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The Orchestral Works of Meredith Willson

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021454/00001

Material Information

Title: The Orchestral Works of Meredith Willson
Physical Description: 1 online resource (297 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Austin, Valerie
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: 20th, california, century, city, composer, compositions, flautist, flutist, francisco, hoogstraten, iowa, mason, meredith, missions, music, new, old, philharmonic, radio, river, san, sousa, symphony, time, toscanini, twentieth, willson, york
Music -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Music thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Iowa-native Meredith R. Willson contributed significantly to twentieth-century American music. Best-known as a flutist and composer of popular songs and musicals, Willson was also a radio musical director, division head of NBC west, popular radio host who became an Iowa icon, and composer of orchestral works. Nevertheless, aside from just a handful of compositions, the bulk of Willson?s work, regardless of genre, remains virtually unknown. This is particularly true of his orchestral works. To better facilitate a discussion of Willson, this study begins with a brief synopsis of the literary sources. A biographical overview of the composer's life follows, in which significant aspects of Willson's life are examined, including his childhood, training, performance highlights, major compositions, and recognitions. Willson's relationship with the popular world as examined through the composer's own writings and in writings by other individuals. Following this information, the bulk of this study focuses on the orchestral works in relation to Willson's life. A chapter on his training as a composer and conductor outlines his studio career and places the orchestral compositions in their chronological output. Particular analytical attention is given to Willson?s two symphonies, as these are the only of his works for which complete scores are known to exist. Compositionally, Willson's orchestral works combine elements of popular and classical music, including polytonality. This study documents Willson's orchestral compositions and examines the social factors and cultural contexts which contributed to their writing; analyzes the works to identify compositional procedures utilized, observes stylistic influences, and summarizes the composer's style as an orchestral composer. Numerous musical examples and extensive quotations from the composer's autobiographical works and interviews are included. Two lengthy analyses of the symphonies, with musical examples, are included. Willson's style as a symphonic composer is examined in terms of programmatic influence, rhythm, melody, harmony, instrumentation, improvisation, and structural devices. Commentary from popular and critical sources is incorporated throughout the study. An extensive bibliography and catalogue of Willson's works complete the examination.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Valerie Austin.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Kushner, David Z.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0021454:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021454/00001

Material Information

Title: The Orchestral Works of Meredith Willson
Physical Description: 1 online resource (297 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Austin, Valerie
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: 20th, california, century, city, composer, compositions, flautist, flutist, francisco, hoogstraten, iowa, mason, meredith, missions, music, new, old, philharmonic, radio, river, san, sousa, symphony, time, toscanini, twentieth, willson, york
Music -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Music thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Iowa-native Meredith R. Willson contributed significantly to twentieth-century American music. Best-known as a flutist and composer of popular songs and musicals, Willson was also a radio musical director, division head of NBC west, popular radio host who became an Iowa icon, and composer of orchestral works. Nevertheless, aside from just a handful of compositions, the bulk of Willson?s work, regardless of genre, remains virtually unknown. This is particularly true of his orchestral works. To better facilitate a discussion of Willson, this study begins with a brief synopsis of the literary sources. A biographical overview of the composer's life follows, in which significant aspects of Willson's life are examined, including his childhood, training, performance highlights, major compositions, and recognitions. Willson's relationship with the popular world as examined through the composer's own writings and in writings by other individuals. Following this information, the bulk of this study focuses on the orchestral works in relation to Willson's life. A chapter on his training as a composer and conductor outlines his studio career and places the orchestral compositions in their chronological output. Particular analytical attention is given to Willson?s two symphonies, as these are the only of his works for which complete scores are known to exist. Compositionally, Willson's orchestral works combine elements of popular and classical music, including polytonality. This study documents Willson's orchestral compositions and examines the social factors and cultural contexts which contributed to their writing; analyzes the works to identify compositional procedures utilized, observes stylistic influences, and summarizes the composer's style as an orchestral composer. Numerous musical examples and extensive quotations from the composer's autobiographical works and interviews are included. Two lengthy analyses of the symphonies, with musical examples, are included. Willson's style as a symphonic composer is examined in terms of programmatic influence, rhythm, melody, harmony, instrumentation, improvisation, and structural devices. Commentary from popular and critical sources is incorporated throughout the study. An extensive bibliography and catalogue of Willson's works complete the examination.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Valerie Austin.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Kushner, David Z.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0021454:00001


