Home -> John J. Newbegin -> The Jewel City -> Chapter XIV. Music at the Exposition

Previous Page Home
Up One Level
Next Page


Music at the Exposition

Early neglect of music by the Exposition management remedied by the appointment of George W. Stewart, of Boston, as manager - Engagements of Camille Saint-Saens and the Boston Symphony Orchestra the musical events of the summer - Original compositions by the French master - Sousa and his great band - Other notable bands - Lemare's organ concerts- Splendid choral performances by famous organizations - A half-million for music.

Music cannot be omitted from any scheme of mundane celebration. In an exposition of the character of this one, where all art has been given so high a place, this gift of the gods must assume an unusual importance. It is important here, not only as a means of entertainment, but as a means of cultural development, and as an intellectual factor in the evolution of the race. This Exposition justifies itself by its storehouses of knowledge. Its reason for existence is, the permanent advancement of the people of the world in all that art, science, and industry, can bring to its palaces for pleasurable study.

With the agreement that a great pipe organ was to be installed in Festival Hall, and that orchestras and bands were to be engaged, the early speculative musical labors of the directorate ended. Casual indeed was the attention paid to music during all of the early part of the pre-Exposition period. Material interests - and there were millions of them - cried for consideration, while the still, small voice of music was drowned in the clangor of construction. Just as music is the last of the arts to receive recognition at our universities, so it was neglected here until so much time had elapsed that only the most fortunate of accidents could give song and symphony their proper places among the wonders that were ultimately to find a home in the Jewel City. Fortunately, accident for once proved kind; vigorous direction emerged fortuitously from apathy.

In the early building period, President C. C. Moore turned aside from his other cares long enough to appoint J. B. Levison Chief of the Music Department. A better choice could hardly have been made. For more than two decades Mr. Levison, an able amateur in music, and a business man of high standing, had been identified with all of San Francisco's larger efforts in its musical life. But Mr. Levison's grasp of the importance of such a post was more comprehensive than President Moore's, for he refused the position. Fortunately, however, he had his attention directed to George W. Stewart, of Boston, a former artist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a man technically equipped, who had made a great success of the music at the St. Louis Exposition. Stewart was engaged, and to him is due the credit for the remarkable record music has already made at the Panama-Pacific Exposition.

Aside from the construction of the $50,000 pipe organ, which, after the Exposition, will be placed permanently in the Civic Auditorium, the two most important musical items found on the schedule of Exposition enterprises are the engagements of Camille Saint-Saens and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The former, who maintained that "Beethoven is the greatest, the only real, artist, because he upheld the idea of universal brotherhood," is perhaps better fitted than any living composer to write special music for the Exposition. This he has done, - writing two compositions in fact; and their presentation has been an outstanding feature. "Hail, California," was dedicated to the Exposition. Scored for an orchestra of eighty, a military band of sixty, a chorus of 300 voices, pipe organ and piano, its first presentation was an event. The Saint-Saens Symphony in C minor (No. 3) Opus 78, composed many years ago, has become a classic during the life-time of its creator. It was one of the wonders of the Boston Symphony programmes played in Festival Hall. Its yield of immediate pleasure and its reassurance for the works of Saint-Saens to be heard later, grew from the fact that it was scored for orchestra and pipe organ, and in this massive tonal web the genius of the composer to write in magnificent size was overwhelmingly evident, thus forecasting the splendors of "Hail, California."

The other work written by this visitor from Paris is in oratorio form and titled, appropriately, "The Promised Land." A huge choir of 400 voices, directed by Wallace Sabin and named in honor of the visitor, the "Saint-Saens Choir," rendered a good account of the ensemble sections of the choral composition, while the Exposition orchestra of 80 instrumentalists and the Exposition organ added effectiveness to the accompaniment. Sabin presided at the organ. In addition to these appearances, the composer conducted three recitals during the latter part of June, when all of the compositions offered were his work.

The visit of Dr. Karl Muck with his Boston Symphony Orchestra has become a luminous memory. The trip is utterly new in the history of music anywhere, nothing like it ever before having been attempted. It is said that the transportation bills alone amounted to $15,000, and there were no stop-overs en route for concert performances to help in defraying this bulky first cost. It is proper to record here the financial success of the venture. While the season of twelve concerts was yet young, more than $40,000 had been taken in at the box office, and the estimated expenses of $60,000 were liquidated, with a margin of profit. This was enhanced by an extra concert, the thirteenth. Tickets for the season were sold in Chicago, New York, Boston, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, St. Louis, Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon, while San Francisco and the bay communities in general sent their thousands to the glorious recitals. The result will be seen in a stimulation of music in the West.

But the engagements of Saint-Saens and Dr. Muck with his orchestra do not sum up the important activities of the Exposition's music. There are other features which challenge even these in popular estimation.

