On Charles Ives

Barb has a story worth hearing at length, so get a mug of your favourite libation and she’ll tell her tale:

The most memorable concert of my life was one I had the pleasure to be involved with. Fortunately, my involvement was minimal so I had the opportunity to experience most of it from the audience’s point of view. In the mid seventies, the Paul Winter Consort and the Yale Theater Orchestra collaborated for a series of concerts celebrating the one-hundredth birthday of American composer Charles Ives. I was a member of one of the sub groups, the West Redding Jews Harp Sextet, that performed only for ‘Washington’s Birthday’. Yes, the score was written for jews harps by Ives. The highlight of these performances (spanning about a three year period) was the one at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, on June 16, 1975, as we represented Connecticut in the Bicentennial Parade Of American Music. I’m sure Uncle Charlie was sitting in the back of the auditorium smiling and sneering at the scene.

Ives was a huge fan of parades and the aural cacophony they presented. The opening event for the concert mimicked the parade sensation by having the Consort and the Theater Orchestra (conducted by Ives scholar James Sinclair) playing a piece in the key of D major on stage while The Danbury Civil War Band (modeled after Ives’ father’s band) entered one door in the rear of the house playing in G major, and through the other rear door the Connecticut Rebels of ’76 Fife and Drum Corps came marching in playing in Bb major. They all converged in the front of the hall, the two marching bands mingling in front of the stage, then after a few moments they continued to march out of the hall leaving the stage musicians alone still playing in D. No one ever missed a beat or a note. They kept playing their original tunes, never playing together. It was incredible. And that was just the beginning of the evening.

There cheers and the requisite jeers, even some bah-humbuggers leaving in the middle, all evening. For the finale, all the artists involved converged on the stage. Having been so inspired by Paul Winter through the process of these Ives concerts, the two marching bands left the stage and marched out to the lobby just as the other two theaters were letting out. They marched through and around the crowd, then spilled outside the Center and marched around the building and out of site. That part was completely spontaneous. The other theater crowds had no idea what hit them. I could probably write a book about my whole experience. Paul, James and Charles changed my musical life and Charlie still makes appearances now and then to say hello.’

About Barb Truex

Barbara Truex lives in southern Maine where she performs, composes, and creates sound designs. She performs regularly with three groups, works with local theaters, audio drama producers, and hosts a world music program on community radio. Her instruments of choice are electric and acoustic mountain dulcimers, banjo and baritone ukuleles, tenor guitar and hand percussion. Musical meanderings include (but are not limited to) improvisation, jazz, French traditional, Middle Eastern, Eastern European and of course American folk music.