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THE ORCHESTRAL WORKS OF MEREDITH WILLSON


By

VALERIE A. AUSTIN

















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2008


































2008 Valerie A. Austin

































To my friends, family, and especially...
to those teachers who opened my eyes to the world, past and present.









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This dissertation would not have been possible without the expert guidance of my

esteemed advisor, Dr. David Z. Kushner. He was readily available to me, as he so generously is

for all of his students, and always read and responded to the drafts of each chapter of my work

with expediency and excellence. The members of my dissertation committee, Dr. Raymond

Chobaz, Dr. Florin Curta, Dr. Art Jennings, Professor John S. Kitts-Tumer, and Dr. Leslie Odom

have generously given their time and expertise to better my work. A special thanks to them for

their countless hours of reading, reflection, and suggestions. Vast accolades are also extended to

the excellent UF music library personnel, Robena Cornwall and Michelle Wilbanks, whose

assistance and attention to detail was especially valuable.

I am grateful to residents of Mason City, Iowa, who welcomed me, and shared their

memoires and experiences. The staff of the Mason City Public Library warrants special mention

for their unflagging patience, their courtesy, and especially for their willingness to check details

via e-mail and long-distance correspondence. The contributions, both material and reflective, of

Mason City archivist Terry Harrison, and retired Mason City Historian Art Fischbeck, were

invaluable. Bill Oates, a fellow Willson researcher, generously shared his meticulous research

that supported and expanded my own work.

I thank my family for their support. I here remember all four grandparents for their

extraordinary academic accomplishments. These set an educational precedence for their

descendents. I thank my mother for her encouragement, nagging, and editorial suggestions.

Thanks and accolades also go to the extraordinary school director under whom I worked

full time while completing my coursework, Dr. Fran Vandiver, who set a phenomenal

professional model and encouraged both praxis and theoretical approaches in all matters. Her

warnings of legions of uncompleted dissertations range loudly in my ears.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A CK N O W LED G M EN T S ................................................................. ........... ............. .....

LIST OF FIGURES .................................. .. ..... ..... ................. .7

LIST OF EX AM PLES ................... ............................................. ........ ............... 8

A B S T R A C T ......... ....................... ............................................................ 14

CHAPTER

1 IN TR OD U CTION .......................................................................... .. ... .... 16

Purpose of the Study ............... ............... .......... .................... ......... 16
Need for the Study ..................................................................... ........ 17
Research Procedure ......................... ........ .. .... .... ........ .... .... 20
A n aly sis o f D ata ................................................................................................ ............ 2 1

2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ............................................... ............................. 22

Biographical Dictionaries and Encyclopedias.............................................. .................. 22
Books on Twentieth-Century Musicians and Composers ............................................... 25
Am erican M usic or Am erican Com posers ........................................ ........................ 26
Genre-Specific Sources ................................... .. .......... ............... 28
The Popular A rena .................... ....... ........................ .......... .. ........ .... 29
Subject-Specific Biographical W orks ..................................................... ...................30

3 B IO G R A P H Y ................................................................................................................... 3 4

