Author Topic: My Day in Danbury  (Read 3094 times)

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Joe Barron

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My Day in Danbury
« on: October 22, 2007, 09:05:05 AM »
From the Danbury News-Times

Event gives fans glimpse of composer's life

By John Pirro
Staff Writer
NewsTimes.com

DANBURY — When Joseph Barron was in high school 33 years ago, his friends were listening to music by rock groups such as Led Zeppelin and Wings.

But Barron's tastes ran in a more classical direction, and the course was set for good when he discovered a couple of albums of music by Danbury-born composer Charles Ives in the basement bargain bin of a Gimbel's department store.

"I've been in love with Ives' music ever since," he said.

On Sunday, Barron was among the score of Ives enthusiasts who spent the day retracing the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer's footsteps through the city, visiting the site of the Ives family retreat on Pine Mountain in Ridgefield, the house where he was born and his final resting place at historic Wooster Cemetery. They capped the day by attending a performance of Ives' music at the Danbury Music Centre.

Born in 1874, the son of a man who had been the youngest bandmaster in the Union Army during the Civil War, Ives began writing music as a child and was heavily influenced by his father's experimental style.

His works failed to garner critical acclaim in the United States, but were popular in Europe. It wasn't until late in life -- Ives died in 1954 -- that his music was accepted by American audiences.

Alan McSpiritt of New Jersey discovered Ives when he found a copy of "Three Places in New England" in his father's music collection.

"I thought, 'This is the most bizarre thing I've ever heard,' but something kept pulling me back to it," he said.

Ives was famous for incorporating the works of other composers into his music, said Nancy Sudik, executive director of the Danbury Music Centre, who helps organize the annual Ives Day celebration.

This year's observance focused on the connection between Ives and legendary American composer Steven Foster, who wrote such popular tunes as "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Camptown Races."

Fragments on those Foster tunes and others can be heard in some of Ives' works.

"There's always something new. It's never difficult to come up with a theme for Ives Day," Sudik said.

The house in which Ives was born has been moved several times since it was built by his great-grandfather in 1790. It now stands on Mountainville Avenue, near Rogers Park Middle School, and Ives fans are hopeful about receiving a state grant to turn it into a museum.

Copyright © - News Times Media

This is the first time I've ever been quoted in an article written by somebody else. I think John was impressed that I drove all the way from Philadelphia for the Ives celebration (though he neglected to mention it). I'm at work now, but I'll fill in the details when I have some time.—Joe
« Last Edit: October 22, 2007, 09:44:24 AM by Joe Barron »

karlhenning

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Re: My Day in Danbury
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2007, 09:08:02 AM »
At the moment, I simply say, "Yow!"

Offline Brewski

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Re: My Day in Danbury
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2007, 09:35:03 AM »
How totally cool, Joe!   8)

Thanks for posting this!  I doubt I would have seen it, otherwise.

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

Offline not edward

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Re: My Day in Danbury
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2007, 10:02:39 AM »
Great stuff! :)
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
 -- Aaron Copland, The Pleasures of Music

Joe Barron

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Re: My Day in Danbury
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2007, 07:51:54 AM »
Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you, but we’re in the middle of the election season here at the paper, and I’ve been working long hours and without much energy in the little free time I do have.

John’s article is a good, accurate outline of the day’s events, but it doesn’t capture what they meant to someone who uses "remembering Mr. Ives" as his chatroom avatar.
 
We started at 9:30 on a cloudless morning with a hike up Pine Mountain in Ridgefield, where, on a stone lip overlooking the rolling hills, Ives and his brother Moss set up a lean-to when they were teenagers. There is a picture of a large family group, aunts included, standing and sitting at the shelter as though on the front porch of a home. Our guide, Nancy Sudik, the director of the Danbury Music Center, said Ives often returned to the spot when he was and composed some of his music there. A handwritten note at the end of one of his manuscripts —Decoration Day, I believe — states that the piece was completed on Pine Mountain, she said.

When I read we’d be visiting the mountain, I imagined an asphalt path or a gently ascending trail, but the climb was steep. There were about 15 or us, clambering over rocks on the way up and slipping on leaves on the way down. I remained sticky with perspiration for the rest of the day. From the bluff, we could see only tree-covered hills, a single mansion in a manicured clearing, and far off to the left, a ghostly sliver of Long Island Sound that glared when struck by the sun. With the warm weather, the leaves were only beginning to turn, and toward the end of Nancy’s talk, we saw a red tailed hawk circled over the trees at our feet. I felt closer to Ives looking out at the landscape that inspired him. I could his music in those hills and stones. Mahler once said he had composed the Alps. In the same way, Ives composed New England.

