Celebrating Ives and Yale, 1898-1998
The music of Charles Ives, one of this century’s greatest composers, will be celebrated in a three day festival-conference at Yale University, April 3-5. The festival, marking the centenary of Ives’ graduation from Yale College in the spring of 1898, will include concerts, recitals, lectures, discussions and manuscript displays, hosted by Yale professors of music Robert Morgan and Allen Forte. Yale visiting professor James Sinclair is producing the event. A registration fee of $95 includes all sessions, program materials, musical performances, coffee breaks and a Sunday luncheon. Tickets for the Friday evening concert can be purchased separately. Concerts on Saturday and Sunday are free and open to the public.
“We’re proud to be celebrating Yale’s most outstanding composer,” says Sinclair. “Prominent American scholars in musicology will be joining with our Yale faculty to examine aspects of Ives’ music and life. His leading biographers will be here. Among the music that we will hear is some of Ives’ most charming and accessible, including masterpieces and curiosities. The Whiffenpoofs will be letting us hear music composed on this campus 100 years ago for their precursors. I think audiences will be able to appreciate all sides of Ives’ remarkable output.”
Ives (1874-1954) came from a musical family. His father, George Ives, a Civil War military bandmaster, was an important early influence and had an avid enthusiasm for new sounds. Always leading a multi-faceted life, Charles was an athlete and captain of the Danbury (Connecticut) Academy and Danbury High School football teams.
Ives came to New Haven in the spring of 1893 to study at Hopkins Grammar School, prior to entering Yale College. That year, he became organist for St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church. He entered Yale in October, 1894, and a month later, his father suddenly passed away. An important father figure for him at this time was Dr. John C. Griggs, the choir director of the Center Church on the Green for which Ives played during his four undergraduate years. Griggs often allowed Ives to play his “new” music during worship services saying, “My opinion is that God must get awfully tired of hearing the same thing over and over again, and in His all-embracing wisdom he could certainly embrace a dissonance – might even positively enjoy one now and then.”
Ives studied composition with Horatio Parker at Yale, and with Parker’s encouragement, composed his first large works. Some of his non-academic pieces focused on life at Yale. It was the social and sports scene at Yale that Ives especially cherished, and he was an outstanding performer in both.
After graduation, he earned his living in the insurance business, writing music as an avocation. Most of his work was written in the 20 years following his graduation, but not appreciated for many years. Ives was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in music in 1947 for his Third Symphony, composed 43 years earlier. His Fourth Symphony was not performed in its entirety until 11 years after his death.
Ives’ music is characteristically vernacular in its inspiration. He frequently quotes hymn tunes and popular, patriotic and ragtime music in his compositions, but adapts these borrowings into new formal and sound contexts. Ives conceived many of the important 20th-century composing techniques such as polytonality and polyrhythmia. In the nearly 40 years of his creative activity (1887-1926), Ives composed something like 500 works, including 50 orchestral pieces, 30 chamber works, 60 pieces for piano or organ, 60 choral works, 200 songs and a few pieces for band.
There are four concerts in the festival weekend:
– 8 p.m., Friday, April 3, Battell Chapel (corner of Elm and College streets): Orchestra New England, James Sinclair, conductor, soprano Amy Justman (Class of 2000), baritone Theodore Huffman (Class of 1999) and the Whiffenpoofs of ‘98, will perform orchestral songs, male choruses and Symphony No. 3. Tickets $15 ($5 students) – included in the registration fee. To order separately, call (203) 432-2985.
– 2 p.m., Saturday, April 4, Sudler Recital Hall, Rm. 201, W. L. Harkness Hall, 100 Wall St.: Chamber music and band music featuring Yale musicians and members of the Yale Bands, James Sinclair, guest conductor, will perform “Four Songs” for brass quintet; “Largo for Clarinet, Violin and Piano”; “A Set of Three Short Pieces”; String Quartet No.1; “March: Intercollegiate”; “Scherzo: The Seer”; “Runaway Horse on Main Street”; “General William Booth Enters Heaven”; “March: Omega Lambda Chi”; “March: Here’s to Good Old Yale.” Admission is free.
– 8 p.m., Saturday, April 4, in Woolsey Hall (corner of College and Grove streets): Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale with Lawrence Leighton Smith, conductor; Denis Segond, conducting fellow; and Aude Richard, clarinet, will perform Ives’ “Three Places in New England” and “Central Park in the Dark”; Weber’s clarinet concerto and Copland’s Symphony No.3. Admission is free.
– 2 p.m., Sunday, April 5, in Morse Recital Hall, Sprague Memorial Hall (470 College St.), “On the Campus”– Music by Ives, inspired by Yale. “Calcium Light Night,” “The Celestial Railroad,” Violin Sonata No.4 and Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano. Admission is free.
As an extension of the Celebration, the Yale Symphony Orchestra will perform the new critical edition of Ives’ Symphony No.1, composed in part as a senior thesis at Yale, on April 25 at 8 p.m. in Woolsey Hall.
Questions about registration, accomodations and travel should be directed to Yale Conference Services at (203) 432-0465. Information on the concerts is available by calling (203) 432-4158.