The “Sounds of Summer” Included Plenty of Fun Facts

No day is complete without learning a fun fact. During the Westerville Symphony Orchestra’s recent “Sounds of Summer” concert at Alum Creek Park, conductor Peter Stafford Wilson shared several fun facts with the audience and musicians alike.

Did you know that Emmanuel Chabrier, the French composer of Joyeuse marche, was friendly with Claude Monet and Édouard Manet? He also collected paintings by other Impressionist artists, including Paul Cézanne and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

It’s always a thrill to hear the ethereal strains of Josef Strauss’s Music of the Spheres (Sphärenklänge) and Thunder and Lightning Polka (Unter Donner und Blitz), that wonderful Johann Strauss composition in which timpani rolls and cymbal crashes evoke stormy sounds. But I nPeter Stafford Wilson and the Westerville Symphony Orchestraever imagined that the Viennese apartment where The Blue Danube (An der schönen blauen Donau) was written is now home to a McDonald’s.

One of the four dances Aaron Copland composed for Rodeo was used as the background theme for the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” advertising campaign in the 1990s. But I didn’t realize that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein attended the ballet’s 22-curtain call premier in 1942 and immediately signed up its choreographer, Agnes de Mille, to contribute her talents to their musical, Oklahoma.

Igor Stravinsky was a young, virtually unknown composer when Sergei Diaghilev recruited him to create The Firebird, a work based on a Russian folk tale, for the Ballet Russes. That’s a fun fact that escaped me during my days at Miami University’s Walter Havighurst Special Collections, when I showed Russian history students books about Diaghilev from the 2,000-volume André L. de Saint-Rat Collection of Russian History, Literature and Art. Another popular book I shared was The Firebird and Other Russian Fairy Tales (illustrated by Boris Zvorykin and edited, with an introduction, by Jacqueline Onassis), one of over 10,000 children’s books, toys and games, and magazines comprising the library’s Edgar and Faith King Juvenile Literature Collection.

Tune in to Classical 101 tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 p.m. for Music in Mid-Ohio.  You might hear more fun facts during a broadcast recording of a recent Westerville Symphony Orchestra concert. 

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