After the hike, we saw the Ives Home, which, as the article says, has been moved several times from its original position on Main Street. There we saw Ives’ death mask, the piano he learned on as a boy, his baseball cap (which bore the number “98,” the year of his college class), the bed in which he was born, the bed in which he slept as a boy, and the walker, resembling a bird cage, that he trundled about in when he was a toddler. Unfortunately, the house is in disrepair and is generally kept closed.

The most moving moment for me was at the Wooster Cemetery, where Ives is buried with the rest of his clan. The grave of his father, George, is only a few feet behind his. The sun was beginning to go down at this point, throwing the chiseled letters into relief. Nancy Sudik is a French horn player, and while I was waiting for her to arrive at the gravesite, thinking she was late, I heard her horn in the distance, playing Ives’s “Remembrance” (also known as “The Pond”).  Again, I could feel Ives’ inspiration in the setting.

The day ended with a brief concert — more a demonstration, actually — at the Main Street Music Center. The theme of the day was Ives’s relation to Stephen Foster. The young soprano Marthe Ryerson, in a bobbed haircut that Streisand in the mid-Sixties, began the program by singing six Foster tunes. At one point, in homage to Ives, her accompanist dropped down a third while she remained in her original key. It was a startling moment, but I couldn’t quite tell what had happened. And, strangely, I can’t remember the song she was singing at the time. I want to say “My Old Kentucky Home,” but I’m not sure. I’ll have to double check with Nancy.

Then a group of six instrumentalists who call themselves the Rag-Tag players illustrated the way Ives incorporated Foster’s music into sections of the Second Symphony and Washington’s Birthday. It was motley group of mismatched instruments — piano, violin, bass viol, tuba, flute and French horn — and the sound was terribly out of balance, but somehow it worked, even in reduced excerpts from full orchestral pieces. I can’t help thinking Ives would have approved. The use of “Camptown Races” in the Second Symphony was familiar to me, as I’m sure it is to everyone here, but I was genuinely startled by the appearance of the phrase “Way down upon the Swan—” from “Old Folks at Home” in the chilly opening scene of “Washington’s Birthday.” I’ve known the piece all my life, and the resemblance never occurred to me. It was the most salient lesson I learned that day about the music, as opposed to the life, and if I had come away with nothing else, it would have made the trip worth the effort. I can think of the money I spent on tolls and gas as tuition.

I’m going to try to go again next year, and I hope a few of can join me.

springrite

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Re: My Day in Danbury
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2007, 07:55:03 AM »
Good for you, Joe!

You will be glad to hear that I have just purchased the Ives Biography!

Joe Barron

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Re: My Day in Danbury
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2007, 08:55:27 AM »
Just heard back from Nancy. The song Marthe and Maxim performed in two different keys silmultaneously was "Old Folks at Home."

Springrite, I love your avatar. Do the authorities know you're making fun of them?
« Last Edit: November 07, 2007, 10:15:04 AM by Joe Barron »

springrite

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Re: My Day in Danbury
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2007, 06:01:59 PM »
Sprigrite, I love your avatar. Do the authorities know you're making fun of them?

Their sense of humor has been greatly improved in recent years.

Hector

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Re: My Day in Danbury
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2007, 05:09:49 AM »
Their sense of humor has been greatly improved in recent years.

Good. Perhaps they will die laughing! $:)

karlhenning

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Re: My Day in Danbury and Elsewhere
« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2007, 07:02:16 AM »
Happy birthday, Joe!

Offline Brewski

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Re: My Day in Danbury
« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2007, 07:15:13 AM »
And another hearty Happy Birthday!  Hope you are celebrating by listening to some new Ives or Carter recordings.   :D

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

Joe Barron

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Re: My Day in Danbury
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2007, 07:41:41 AM »
And another hearty Happy Birthday!  Hope you are celebrating by listening to some new Ives or Carter recordings.   :D
--Bruce

No, I'm actually in Lake Worth, Florida, at the moment, with no sound system in my little apartment, but plenty of notes buzzing around in my head. For some reason I keep thinking of selection from "One Size Fits All. " Any real listening will have to wait until I get back home on Saturday. But thanks for the good wishes.

karlhenning

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Re: My Day in Danbury
« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2007, 09:21:47 AM »
Ich bin der Chrome-Dinette . . . .

Joe Barron

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Re: My Day in Danbury
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2007, 08:36:08 AM »
Ich bin der Dreck unter deinen Walzen ...

Now I'm really in the mood for Delius' Florida Suite.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2007, 10:16:24 AM by Joe Barron »