Friday July 4, 2014 8:00pm

Pops, Patriots & Fireworks

July 4th Spectacular


Join us for a patriotic evening of music, picnics on the lawn, and fireworks. Hear performances by the Westchester Symphonic Winds and Broadway’s Ryan Silverman — returning to Caramoor after last year’s memorable Opening Weekend performance in She Loves Me. Sousa marches, Americana and popular favorites played by this 60-piece wind and percussion ensemble will be followed by fireworks after the concert!

Westchester Symphonic Winds / Curt Ebersole, conductor / Ryan Silverman, vocalist / Lois Hicks-Wozniak, saxophone / Robert Sherman, host

John Stafford Smith / arr. John Philip Sousa & Walter Damrosch The Star Spangled Banner
Jule Styne / arr. Barton Green Overture from Funny Girl
Jules Demersseman /arr. Ted Hegvik / Fantaisie sur un thème original
Lois Hicks-Wozniak, Alto Saxophone soloist
Frank Ticheli /An American Elegy
Brant Karrick / See Rock City
Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II / Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’, from Oklahoma!
Meredith Willson / Seventy-Six Trombones, from The Music Man
Earl Robinson & Abel Meeropol additional lyrics by Frank Sinatra / The House I Live In
Ryan Silverman, vocalist
Arrangements by Matt Podd
Samuel A. Ward /arr. Carmen Dragon / America the Beautiful
John Philip Sousa / arr. John Bourgeois/The Gallant Seventh
Peter I. Tchaikovsky /arr. Mayhew Lake / Overture, “1812”
John Philip Sousa arr. Keith Brion & Loras Schissel / The Stars & Stripes Forever

Fireworks display to follow the concert!

Member’s Lounge:
  Members (donors of $100 or more) may reserve tables for picnicking in the Reception Tent (limited space available)



Curt EbersoleCurt Ebersole, conductor

Curt Ebersole has served as Conductor/Music Director of the Westchester Symphonic Winds since 2008, where he occupies the John P. Paynter Memorial Conductor’s Chair. He led the Westchester Symphonic Winds in their Lincoln Center debut in March 2010 at Avery Fisher Hall, and conducted the ensemble at their first national convention performance in April 2012, at the Association of Concert Bands Convention in Poughkeepsie, New York. He retired from Northern Valley Regional High School (Old Tappan, New Jersey) in 2013 after serving as Director of Instrumental Music for 31 years. His ensembles garnered frequent critical accolades, and his instrumental Prism Concerts became a local rite of spring. He now serves as a member of the Music Department faculty at the Masters School, in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

He earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree and a Master of Music in Conducting degree from Northwestern University, where he studied conducting with John P. Paynter and clarinet with Larry Combs, and a Master of Fine Arts in Clarinet Performance from SUNY-Purchase, where he studied with Ben Armato.

Mr. Ebersole has served as a guest conductor and clinician for many honor bands and adult community ensembles across the nation. He is the founder and coordinator of the Music Educators of Bergen County Wind Conducting Symposium, and served as a clinician at the 2009 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, Illinois. In July 2009 he appeared as guest conductor with the Boystown Symphony Orchestra in Busan, South Korea, as part of a cultural exchange program sponsored by Sejong Cultural Empowerment, Inc. As a clarinetist, he performs as a chamber musician, band and orchestral player, and also as a basset hornist.

Mr. Ebersole was selected as the Northern Valley District Teacher of the Year in 1994 and the Bergen County Teacher of the Year in 1995. The Mayor and Council of Old Tappan honored him for 20 years of service to the community in 2002. The New Jersey Music Educators Association chose him as the recipient of the 2003 New Jersey Master Music Teacher Award, and he received a Governor’s Award in Arts Education in May 2003. In 2009 he was the Northern Valley-Old Tappan recipient of the New Jersey Governor’s Teacher Recognition Award. He received the Distinguished Music Educator Award from Yale University in June 2011. His professional memberships include National Association for Music Education, the College Band Directors National Association, the National Band Association, the International Clarinet Association, the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, and Pi Kappa Lambda.

Mr. Ebersole is a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and a current resident of White Plains, New York. Beyond his musical activities, he also enjoys photography, cycling, reading on the beach, and riding America’s fastest and tallest roller coasters. Follow his blog at

Lois Hicks-WozniakLois Hicks-Wozniak, alto saxophone

Lois Hicks-Wozniak is an active concert saxophonist in the New York Metropolitan and the Hudson Valley region. Among her many awards is the Special Presentation Winners Recital Series, sponsored by Artists International Presentations.  As her prize, she performed her New York Recital Debut at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall.

