Anniversary Season, we are presenting Bachtoberfest, a new music festival featuring music by Bach and music written for organ, October 4-12, 2013. The Hartford Chapter of the American Guild of Organists is the primary community partner for the festival; their members will be featured prominently on many of the performances and events. The festival will culminate with our 70th Anniversary Opening Night Concerts at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts on October 11 & 12.
The festival includes free concerts and events at the Austin Organ Factory, Cathedral of Saint Joseph, Congregation Beth Israel, Hartford Public Library, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick St. Anthony, St. Brigid’s Church, First Church of Christ, United Methodist of West Hartford, and Central Baptist Church, amongst others.
HSO President & CEO Carrie Hammond says, “The Hartford Symphony Orchestra is dedicated to fostering musical performances and inspiring others to present community-minded concerts. Bachtoberfest celebrates the uniquely rich musical offerings that are available in this area throughout the year. Hartford possesses a hidden gem in the Austin Organ Company, which has produced organs since 1893. Scattered throughout this region, including The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, are these world renowned instruments and performers who are drawn to this area to play them. We are thrilled to present this week-long series of events with the Hartford Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.”
BACHTOBERFEST CALENDAR OF EVENTS:
Friday, October 4, 2013
Austin Organ Factory Tour
A behind the scenes tour of the history Austin Organ Company and factory. Closed event for HSO subscribers; firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Organ Tour: United Methodist Church of Hartford
Cheryl Wadsworth, organ
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Bach Prelude, Postlude and Choral Anthem: First Church of Christ
8:45 and 10:30 a.m.
David Spicer, organ
First Church of Christ Choir
Bach Postlude and Choral Anthem
Bach Prelude: Hilltop Covenant Church
Carolyn Johnson, organ
Prelude (Fantasia) in G minor, BWV 542
Bach Prelude: First Church of Christ, Congregational
Edward Clark, organ
Hartford Symphony organist Edward Clark will perform Bach’s Chorale Prelude on “An Wasserflüssen Babylon,” BWV 653 on his morning service. Get a sneak peak of the talent that will be featured on the HSO’s Opening Night Performances October 11 & 12!
Organ Recital: Cathedral of Saint Joseph
Dr. Ezequiel Menéndez, organ
Bach Prelude, Postlude and Choral Anthem: Christ Church Cathedral
Deniz Uz, organ; Joshua Slater, music director
Choral Anthem: BWV 106b, O Jesu Christ meins Lebens Licht; Postlude: Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548
Bach Prelude: First Church of Christ, Congregational
Edward Clark, organ
Hartford Symphony organist Edward Clark will perform Bach’s Chorale Prelude on “An Wasserflüssen Babylon,” BWV 653 on his morning service. Get a sneak peak of the talent that will be featured on the HSO’s Opening Night Performances October 11 & 12!
Bach Prelude and Postlude: St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
Deborah Gemma, organ
Bach Prelude, Postlude and Choral Anthem: St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church
10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
10:00 a.m. Mass
Prelude in E Major (BWV 854), from The Well-Tempered Clavier
The Gallery Choir directed by Gabriel Löfvall, will sing Jesu, Meine Freunde, BVW 227
Prelude in G major (BWV 860), from The Well-Tempered Clavier
5:00 p.m. Mass
Same organ prelude and postlude as at 10:00 a.m. Mass, plus:
The Treble Clef Choir directed by Pamela Johnson, Gabriel Löfvall, will sing Liebster Jesu, Wir Sind Hier, BVW 373, and Den Tod, from Cantata BWV 4 (Christ lag in Todes Banden).
Bach Prelude & Postlude: St. John’s Episcopal Church
Peter Berton, organ; Tanya Anisimova, cello
Prelude: All glory be to God on high, BWV 676, Postlude: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007,VI. Gigue
Bach Prelude, Postlude & Choral Anthem: St. Brigid’s Catholic Church
Natasha Ulyanovsky, organ
Choral Sing-Along: St. Brigid’s Catholic Church
Join the St. Brigid choir and soloists Kelly and David Boudreaux for this public sing along of Bach’s choral works.
Monday, October 7, 2013
HSO Musical Dialogues Series: Bach’s Lunch
Hartford Symphony Orchestra String Quartet
Hartford Public Library, Downtown Branch
HSO Musicians will discuss and perform works by Bach at this free lunchtime concert. Repertoire will include Bach’s Contrapunctus I, IV, & IX from The Art of the Fugue, Fantasia & Fugue in G minor, and Aria & Variations 1-8 from Goldberg Variations, plus Robert Schumann’s Fugues No. 3 & 5 from “Six Fugues on B-A-C-H” and Clara Schumann’s Three Fugues on Themes of J.S. Bach.