Family Background ......................... ........ .. .... .... ........ .... .... 34
Jo h n W illso n .......................................................................................... 3 5
R osalie R einiger W illson .................. ...................................................... 39
The Fam ily and Early M musical Training........................................... .......................... 42
High School and Im m ediately Thereafter........................................................... ... ........... 52
N ew Y ork Y ears ........................................................................... 54
T he John P hilip Sou sa B and ..................................................................... ... .....................58
N ew Y ork P hilharm onic .......................... ................................................ ......................... 70
The West Coast Years ................................. .............. ................. 78
P osthum ous .............. .... .... .... .............. ..................................100

4 WILLSON AS COMPOSER AND CONDUCTOR...............................................112

B ack g rou n d ................................112.............................
Training as a Com poser ............... ....... .... ......................... ......... 115
Earliest Publications .................... .... ........ ................ ....... 120









First Orchestral Publication, Parade Fantastique ........................................ ............... 121
A Trio of works, The Tornado, The Siege, The Phenomena................. ..... .............128
F rom E ast to W est C oast ............................................................................ ....................129
W illson's Early Vitaphone Com positions .................................... .......................... ........ 131
W illson as Conductor .................................... .. .......... ....... ...... 135
F ilm Scores .................. ........................................................................... 13 8
W hat Every Young M usician Should Know .................................... ................................. 141
Suites: 0.0. M cntyre and Jervis Bay ............................................................................ 145

5 SYMPHONY NUMBER ONE IN F MINOR: A DELINEATION OF THE
SPIRITUAL PERSONALITY THAT IS SAN FRANCISCO........................ ..........150

B background .......... ........... ... ............. ........... .... .. .... ..................... 150
First Movement, Andante--Allegro, Ma Molto Moderato--Allegro Moderato--Vivace .......153
Second M ovem ent, A ndante ...................................................................... ............... 172
T hird M ovem ent, P resto ............................................................................. .................... 176
F fourth M ovem ent, A llegro ......................................................................... ....................183
G general A nalytic Sum m ary ......................................................................... ................... 193

6 SYMPHONY NUMBER II, THE'MISSIONS OF CALIFORNIA'................................196

B a ck g ro u n d ................... ........................................................................ 19 6
P art O ne: Junip ero Serra .............................................................................................197
P art T w o: San Juan B autista ........................................................................ ..................2 10
Part Three: Scherzo, San Juan Capistrano......... ........... ..................218
P art F our: E l C am ino R eal................................................................ ....... .......................226
G general A analytical Sum m ary ....................................................................... ..................239
Reaction to Symphony................................... .. ... .... ................243

7 SUM M ARY .................... ...................... ....... ... ....... ..... .............. 2456

APPENDIX

A JOHN WILLSON LETTERS TO ROSEMARY, DIVORCE PAPERS.............................249

B DIXIE WILLSON LETTERS ASSERTING AUTHORSHIP ROLE IN THE MUSIC
M A N .......... ......... .. ... .......... ... .. ..................................... ................. 2 5 9

C PAGES OF DIXIE WILLSON'S THE SILVER TRIANGLE.........................................269

D CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF WILLSON'S WORKS ............................................... 274

L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ...................... .. .. ............. ..............................................................2 83

D ISC O G R A PH Y .............................. ............................................................... 295

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ............................................................................... ..................296









LIST OF FIGURES


Figure page

3-1 Note on this photograph from the family album reads, "Robert Reiniger 'Meredith'
Willson, 6 months old" (Courtesy, Mason City Public Library Archives)......................102

3-2 Rosalie with Meredith, circa 1904 (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives). ....103

3-3 Rosalie coaching sons Cedric, left, and Meredith on the "black upright piano in the
parlor." (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives)...................................104

3-4 Willson Family, circa 1908. Left to right: (Dixie), Cedric, Rosalie, John, Meredith.
John's appearance in the background, in different shades and perspectives, suggests
that the photographer may have added a pre-existing photo to create the 'family'
portrait (Courtesy of Mason City Public Library Archives).................. ... .................104

3-5 Meredith with banjo, Cedric with an instrument identified as a long-neck mandolin,
and Dixie (seated), with mandolin (Courtesy of Mason City Public Library
A rch iv e s) .............................................................................................10 5