From 1996-2004 she served active duty in the U.S. Army as a saxophonist with the United States Military Academy Band at West Point and with the West Point Saxophone Quartet.  She was a featured soloist at the World Saxophone Congress 2000 in Montreal, where she performed the Glazunov Concerto with the West Point Concert Band. She can be heard on the West Point Saxophone Quartet CD, Fault Lines, and her performances have been broadcast on New York public radio. She resigned her position in the Army to take on her most prized role as proud mom of four terrific children (two sets of twins!)

In November 2007, as a subscription series soloist with the Ridgewood (NJ) Concert Band, she presented the east coast premiere of the John Mackey, Concerto for Soprano Sax and Wind Ensemble.  As artist-in-residence at Mississippi State University, she performed the Mississippi premiere of Dream Dancer for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble by Michael Colgrass. She has been a guest of the Ithaca College Saxophone Society where she presented a recital and clinic.

She is currently principal saxophonist with the Ridgewood (NJ) Concert Band, and she has performed with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic Orchestra, the Newburgh Symphony, the Lawton Philharmonic, the Pone New Music Ensemble and the Dallas Wind Symphony, to include their recording, Fiesta!  She maintains an active schedule as a performer and clinician, participating in festivals such as the Hudson Valley Bachfest, and appearing as guest soloist with high school, university and community ensembles to include the Westchester Symphonic Winds, Ridgewood High School Bands, Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan, and the Teaneck Community Band. As a freelance musician, she has shared the stage with diverse acts from Manhattan Transfer to Milton Berle. Additionally, as a vocal soloist she has sung Broadway, pop, country, jazz and light opera selections

An advocate of new chamber music, she and her husband, Matt Wozniak, comprise the saxophone and bass trombone duo, “The Unexpected Duo.” Championing new works for this unique ensemble, they commissioned and premiered Cater Pann’s “Duo for Alto Saxophone and Bass Trombone” at the Eastern Trombone Workshop in March 2011 in Washington, D.C., and at subsequent performances at the NASA Region 8 Conference at West Point, NY, March 2011 and the Crane School of Music Saxophone Chamber Music Festival. They were also featured performers at the International Trombone Association Conference, held at the Eastman School of Music in June 2014.

In the past year, she presented an east coast recital series with pianist, Nadine Shank, titled “The Well-Traveled Saxophone.” Additionally, in February 2014, she was a featured soloist along with internationally acclaimed saxophonist, Kenneth Tse for the Ridgewood Concert Band’s “Saxophone Spectacular.” Premiering David Kirkland Garner’s Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Wind Ensemble, she gave encore performances of this tour de force at the 2014 New Jersey Music Educators Association Convention and the Association of Concert Bands Convention.

She has studied at the Interlochen Arts Academy, the University of North Texas and the Florida State University, and her teachers include Dr. Frederick L. Hemke, Patrick Meighan and Debra Richtmeyer.  She is currently an adjunct professor of music at Marist College, where she teaches World Music Cultures. She maintains a private piano and saxophone studio, and she teaches Spinning and other exercise classes at her local gym. She can be found on the web at


Ryan SilvermanRyan Silverman, vocals

Ryan Silverman recently starred as Lancelot alongside Brian Stokes Mitchell in The Kennedy Center’s Spring Gala concert production of Camelot. Prior to that he starred as Billy Flynn in Chicago on Broadway. He received a Drama Desk and Drama League nomination for his role as Giorgio in CSC’s production of Passion. Ryan starred as Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and in Las Vegas.  He has also been featured in Music in the Air (Karl) at Encores!; Cry-Baby (Cry Baby u/s) on Broadway and The Most Happy Fella (Al) at New York City Opera. His portrayal of Tony in the Olivier nominated 2008 West End production of West Side Story received universal raves.  He starred as Sky in the 1st National tour of Mamma Mia!, and as Jose in the world premiere of the new musical Carmen at La Jolla Playhouse.  He also performed in the Chicago production of Wicked (Fiyero u/s).  Regional credits include Thoroughly Modern Mille (Jimmy), Cinderella (Prince), Grease! (Danny), Hello Dolly! (Cornelius), Assassins (John Wilkes Booth), Sweeney Todd (Anthony), Forever Plaid (Smudge), and Blood Brothers (Eddie Lyons). TV and film: Gossip Girl, The 5 Minarets Of New York, Sex and the City 2, True Blood. Ryan has performed his club act the Café Carlyle (month long residency) and Feinstein’s at the Regency. Concert performances with: The New York Pops (Carnegie Hall), Seattle Symphony with Marvin Hamlisch , Philadelphia Pops and Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony, The Cincinnati Pops, Utah Symphony, Houston Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Edmonton Symphony, among others. and

Ryan Silverman appeared at Caramoor during the 2013 Summer Music Festival in the Opening Weekend production of She Loves Me.


