American Music For Choir – Music Of The New World – August 3, 1944 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
During the years of World War 2, one of the essential morale builders was a focus on all things American; American values, American spirit and American Music. Radio played a huge role in this, with numerous programs focusing our accomplishments in the area of Arts and Sciences, and certainly the pioneering days of the 1800’s. Many of these programs were dramatic recreations, with a lot of emphasis on the “go-to” and “team-spirit” of the American throughout history. But a few of those programs also focused on the musical contributions of America’s composers. One such a program ran from early 1942 all the way to 1945 – it was called Music Of The New World. I’ve run excerpts of some of those programs, concentrating on the lesser-known composers or lesser-known works of familiar composers.
This episode, dubbed Toward The 20th Century features the New World Choristers, conducted by Peter Wilhousky and features music of Horatio Parker, Dudley Buck, John Knowles Paine, George W. Chadwick and Edward MacDowell.
All of these composers were well known at the time. Some have slipped into obscurity while others have been rescued by way of some of the smaller independent labels and more adventuresome ensembles currently playing and recording. Although some composers, like Horatio Parker, Edward MacDowell and George W. Chadwick are better known for their instrumental and symphonic works, many of these choral works haven’t been performed for many decades.
America was still pretty much beholden to Europe for leading the way in musical trends and styles – and practically every one of the composers listed spent a considerable amount of their formative years in Europe at one of several conservatories, studying under some of the leading composers in Europe of the day. So naturally, the influences are going to wear off. It really wasn’t until the period after World War 1 that America started finding its voice – ironically, Europe discovered American Jazz, to the dismay of the conservative American Classical music community – until George Gershwin came along, and Aron Copland and the opening of the flood gates of the “new school” descended on the concert halls and recording studios from New York to Los Angeles.
But this episode doesn’t cover that part – it stays on the period from roughly 1860-1903. For an idea what was being listened to and studied, here is that episode of Music Of The New World with Choir conducted by Peter Wihousky and broadcast on August 3, 1944.