Sponsored by Travelers
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Organ Recital: Happy Recollections at Congregation Beth Israel
Natasha Ulyanovsky, organ; Peter Dzialo, cello
Program to include Toccata by Theodore Dubois, Happy Recollections by David Popper; Sonata in D Major by J.S.Bach; Strange Meadow Lark by Dave Brubeck; La Folia by Arcangelo Corelli; and Peacherine Rag by Scott Joplin.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Organ Recital: Midday Music at Central Baptist Church
Kari Miller and Jason Roberts, organists
Program to include Bach’s Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland (‘Savior of the Heathen, Come’), BWV 659 and Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr (‘All Glory Be to God on High’), BWV 662, plus Vivaldi’s Concerto in A Minor, BWV 593
Friday, October 11, 2013
Organ Recital: Aetna
Brian Parks, organ
Concert is closed for Aetna employees only.
Friday & Saturday, October 11 & 12, 2013
HSO Masterworks Series & Special Event: 70th Anniversary Opening Night!
Mortensen Hall at the The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Hartford Symphony Orchestra; Carolyn Kuan, conductor; Edward Clark, organ; Connecticut Youth Symphony, Daniel D’Addio, music director; Wu Man, pipa
We’re rolling out the red carpet for Opening Night! Two of the most famous works in the organ repertoire, Saint-Saëns’ massive Symphony No. 3 and Bach’s glorious Toccata and Fugue in D minor, will be played on The Bushnell’s historic, Hartford-made Austin pipe organ with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.
September 17, 2013 Comments Off
I will be the first to admit that, as a writer, brevity is not my strong suit. It would be completely fair for anyone who reads my writing to accuse me of being both long-winded and verbose. Well, in this post, I am going to fight that urge and let someone else do the talking (well, most of it at least).
Over the past year, the Community Engagement & Education team at the Hartford Symphony Orchestra has embarked on a new challenge called the Musicians Care Project. Thanks to the generosity of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the HSO has been able to establish a strong presence and partnership with Hebrew Health Care. Through this partnership, the HSO has been able to bring live musical performances to hundreds of people whose healthcare needs would prevent them from taking part in traditional concerts. The HSO is committed to being a source of artistic excellence and community service in our community. Knowing firsthand the power of music, we are hoping that the Musicians Care Project will help to broaden an understanding of how music can directly impact the wellness of patients, their families, their caregivers, and the musicians who participate.
I could certainly go on for a number more paragraphs telling stories of my visits to Hebrew Health Care during the pilot phase of the Musicians Care Project. Some could bring tears to your eyes, while others would almost surely have you doubled over with laughter. However, I am aiming to brief in this post, and I think there is a better voice to talk about the power of a program like the Musicians Care Project.
The video below is an interview I conducted with Pamela Atwood, Director of Dementia Care Services at Hebrew Health Care. A musician herself, Pam is a certified gerontologist who has worked with HSO musicians in preparing for the Musicians Care Project and attended many of the performances at Hebrew Health Care. I promised to be brief (or at least more so than usual), so I’ll let Pam’s words do the rest of the talking about the profound impact the HSO is making on our community through the Musicians Care Project.
– Jeff Martin, Director of Community Engagement & Education
September 4, 2013 Comments Off
Back East Brewery and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra have released Bachtoberfest, an Oktoberfest-style seasonal beer produced by Back East Brewery. Beginning the week of August 26th, Bachtoberfest will be available on tap at many great restaurants throughout the Greater Hartford and New Haven markets, including several restaurants in downtown Hartford. Bachtoberfest also will be available for purchase at the Hartford Symphony’s 70th Anniversary Opening Night performances at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts October 11 and 12. Beginning August 28th, Bachtoberfest will be available for purchase in half-gallon growlers in the tasting room at Back East Brewery in Bloomfield, CT. Back East will be donating a portion of the proceeds from each growler sold to the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in support of their artistic, educational, and community programs.
May 24, 2013 § 3 Comments
Wednesday, May 29 will mark the 100 anniversary of the premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
So why do we care?
Because this premiere was a game-changer. Many scholars would argue that, along with the premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, no other work in this history of Western music had the seismic effect that Rite of Spring had at its premiere.
What happened at the premiere?