Robert ShermanRobert Sherman, host

Broadcaster, writer, teacher and radio personality, Robert Sherman is probably best known for his more than half century of service to WQXR, New York’s premier classical music station. Having presided in “The Listening Room” for 23 of those years, he continues to present “McGraw-Hill Financial’s Young Artists Showcase” every week (a series that celebrated its 36th anniversary this past January).  He has also hosted the annual Avery Fisher Career Grant Award presentations at Lincoln Center since their inception in 1976. His multiple award-winning folk series “Woody’s Children,” now heard in New York on Public Radio WFUV, marked its 45th anniversary in January, 2014, with a concert that will be shown later this summer as a PBS television special.

On the faculty of the Juilliard School for nearly two decades, Robert Sherman has given seminars at the Manhattan and Eastman Schools, the Mannes College of Music, Oberlin, Yale, and CalArts. He is on the advisory boards of many other major cultural organizations, serving them variously as pre-concert lecturer, competition judge, panel moderator and fund-raising emcee.

For over 25 years a New York Times music critic and columnist, Sherman has written two books with Victor Borge, is the co-author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Classical Music,” and with his brother, Alexander Sherman, compiled a pictorial biography of their mother, the renowned pianist Nadia Reisenberg.

Robert Sherman has appeared as a concert narrator with such eminent ensembles as Canadian Brass, the United States Military Academy (West Point) Band, the Greenwich Symphony, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic; among his  performances are the world premieres of works written especially for him by Seymour Barab, John Corigliano, William Mayer, Issachar Miron, Margarita Zelenaia, and Dina Pruzhansky.

Many of Sherman’s historic broadcast tapes are in the permanent collections of the Sarasota Music Archive, the Paley Center for Media, the New York Public Library, The Yale Oral History Archives, and the Media Collection at the University of Maryland.


Westchester Symphonic Winds – Ensemble Biography

Twenty-six years ago, two New Rochelle High School graduates realized how much they had loved being part of a concert band, and how much they missed the experience and its special sound.  They also discovered that there were virtually no local community bands, so they persuaded their former band director, James D. Wayne, to work with them to form a new organization in Westchester which they called the Hudson Valley Wind Symphony.  From its humble beginning of 30 members, the group has grown to 60 wind and percussion players, has found a permanent home at the Tarrytown Music Hall, and has changed its name to Westchester Symphonic Winds to better reflect that its members come from all over Westchester (as well as Putnam, Connecticut, Rockland, New Jersey and NYC).

Like many avocational groups, WSW members represent many backgrounds and vocations, but the common thread is the love of the concert band experience, where the woodwinds and the brass do all the work that strings would do in an orchestra, and still have solo moments to shine.  Since many people have never heard a serious concert band, one of the aims of the group is to show music lovers what they are missing:  “A whole ocean of music,” said Robert LaPorta, one of the founders of the band.

Westchester Symphonic Winds, an adult community-based 60-piece wind and percussion ensemble is proud to celebrate its 26th season. We exist to promote music in our area, instill pride in our nation and heritage, provide opportunities for personal expression and growth within our membership, and nurture the love of music by offering an exceptional musical experience for people of all ages.

The ensemble was founded by Rachel Eckhaus, Robert LaPorta, and the group’s first conductor, James D. Wayne, who conducted the band from 1988-2004. Dr. Luis Fernando Jimenez was conductor from 2005-2008. Curt Ebersole was invited to conduct the 20th Anniversary Gala Concert in 2008, and was subsequently invited to stay on permanently as Conductor/Music Director. Matthew Kowalski joined the group as Assistant Conductor in 2011. Since 2008, guest conductors and clinicians have included the finest wind band conductors from Westchester and across the nation.

Over the years, we have given benefit concerts for many groups, including the Food Bank for Westchester, Student Assistance Services, Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation, Irvington Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Rotary Club of Briarcliff Manor, Emergency Ecumenical Food Pantry, Family Services of Westchester, Yonkers Arts Education, and others.