3-6 Cedric, left, and Meredith in their Sousa uniforms (Courtesy Mason City Public
L ib rary A rchiv es)................................................... ................. 10 5

3-7 Vintage postcard of the Rialto theater, demolished around 1932, site of one of
Willson's first playing positions in New York City (public domain)............................106

3-8 Page from the scrapbook kept by Meredith and Peggy Willson's during his radio
days. The two defaced entries represent an apparent attempt by Willson's second
wife to remove memorabilia associated with first wife, Peggy (From Art Fischbeck)...107

3-9 (Josef) Wilhelm Mengelberg (1871-1951), Willson's 'bogeyman' (public domain)......108

3-10 Poster for one of Willson's early films. Composers of these early 'talkies' did all the
composing and scoring, but had not yet gained enough stature for inclusion on
advertisem ents (public dom ain) .................................... ............................ ............... 109

3-11 Poster for another of Willson's early films, Peacock Alley (public domain) ................10

3-12 Meredith Wilson while directing the Carefree Carnival program, during rehearsal
with the Williams Sisters: Top standing is Laura Williams, middle is Alice Sizer and
sitting is Ethelyn W illiam s (Public domain) ..... .......... .................... .................111

4-1 Willson conducting, c. 1938. This photo was autographed for Dixie, with whom
Meredith still maintained good relations (Courtesy Mason City Public Library
A rch iv e s) ..............................................................................................14 8

4-2 Advertisement for What Every Musician / / l,lI Know. ............................. .................149









LIST OF EXAMPLES


Example page

4-1 Trumpet fanfare which begins Parade Fantastique ................................... ............... 124

4-2 Woodwind motif............ ..... .. ................... ........... 124

4-3 Basic string rhythmic pattern, staccato eighth note march in the string section. ............124

4-4 M ain them e of Parade Fantastique. ................... .............................. ................. 125

5-1 Introductory musical materials which, on first appearance, seem to be transitory,
m m 1-4 ........................................................ .................................154

5-2 Introductory material development, mm 9-12. .................................... .................154

5-3 Initial Them e 1 state ent, m m 17-22. ...................................................................... 155

5-4 Introduction of Theme 2, mm. 27-41 .................. ......... ....................... 156

5-5 Theme 1 derivative, with key and meter modulations, mm. 44-49 ..............................157

5-6 Presentation of Theme I in C minor, mm. 62-65.................................. .....................158

5-9 Theme 1 derived material augmented and presented in the bass lines, mm. 109-115.....159

5-10 Chordal movement in the woodwind parts, accompanied by driving tympani triplets,
mm. 137-138. The material loosely resembles Theme 1, but is separate enough to be
labeled Theme 3 ..................................... ................................ .......... 160

5-11 Measure 205 or 164, tympani solo leading to B-flat minor ..........................................160

5-12 Them e 2 in saxophones, m m 209-217. .......... .......................................... ............ 161

5-13 Baritone saxophone solo, mm 249-253. .............................................. ............... 162

5-14 Theme 4 as introduced in mm. 279-287. The thick chordal figures and chromaticism
combine to make this a hyper-expressive thematic presentation................................... 162

5-15 Entrance of Theme 1 development, mm. 307-311, page forty-three.............................163

5-16 Them e 4 m materials, m m 311-315. ...................................... .. ................................ 163

5-17 Fanfare-like interjection, m m 319-323 .......... ............................................... ......... 164

5-19 M ore flourishes, m m 323-326............................................... .............................. 164

5-20 Return to Theme 1 derivative materials, mm. 332-336. .............................................165









5-21 Development of augmented introductory material, mm. 340-347................................ 165

5-22 Introduction of Theme 4 as flute solo, mm. 374-382. The first modulation and
restatement of the theme begins in the last measure of this example. ...........................166

