Sunday, February 1, 2009

My father

It was a pleasant surprise to read Jeffrey Johnson's commnent in the Hartford Courant that I had programmed Copland's Our Town as a musical birthday card for my dad. Sometimes I do things unwittingly, or in this case, perhaps subconsciously. I have always liked this short work, based on AC's music to the film version of Thornton Wilder's play. But in the many times I have performed it over the years, only my first with the Florida Orchestra (in Tampa of all places, on this Super Bowl Sunday) had really captured the essence of the piece. Don't ask me why.

So, with this in mind, in preparation for an all-Copland concert last weekend, it occurred to me that doing a scene from Our Town might help to set the mood. It was not part of my planning that the performance would occur on my father's birthday, just days after he would die of congestive heart failure. But then Thornton Wilder's nephew contacted the symphony to tell the orchestra that doing a scene from Our Town would not be in accordance with the playwright's estate, which specifically states that excerpting from any of his works is not allowed. (In a very pleasant telephone conversation I had with Tappan Wilder, he told me he'd learned of our plans from a Google search!)

Too bad, because the scene we had rehearsed featured the wonderful young actress, Lauretta Pope, whose considerable acting skills were thus unfortunately not on display for our audiences to witness.

But all was not lost. Forced to punt, I instead spoke to the audience about my father (Edward II; I'm the IIIrd), who had played a scene from Our Town when he was a student at Oakland Technical High School, circa 1941. After telling this story, the Hartford Symphony musicians responded with a very heartfelt rendition of Copland's music.

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