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Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
February 24
Can You Guess? Besides Harris, another famous American was born in a log cabin on February 12, but he was not famous for music. One of my favorite quotes from this man is, "The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read."  Honest. Can You Guess the name of  this Kentucky-born politican?

Look at the Bottom of the Page for the Answer
What Else
1709 - Italian composer Antonio Antonio Vivaldi lost his job at the Pieta.

- Premiere of G. F. Handel's opera Rodelinda in London.

- George Botsford, US ragtime composer, was born.

- Premiere of Walter Piston's Symphony No. 5, in NYC.

1965 - The Beach Boys recorded Help Me Rhonda.

- US premiere of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Requiem at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in NYC.

1992 - The U.S. Postal Service unveiled 2 versions of its proposed Elvis stamp for fans to vote on. The younger Elvis  design (top) won and was issued on January 8, 1993.
Roy Harris
1898 - 1979
Just Listen to the Cello
in Movement 1 of the Sample
and You'll Know Why It's a Classic!
Brotherhood of the Bow Shirt
All Product Descriptions and Quotes Regarding Products are taken from the Web Sites of the Suppliers.
Violinist Mouse Pad
Symphony3 by Harris and Copland
Roy Harris's Third Symphony made its premiere February 24, 1939 conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. It has one of the longest unbroken lines of melody in all classical music.

Roy Harris was born February 12,  1898 in a log cabin in Oklahoma. He was one of five children (3 died while still young). His father, Elmer Harris, was a farmer and his mother, Laura Broddle, a talented amateur pianist.  Laura contracted malaria shortly after Roy was born.  The family moved to the San Gabriel Valley in California for her health.
For a time Harris was a truck driver, but at age 24 he decided to study music.  In 1926 Harris was given a Guggenheim fellowship, and moved to France to study under Nadia Boulanger.  While there he wrote  the Concerto for Piano, Clarinet and String Quartet, and it was premiered in the spring of 1927 at a concert of the Soci*t* Musicale Ind*pendant.  It was his first big success.  Another work from his time in France was his American Portrait of 1929. Although praised, Harris withdrew the work and used themes from it in his first two symphonies and other compositions.

In 1929 Harris suffered a fall which damaged his spine. He returned to the United States for surgery.  The surgery was successful, but during Harris's long recuperation he could not spend time seated at the piano.  So Harris learned to compose away from the instrument, which he said he found "liberating."

In 1933 Aaron Copland introduced Harris to the Boston Symphony's Serge Koussevitzky, who asked Harris to write a symphony. The result was Harris's First Symphony, the so-named Symphony 1933, derived from materials from American Portrait. The work premiered in Boston in 1934 to excellent reviews. His Second Symphony followed, but failed at its Boston Symphony premiere in 1935.

That same year Harris accepted a post teaching composition at Westminster Choir School in Princeton, New Jersey, which was important in developing Harris's choral writing.

Jascha Heifetz commissioned Harris to write a violin concerto.  After Harris completed the first movement both men found the piece unsuitable and Heifetz withdrew the commission.  But Harris used themes from the work in his Third Symphony,  commissioned by National Symphony Orchestra conductor Hans Kindler.  When it was finished Harris felt the piece deserved a more prestigious premiere. He showed it to  Koussevitzky, who agreed to perform the work. Its premiere was a moderate success, but it quickly became a sensation.  In 1940 Koussevitzky recorded the work and Toscanini performed it with the NBC Symphony Orchestra.  By the end of the 1942 season it had been performed 30 times by major US orchestras as well as orchestras in England and Mexico.

In 1940 Harris, who had left his positions at Juilliard and the Westminster Choir School, accepted a post at Cornell University. He also completed his Fourth Symphony, the  Folksong Symphony, for chorus and orchestra. Its premiere at the 1940 American Spring Festival, hosted by the Eastman School of Music, was a success.

Harris became composer-in-residence at Colorado College, taught piano there. His next major work, the Sixth Symphony, the Gettysburg, was premiered by the Boston Symphony in February, 1944, but did not receive much notice. In 1945 Harris was appointed to serve in the U.S. Office of War Information as Director of Music, to promote and distribute US music abroad.

Harris wrote a violin concerto in 1949, but his Seventh Symphony is probably his most famous post-war work.  It was premiered by  Rafael Kubelik and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and recorded by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1955.

In 1960 Harris produced Canticle of the Sun, for voice and chamber orchestra, on words of St. Francis of Assisi. Its companion work, the San Francisco Symphony (Symphony No. 8), was composed near the end of 1961 and early 1962.

In September, 1979, Harris was injured in a fall in his home and taken to the hospital. Declining health and his age took its toll, and Roy Harris died on October 1, 1979.
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Sheet Music by
Roy Harris
2002 - Leo Ornstein, Russian-American composer and pianist, died.

Did You Guess?
We use the letters to tell in what "key" a piece is written.  A capital letter indicates a major key.  A small letter indicates a minor key. We'll talk about keys in the tips section in a few weeks. 
St. Patrick's Day
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