The ensemble made its New York City debut at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in March 2010, and its national debut at the 2012 Association of Concert Bands National Convention. Our debut in the Venetian Theater at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts is scheduled for July 4, 2014. The organization is an Ensemble-in-Residence at the historic Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown, New York, and rehearses there on Monday evenings from September through May.

Please visit online at:, on Facebook, and Twitter (@WSWinds). Westchester Symphonic Winds, Inc. is a Section 501(c)(3) Not-for-Profit organization.  Contributions, financial assistance, and volunteers are essential and always welcomed.



Personnel for July 4  2014 Concert


Rachel Eckhaus †



Rachel Eckhaus‡

Debra Dashnaw

Marjorie Hone†

    The Curtis H. Vaughan Chair

Marianne Lepre-Nolan

Wendy Wanninger



Jacquelyn Curtis

Gina Serafin†

   The Ned B. Fleischer Memorial Chair



Joseph Bergamini

Elizabeth Weissman†


Eb Clarinet

Gerould McCoy


Bb Clarinet

Suzanne Coletta

Janet Duncan

Daniel Harrison

Geoffrey  Katin †

   The C. Ronald MacKenzie Chair

Matthew Kowalski

C. Ronald MacKenzie

Gerould McCoy

Nancy Mattson

Claudia Mickelson

David Moore

Daniel Salvi ‡


Bass Clarinet

Joe Mariany

Susan Winthrop


Contrabass Clarinet

David Church


Soprano Saxophone

Thomas Sweezey


Alto Saxophone

Edward J. Herko †

   The Bebe and Bob Harrison Memorial Chair

Thomas Sweezey ‡


Tenor Saxophone

Edward D. Herko, Jr.


Baritone Saxophone

Dan Chiplock



Ben Acrish

Mary Eberling

David Marchiony

Thomas Mueller

Kelly Oram

Donna Rossi ‡

Denise Ruchala

Jennifer Scopaz

Stan Serafin†

   The Joseph Greco Chair


French Horn

Timothy Allport

Allyson Bellink

Eric Joseph

Marc Perler

Tim Takagi†


Ryan McNulty

Lisa Romeo

Kirk Silver

Richard Williams†


Bass Trombone

Mark Sedotti



Chris Burnell

John Dexter



Christian Carbone †

James Savage


String Bass

Suzanne Fleishaker



Nathan Brewster

Rob DelGaudio

Mark Dodge§

Chris Larsen

Nicholas Rosolanko

Jessica Slotwinski



Curt Ebersole

   The John P. Paynter Memorial Chair

Assistant Conductor

Matthew Kowalski


†  Principal

‡  Assistant Principal

§  Section Leader


Our debut performance here at Caramoor is a very important event for the members of the Westchester Symphonic Winds. This ensemble, originally founded as the Hudson Valley Wind Symphony in 1988, has grown substantially in expertise and stature in the past six years. It’s an honor and a pleasure to perform for you here this evening.

Tonight’s program is not only a collection of popular and patriotic works by great composers; it is also an evening of some of my personal favorites, which I hope you will enjoy.

I have conducted many arrangements of The Star Spangled Banner. My two favorites are the arrangement by Jack Stamp, written as his personal response to the 9/11 tragedies, and the version performed tonight, arranged by John Philip Sousa and harmonized by Walter Damrosch. We hope you will find it to be a stirring combination of traditional patriotism and military breadth.

The Overture to “Funny Girl” is one of America’s greatest Broadway overtures. Full of profound and endearing melodies, this is a perfect introduction to the wonderful music on tonight’s program. I’m indebted to my friend and colleague, Barton Green, for this tremendous arrangement. Ben Acrish is the trumpet soloist.

Frank Ticheli wrote An American Elegy as a special project, commissioned by the Alpha Iota Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi at the University of Colorado on behalf of the Columbine High School Band. In the score, Ticheli writes: “An American Elegy is, above all, an expression of hope. It was composed in memory of those who lost their lives at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, and to honor the survivors. It is offered as a tribute to their great strength and courage in the face of a terrible tragedy. I hope the work can also serve as one reminder of how fragile and precious life is and how intimately connected we all are as human beings.” The trumpet soloist is Stan Serafin.

I first heard See Rock City at the Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic a few years ago. My initial reaction was an immediate “What was that?!?!” This high-powered rock jam session for concert band fuses rock, jazz, and funk styles in a three-part form. It is inspired by the highway billboards in Tennessee and the southeast, which declare “See Rock City!” This piece pays tribute to this beautiful sight-seeing attraction, situated on top of Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga.”   The music’s raucous,  and blatant sense of fun reflects the attraction’s quirky sense of humor as well as its inspiring natural beauty. Our featured drummer is Mark Dodge, alto saxophone soloist is Thomas Sweezey, and trumpet soloist is Stan Serafin.