Stravinsky’s conception for Rite came to him as he was finishing The Firebird in 1910. He had a vision of “a solemn pagan rite; wise elders, seated in a circle, watching a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of spring.” Stravinsky knew that Nicholas Roerich, a friend who was an archeologist and an authority on the ancient Slavs, would be interested in his idea, and he mentioned it to him. Stravinsky also shared the vision with Serge Diaghilev, impresario of the Ballet Russe, the company that had commissioned The Firebird. All three men were excited by the possibilities of the project — Diaghilev promised a production and encouraged Stravinsky to begin work immediately.
“What I was trying to convey in The Rite,” said Stravinsky, “was the surge of spring, the magnificent upsurge of nature reborn.” Inspired by childhood memories of the coming of spring to Russia (“which seemed to begin in an hour and was like the whole earth cracking,” he remembered), he worked with Roerich to devise a libretto which would, in Roerich’s words, “present a number of scenes of earthly joy and celestial triumph as understood by the ancient Slavs.” Stravinsky labored feverishly on the score through the winter of 1911-1912, realizing by that time that he was composing an important piece in a startling new style. “I was guided by no system whatever in The Rite of Spring,” he wrote. “Very little immediate tradition lies behind it. [Debussy was the only influence he admitted.] I had only my ear to help me. I heard, and I wrote what I heard. I am the vessel through which The Rite passed.”
Diaghilev scheduled the premiere for May 1913, and Nijinsky was chosen to do the choreography. Stravinsky, however,
objected to Nijinsky’s selection because of the dancer’s inexperience as a choreographer and his lack of understanding of the technical aspects of the music, but preparations were begun and continued through more than 120 rehearsals. Pierre Monteux drilled the orchestra to the point of anxious readiness. The guests invited to the final dress rehearsal seemed to appreciate the striking modernity of the work, but gave no hint of the donnybrook that was to roar through the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées at the public premiere on May 29th.
Almost as soon as the curtain rose, a riot broke out the like of which had not been inspired by a piece of music since Nero’s song of antiquity. Shouts, catcalls, whistles, even fisticuffs grew so menacing that often the orchestra could not be heard. Diaghilev flashed the house lights on and off in a vain attempt to restore order; Nijinsky, when he was not on stage, pounded wildly on the scenery with his fists to keep the dancers together; Stravinsky ran out of the auditorium (“as angry as I have ever been in my life”) and spent most of the evening backstage pacing in the wings. Somehow Monteux (“cool as a crocodile,” recalled Stravinsky) guided the performance through to the end. Puccini thought The Rite “might be the creation of a madman” and the critic of the New York Sun nominated the composer as “the cave man of music.”
No one could deny, however, the ferocious, overwhelming power of the music, and when audiences began to listen to the work on its own, revolutionary terms, they could not help but be swept away by its awesome and wonderful maelstrom of exquisitely executed sound. Within a year of its stage premiere, Koussevitzky in Russia and Monteux in Paris had conducted concert performances of The Rite, and the work’s position in the orchestral repertory was soon secured.*
Rite’s choreography struck a nerve with audiences as well. Nijinsky asked the dancers to break all the rules of traditional ballet by having them stand pigeon toed with their other limbs at sharp angles.
The sets and costumes from the original production were designed and created by the mystical painter and professional ethnographer Nikolai Roerich. Three of the original costumes and a sketch by Roerich will be on display at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford starting from May 29-June 23. Patrons who visit the museum from May 29-June 2 may present their admission receipt in person at HSO Ticket Services on May 29- 31 or at The Bushnell Box Office from May 29-June 2 to receive $5 off an adult ticket (does not apply to previously purchased tickets). Additionally, HSO audiences will be able to present their Rite of Spring performance ticket stub at the Wadsworth Atheneum from May 31-June 23 to receive $5 off museum/adult admission. For more information about the Wadsworth Atheneum, please visit www.thewadsworth.org.
As with stage performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the lore and mystery surrounding this premiere is still carried by performers today. HSO Maestra Carolyn Kuan said in a recent tweet, “Immersed in the world of #RiteofSpring and feeling intoxicated with that wonderful artistic madness.” Like a scar, the wildness of the premiere forever ensured that all future performances would be possessed by a chaotic, haunting character.
The HSO will honor this groundbreaking premiere 100 years later with four full performances of Rite of Spring, featuring more than 100 musicians onstage and two soloists from The Hartt School Dance Division on Thursday, May 30 – Sunday, June 2, 2013 at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.hartfordsymphony.org.
(*Taken from Program Notes by Dr. Richard Rodda)