5-23 Flourish, m m 402-403 ............... ............. ........................... .... ................. 166

5-23 Hyper-expressive development of Theme 2 material in the key of B minor, in which
Theme 1 forms the basis for the accompaniment, mm. 404-411................................ 167

5-24 Return of the flourish, mm 424-425. ........................................ ........................ 167

5-25 Marcato Theme 1, mm. 470-474.............. .............. ............... 168

5-26 T hem e 3, m m 482-489 ...................... ......... ...............................................................169

5-27 Development of introductory motif, mm. 510-516.............. .... .................169

5-28 Theme 1 derivative development and 'flourish' in stretto, mm. 522-526.....................170

5-29 Beginning of coda, m m 579-584. ....................................................... .....................171

5-30 Conclusion of first movement, mm. 639-543..........................................................172

5-31 Statement of passacaglia theme, mm. 1-8 of second movement. .............................173

5-32 First variation, m m 25-30. ..................................................................... ...................174

5-33 Second variation, D minor, mm. 41-46.. ................................ ...............174

5-34 Third variation, m m 57-62 ......... .................................... ..................... ............... 174

5-35 Fourth variation, m m 89-97. ...... ........................... ........................................175

5-36 Fifth variation, m m 138-144 ......... ...................................................... ............... 176

5-37 Theme 1 of movement 3, mm. 1-8. The rapid sixteenth-note runs and busy
accompaniment parts are reminiscent of Italian opera music.............. ... ..................178

5-38 Theme 1 restated in a modal fashion, mm. 9-16............................................... 179

5-39 Lyrical Them e 2, m m 17-24. ............................................................... ..................... 179

5-40 Transitional m materials, m m 48-53. ...... .....................................................................180

5-41 Transitional materials with Theme 2 fragments, mm. 71-75...................................180

5-42 Theme 3, with a significant 'nod' to Italian opera, mm. 95-102. ...................................181









5-43 M odulation of Theme 3 fragment, mm 115-119. ........................................................182

5-44 Theme 4, loosely derived from Theme 3, mm. 122-128. ..............................................183

5-45 Theme 1 introduction in F major, mm. 1-7 of the Fourth Movement. ........................... 184

5-46 Seemingly transitory triplet figures, mm. 11-15......................................................184

5-47 Theme 1 with transitional material, mm.17-23 ........................................ ...........185

5-48 Presentation of fourth movement Theme 2, mm. 54-62...........................186

5-49 Transitional m material, m m .78-83............................................. ............................. 187

5-50 Transitional material presented as aplaning progression of dominant 7th chords,
m m .86-90. .................................................................187

5-51 Them e 4, m m 118-121 ............ ........ ............................ ....... .............. 88

5-52 Closing theme in C minor, mm 132-135. ............................................ ............... 189

5-53 Theme 1 develop ent, mm 144-148. ........................................ ........................ 189

5-54 T h em e 5, m m 172 -17 5 .......................... .. ............ ..................................................... 190

5-55 Tempolmarcato statement of Theme 1 derivation, mm. 188-191. ............................... 191

5-56 Tympani solo, reference to first movement, mm. 204-209........................................ 191

5-57 Restatement of Theme 1 in F major, mm. 208-210. ...................................................192

5-58 Theme 5, presented in E minor, mm. 273-276. .................................... .................192

6-1 'Serra' theme, mm 1-4. .............. .............. ... ...... .......... 198

6-2 Theme 2, which Willson calls both 'Spanish' and 'Pagan', mm. 7-11 ..........................199

6-3 Triplet-dom inated them e 2, m m 23-26 ........................................ ....................... 200

6-4 Solo oboe presentation of Theme 1 derivative and solo trombone with rhythmically
driving triplet pattern, m m 27-31...................................................... ...................200

6-5 Clarinet cadenza at m measure 32............................................... ............................. 201