Few patriotic songs fill us with pride like Carmen Dragon’s arrangement of America, the Beautiful. Its energetic opening fanfare, solemn hymn-like statement of the melody, creative harmonization, and high-powered closing will certainly make its mark on your memory.

The Gallant Seventh March, by John Philip Sousa, is one of my personal favorites. It is unusual because of the additional interlude strain, played by trumpets in unison. This melody returns for two rousing final statements, woven together in the final Trio.

Although its origins have nothing to do with America, Overture “1812” has become synonymous with the battle for which it was named, in which Russia defended itself against the Napoleonic armies of France. Connect battles to cannons, cannons to fireworks, and fireworks to Fourth of July . . . and an iconic musical tradition was born. We hope you enjoy our special take on this battle hymn of freedom.

We are closing our program tonight with a traditional Fourth of July encore, The Stars and Stripes Forever, by John Philip Sousa. Since an act of Congress in 1987, it is the official National March of the United States of America. What better way is there to end our Fourth of July celebration?

I’d like to thank Jeffrey Haydon, Paul Rosenblum, Kimberly Hawkey, and Ellie Gisler at Caramoor, and the Board of Trustees and members of the Westchester Symphonic Winds for helping us to realize this opportunity this evening.

-Curt Ebersole, Conductor / Music Director
Westchester Symphonic Winds


Jules Demersseman  /  arr. Ted Hegvik  /  Fantaisie sur un thème original

Jules Demersseman was a highly regarded flutist in the middle of the 19th century. Born in northern France near the Belgian border, he had already won First Prize in flute at the Paris Conservatory at the age of 12. He quickly became an established virtuoso. Such early-rising brilliance might normally have led to an invitation to join the faculty, but no such invitation was forthcoming, owing to the fact that he chose not to adopt the modern Boehm flute, which had recently been introduced and on which all future teaching at the institution would concentrate. He never had the opportunity to reconsider this decision, since he died tragically young, presumably of tuberculosis.

Most of his own works were, naturally, for his own instrument, but he was also one of the early contributors to literature for the relatively new saxophone, and his Fantasy on an Original Theme is probably today his best-known work. Like many works of this kind, designed to display the varied technical abilities of the performer, it consists of several sections in different tempos and meters.  Perhaps the biggest surprise is the brief appearance of a Russian melody familiar from the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony at the end of a cadenza leading into a slow waltz section. This moves into a faster waltz passage with virtuosic running notes from the soloist, building to a still more virtuosic climax.


Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II  /  Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’, from Oklahoma!

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II each had successful careers in the musical theater (Rodgers with Lorenz Hart, Hammerstein with Jerome Kern, among others), which would have put each of them into the pantheon of great innovators in the American musical. But when they teamed up for Oklahoma, their partnership began a new stage that has been identified (from some views) as the starting point of the modern musical theater, in which the book became as important as the songs, and the songs had to fit naturally into the drama rather than simply being sprinkled on top like so many marshmallows.

Oklahoma! was a reworking of a Theater Guild production, Lynn Riggs’s Green Grow the Lilacs, that had been less than a sterling success in 1931. Set in the Oklahoma Territory before statehood, it reflected elements of the opening of the West, which seemed like a popular topic. But the songs originally presented in the show were actual cowboy songs chosen by the author. The Theater Guild decided to have it reworked as a full-scale musical.

It opened in March 1943 and went on to a run of unprecedented length at the time, 2,212 performances followed by tours and a successful film version in 1955. Moreover it is credited with having all-but single-handedly created the “book musical,” in which the plot is every bit as important as the music in establishing a success. Rodgers and Hammerstein produced more successes of this type in the next quarter-century.

During the period of Rodgers’ major scores  (from the late ’20s to the early ’50s), waltzes were rarely found in Broadway  scores.  They seemed to many composers to be too redolent of the old‑fashioned Viennese operetta.  But Rodgers loved writing waltzes, and almost every show had at least one example. Oklahoma! opens with an unusual one—the gentle warmth of “Oh, what a beautiful mornin’.” First heard from offstage sung by the cowboy Curley, it instantly establishes the downhome locale and mood that is to be one of the marks of this show.


