This year, Third Eye Theatre Ensemble is concentrating on the work of American composers. Both of this year’s productions are by American composers and the librettist of one is from Chicago. Later this week Third Eye’s summer concert is entitled “Songs of Americana”, in honor of America’s most celebrated composers. With this month’s blog, I share with you who I admire as composers.
Stephen Foster: Considered by some as the Father of American Music, Stephen Foster, born in Pennsylvania, wrote more than 200 songs, including anthems for two states. He wrote Kentucky’s “My Old Kentucky Home” and Florida’s “Old Folks at Home.” He also wrote American standards “Oh Susanna,” “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Camptown Races”…doo dah doo dah J Foster earned very little money with his songs due to copyright laws during his era providing limited protection. Unfortunately, Foster died at only age 37, sick and impoverished. When he died, a penciled scrap of paper was found that read, “Dear friends and gentle hearts.” Gladly his legacy of music lives on.
John Philip Sousa: Known as the March King, Sousa composed 136 military-style marches, 15 operettas and 70 songs, including “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” which was designated the U.S. national march in 1987 and “Semper Fidelis,” later enshrined as the U.S. Marine Corps’ official march. In 1893, Sousa helped design the sousaphone, a large brass tuba-like instrument.
Richard Rodgers: Rodgers was the first music composer to win top awards for television, recording, movies and Broadway. He won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony, as well as a Pulitzer Prize! At 17 years old Rodgers met lyricist Lorenz Hart and created some of America’s most recognized standards: “My Funny Valentine,” and “The Lady is a Tramp,” just to name a couple. After Hart’s death, Rodgers worked with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, composing scores for Oklahoma, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music.
Duke Ellington: Edward ”Duke” Ellington started taking piano lessons at age 7. By 18, he and his band were playing for high society functions in and around our nation’s capital. Duke gained more notoriety when he moved to Harlem in the 1920s. He began attracting crowds to the Cotton Club, a celebrated jazz nightclub. He composed most of his band’s music, writing thousands of songs including “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” and “Mood Indigo” and film scores for Anatomy of a Murder and Paris Blues. Interestingly, toward the end of his life, Ellington wrote more sacred music and tried to incorporate the worship experience with jazz. Some felt it was Duke’s end of life statement.
I may do a Part II of this blog later this year. There are so many other composers I’d like to share with you…Cole Porter, Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, just to name a few…stay tuned!
As mentioned at the start of this blog, Third Eye Theatre Ensemble is presenting “Songs of Americana”; a musical journey celebrating some of America’s most well known composers. Come and hear not only opera and art songs, but also Negro spirituals, Broadway show stoppers. Here are the details:
Third Eye Theatre Ensemble Presents: Songs of Americana
Friday, July 22nd 7:30pm
Glessner House Museum Coach House
1800 S. Prairie Av.
Chicago, IL 60616
Go to thirdeyeamericana.brownpapertickets.com to purchase tickets.
After the concert we’ll have a wine reception with goodies and docents will be providing tours of the historic Glessner Mansion. It will be a joyous evening of song and community. I hope you’ll join us. Should you have any questions, please contact us at email@example.com. Until next time, keep a song in your heart.
Above photo courtesy of exploratorymusic.net