by Daniel Hathaway
IN THIS EDITION:
. Tuesday Musical Scholarship Competition deadline
. Scott MacPherson retires from Cleveland Chamber Choir & Kent
. Stravinsky at the White House
No concerts are scheduled today.
Students — Remember to apply for the Tuesday Musical’s Annual Scholarship Competition. Apply on-line here now and through January 31.
The Cleveland Chamber Choir has announced the retirement of its founding Artistic Director, Scott MacPherson. In a press release, CCC executive director Kira McGirr wrote that “As one of our founding members, Scott brought instant credibility to our organization, and has passionately arranged and conducted over 20 concert cycles since its inception, greatly bolstering our standing in the community. The Choir thanks Scott for his impact and wishes him well in his future endeavors.” MacPherson is also retiring at the end of the academic year as Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies in the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music at Kent State University.
The Choir also announced that Gregory Ristow has accepted the position of Acting Artistic Director of CCC effective immediately, for the remainder of the 2022-2023 concert season as well as for the 2023-2024 concert season. Ristow is Associate Professor of Conducting and Director of Vocal Ensembles at Oberlin College & Conservatory. “We are delighted to be moving forward with Gregory at this juncture.”
ALMANAC FOR JANUARY 18
By Jarrett Hoffman
Perhaps the most interesting anniversary on this date is not of a birth, a death, or a premiere, but of a dinner. The host was John F. Kennedy, the featured guest was a 79-year-old Stravinsky, and the setting was the White House, January 18, 1962. (Above, left to right: Vera de Bosset Stravinsky, JFK, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and Igor Stravinsky.)
Pettiness, chumminess, politics, charm, and drunkenness were all a part of the evening:
- Pettiness: Stravinsky considered turning down the invitation because Pablo Casals — not a fan of Stravinsky artistically, and vice versa — had been there first, having performed at the White House two months earlier.
- Chumminess: Conductor Robert Craft felt that the event was “more a Kennedy-circle dinner, with political payoffs,” than a Stravinsky dinner — something that did not escape the composer himself either (see below).
- International politics: The backdrop of the event was the Cold War, and at this point, the Russian-born Stravinsky had been an American citizen for over fifteen years. When Kennedy asked his opinion on other Russian composers, Stravinsky replied, “Mr. President, I have left Russia since 1914 . . . I have not studied or heard many of the works of these composers. I have therefore no valid opinion.” The president was pleased.
- Charm: JFK reportedly made the perfect toast to the composer: short and humorous, but also moving. One guest later commented that Stravinsky — “an amiable man, very tiny, with a manner of twinkling gravity” — responded “with immense charm.”
- Drunkenness: Stravinsky departed after only a short time at the reception following dinner. The Washington Post wrote that he was tired from rehearsals of his opera Oedipus Rex, and that he left looking “exhausted — but happy.” But in a letter written the next month, Stravinsky described the “atrocious selection of 25 people who had nothing in common with me…what are we to do at such parties other than drink. . .” And when the president’s secretary approached Stravinsky to ask how he felt, his answer was “drunk.” Given the composer’s sharp tongue when sober, leaving early was probably a good call.
Despite his general abrasiveness, Stravinsky seemed to remember the event with gratitude. And after Kennedy was assassinated in late 1963, the composer responded a year later with his twelve-tone Elegy for J.F.K., setting a text by W.H. Auden written at Stravinsky’s request. Click here to listen to a performance from March 2021 featuring mezzo-soprano Sara Sheffield accompanied by two clarinetists and one alto clarinetist from the U.S. Marine Band.