Meredith Willson  /  Seventy-Six Trombones, from The Music Man

Meredith Willson earned the coveted position of principal flutist in John Philip Sousa’s band while he was still a student. He went on to work in television and films and to compose romantic symphonic works. But he is best known by far as the composer of The Music Man (1957), which depicts life in a small Iowa town at the turn of the century—precisely the world from which he came—when a hustling, fast-talking swindler comes to town to sell the good citizens on a boys’ band. Everyone in town is caught up in his (invented) description of an event when, he claimed, all the great bandleaders of the day joined there ensembles in spectacular musical event, in which the massed bands entered with no fewer than seventy-six trombones. This is a hustler’s slick spiel, but the song that climaxed the scene not only carried away the citizens of River City, Iowa, but also Broadway audiences for 1,375 performances and film and concert audiences in the decades since.


Earl Robinson & Abel Meeropol  /  additional lyrics by Frank Sinatra  /  The House I Live In

Active in anti-fascist movements in the 1930s, when he joined the Communist Party for a time, Earl Robinson is known for a series of songs dealing with social issues and American patriotism during and after World War II.  Born in Seattle, he studied composition there before coming to New York in 1934, where he continued his composition studies with Hanns Eisler and Aaron Copland.  He worked on film scores in Hollywood until he was blacklisted for his political connections. This raises a certain irony, since his song “The House I Live In,” written with lyricist Abel Meeropol, was the main feature of a 10-minute film of the same name made in 1945 and designed to oppose anti-Semitism and racial prejudice.  In the film, Frank Sinatra—while taking a break from a recording session—sees a group of 10 boys chasing a Jewish boy. He talks to them, first noting that we are all Americans, and that any one person’s religion deserves as much respect as another’s. Then he sings “The House I Live In.”

Abel Meeropol was angry that, in the film, the song’s second verse, referring to “my neighbors white and black,” was omitted. But over the years the song has been recorded by many other artists: Paul Robeson, Mahalia Jackson, Josh White, and Sam Cooke. Frank Sinatra kept it in his repertory as well and sang it both in the Nixon White House and at the inauguration of Ronald Reagan.

The sentiments of “The House I Live In” are as timely today as ever, and despite the fact that Earl Robinson was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, the song earned a special Academy Award in 1946, and the film that features it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 2007.


Peter I. Tchaikovsky  arr. Mayhew Lake  /  Overture, “1812”

 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Kamsko‑Votkinsk, Vyatka Province, May 7, 1840, and died in St. Petersburg, on November 6, 1893. He composed “The Year 1812,” as he called it, in the summer and early fall of 1880 for the 25th anniversary of the throne of Tsar Alexander II. The score calls for two flutes and piccolo, two oboes and English horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two cornets and two trumpets, three trombones and tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, snare drum, triangle, tambourine, chimes, and strings, with bells and cannon as an extra added attraction.

In 1880, Tchaikovsky promised Nikolai Rubinstein that he would compose an occasional piece to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Tsar Alexander II, the “Tsar-Liberator,” who had ascended the throne in 1855 and six years later issued the Edict of Emancipation that freed the serfs, who comprised one-third of the population of Russia. During the summer and early fall of 1880 Tchaikovsky worked on the celebratory piece along with another work, composed purely for his own musical satisfaction. The latter was his Serenade for Strings, Opus 48. The former was a single-movement orchestral work that he labeled an overture with the formal title The Year 1812.

To any Russian the date 1812 instantly conjured up the image of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, his conquest of Moscow, and his devastating, ignominious retreat with only a tiny percentage of his army, most of which had been destroyed by extremes of winter weather and lack of food. Tchaikovsky finished the overture on October 18 and wrote soon afterward to his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck, with the news of his latest compositions: “The Overture will be very loud and noisy, but I wrote it with little warmth or love; therefore it will probably have small artistic worth. The Serenade, on the other hand, I wrote from inner compulsion: I felt it, and therefore venture to hope that it does not lack artistic quality.”

Tchaikovsky composed his musical tribute to the Russian victory essentially as a potboiler, aimed at popular success. Without question he achieved his goal. The quotation of familiar tunes (familiar, at any rate, to his Russian audience in the 1880s) guaranteed a patriotic response as it reminded them of the historical events: the hymn “God Preserve the Tsar,” which opens the piece, the appearance of the “Marseillaise,” symbolizing the invading French army, the musical battle between the two sides and the gradual overwhelming of the “Marseillaise” by the Russian music, and finally the Imperial anthem, reinforced by bells and cannon—all this has made the overture a popular showpiece from its very first performance.


Additional program notes © Steven Ledbetter