John Philip Sousa has spent a long season at the Exposition. A blunder was somewhere made in dating the arrival of the March King and his splendid instrumentalists, who came while yet the Boston Symphonists were playing in Festival Hall. As a result the finest of bands was placed in competition with the finest of orchestras. But nothing disastrous happened. Those who desired, to the number of fifteen thousand, heard Sousa at his opening concert in the Court of the Universe; those who desired heard Dr. Muck's instrumentalists, to the seating capacity of Festival Hall.

Featured concerts have been and are being given by massed bands composed of Sousa's, Cassasa's, Conway's and other military or concert organizations.

Briefly, and regardless of the importance of each item, here are some of the attractions which make this Exposition vocal and harmonious: Edwin Henry Lemare, of London, by general critical agreement declared the greatest living organist, is expected here early in September, when he will begin his series of one hundred organ recitals, to continue till the Exposition closes in December. A unique episode of the Exposition music must not be overlooked in the recital by Madame Schumann-Heink, whose graciousness found another expression in her concert given exclusively and gratuitously to the children. More than three thousand of the little folk were in Festival Hall when the grandest of singers sang for them alone. The visit already accomplished of Gabriel Pares and his famous Republican Guard band of Paris; the engagement already begun of the Ogden Tabernacle Choir of 300 voices; the Eisteddfod competitive concerts; the long stay of the Philippine Constabulary band under the leadership of Captain W. H. Loving; Emil Mollenhauer's big Boston band; the concerts of the United Swedish Singers; the Apollo Music Club's premised visit from Chicago - the organization is coming intact with all of its 250 vocalists and its distinguished composer-conductor, Harrison M. Wild; La Loie Fuller's spectacles, and the engagement of forty noted organists to appear in Festival Hall in addition to Lemare and Clarence Eddy, are a few of the accomplished or promised attractions. To this list must be added the daily concerts given gratis at different periods by various bands other than those named - the official Exposition band of 45 players under the seasoned direction of Charles H. Cassasa; Thaviu's splendid band of 50; Conway's military and concert band of 50, and others yet to be had in the world of music will be spread for their delecta-concerts are booked. As proof of the worth of these, let the achievements of the recent past speak. We have heard the Alameda County 1915 Chorus of 250 voices under Alexander Stewart in a majestic performance of Handel's "Messiah;" the Exposition Chorus under Wallace Sabin in a repetition of the music sung as part of the opening day's celebration - "The Heavens are Telling," from Haydn's "Creation," and the official hymn - "A Noble Work" -by Mrs. H. H. A. Beach; the Berkeley Oratorio Society under the inspiring direction of Paul Steindorff in two splendid concerts, the first given to Rossini's "Stabat Mater" and the second to Brahms' "German Requiem;" and the Pacific Choral Society's performance of Haydn's "Creation" under the musicianly leadership of Warren B. Allen. More music may confidently be looked for from these rich sources.

The Exposition authorities declare that half a million dollars will have been expended on music before the end of the life of the great enterprise. Thus visitors to the Exposition may come at any period of the Jewel City's existence, knowing that the best to be had in the world of music will be spread for their delectation, and that they will be afforded a comprehensive view of the art of tone as it exists today. In this respect the Exposition's musical "exhibit" is similar in its scope to the revealments in all its other departments; for the Exposition is avowedly devoted to contemporaneous rather than historic achievements.

Nothing that extends contemplation over a wider period than the last five years is admitted for competitive exhibition. The modern composer, no less than the modern inventor, is having his day at the Exposition. This is as it should be. We are hearing, have heard, or will hear, the last utterances of present-day musical creators. Indeed, in the case of one - Saint-Saens - we heard, as I have recounted, two massive compositions written expressly for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and John Philip Sousa has bent his most martial mood to the composition of an inspiring march which is called "Panama." But music also enjoys a privilege not accorded equally to any other department of Exposition display. The works of the past, as well as the present, are given. A history of music at the Exposition properly written - as one surely should be - would be an epitome of the evolution of the art from Cherubini, Haydn and Bach to Richard Strauss, Saint-Saens and Debussy. It would involve in its telling the stories of music in Italy, Germany, Austria, England, France, Russia, Scandinavia, yes, and America, too! It would include an account of the genealogy of the modern orchestra as exemplified in the Boston Symphony or the Official Symphony, and of military bands up to the perfected concert organizations headed by a Sousa or a Gabriel Pares. It would embrace with like inclusiveness the history of the pipe organ through its stages of evolution from the ponderous instruments with men straddling unwieldy bellows to the marvel installed in Festival Hall, and it would embrace the history of the art of organ music up to such exemplars as our own Clarence Eddy, John &. McClellan, Edwin Lemare, and Camille Saint-Saens. What a chapter would be set aside for the record of Exposition choral music! Already there has gone abroad from the Festival Hall an impetus towards better chorus music that will, I feel sure, firmly establish this somewhat neglected department of musical art in the far West.

Previous Page
Up One Level
Next Page