6-6 Lento Theme 1 derivative flute and oboe solos in F-sharp minor, with rhythmic
passage as a trombone solo, mm 36-40. .............................................. ............... 202

6-7 M measure 40, flute cadenza............................................................................... ............. 202









6-8 Furioso Theme 2 in clarinets, bassoons, horns, tympani, and strings, mm. 41-43..........203

6-9 Triplet pattern which loosely represents Theme 3, mm. 44-49. ......................................203

6-10 Beginning of chromatic motion, mm. 73-74 ........................................... ...............204

6-11 Solo English horn stating a rhythmic variant of Theme 1, mm. 148-150......................205

6-12 'G aily' played B them e, m m 151-155.................................................. .....................206

6-13 Them e sequences, m m 168-174............................................. ............................. 206

6-14 Modulated Theme 2, mm. 170-171......................................... 206

6-15 Theme 2 in F-sharp major, mm 176-179. ....... .................................................. ........ 207

6-16 Reappearance of Theme 3 materials, mm. 180-182. ............................... ...............207

6-17 M measure 192, second clarinet cadenza................................................. ....... ........ 208

6-18 Second flute cadenza, m measure 194. ...........................................................................209

6-19 The lyric theme of 'San Juan Bautista' as outlined by Willson in his
autobiographical, And There I Stood i i/h My Piccolo. ................................................211

6-20 First theme of San Juan Bautista, which serves as Theme 2, mm. 1-8 ............................212

6-21 Beethoven quote and musical reference to first movement in the French horns, mm.
15-22 ........................................................................................... 2 13

6-22 Page 61, mm. 21-24, horn and violin themes. Jump of the 4th is the most identifiable
feature ......................................................... ..................................2 13

6-23 Flute and oboe presentation of Theme 1 variant, page 63, mm. 36-44..........................214

6-24 Page 68, mm. 66-73, augmented muted string presentation of B theme in E- flat
m major ......................................................... ................................... 2 15

6-25 Theme 1 derivative as stated in the oboe, mm. 82-90. .................................................215

6-25 Clarinet solo, Theme 1 derivative, mm 90-94. .................................... .................216

6-26 Theme 2 derviative in G major, mm 101-105........................................................... 216

6-27 Triplet reference to m ovem ent 1, m m 114-118 .............................................................217

6-28 Second quote from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, mm. 160-163 ..................................218

6-29 Thematic reference to movement one, mm.162-168 ............. ............ ...................218









6-30 Initial through seventh measures of the scherzo movement ..................................219

6-31 First melodic presentation which could be defined as Theme 1, mm. 20-23..................220

6-32 Oboe and clarinet solos, m m 25-29. ........................................ ......................... 220

6-32 Flute solo, m m 29-22. .......................................................................... ......................220

6-33 Theme 1 passed among woodwinds, mm. 35-42.................................. ..................221

6-34 Violin retransition, Theme 1, mm. 43-47. ............................................ ............... 221

6-35 Initial presentation of Theme 2 in low woodwinds, mm. 59-64.....................................222

6-36 Brief chorale in the style of Wagner, p. 96, mm. 105-108. ............................................223

6-37 The 'chant' which Willson obtained from the nuns and included in And There I
Stood i i ih my Piccolo............... ... ...... .... ........... ..... ...... ............ 224

6-38 Application of the San Juan Capistrano melody as Theme 3, mm.113-145....................224

6-39 A lto flute solo, m m 167-174 ............................ .............. ............... ............... 225

6-40 Chorale, mm. 215-226, Theme 1 and transition back to the beginning...........................225

6-41 Willson's melody set with the Capistrano melody. ................... ........................ 227

6-42 'T traveling pattern, m m 1-4 ................................................................. .....................227

6-44 Theme 1 as introduced in the cellos, mm. 5-20. ................................... ............... 228

6-45 Declamatory state ent, mm 39-44. ..........................................................................229

6-46 Introduction of Theme 2, mm. 39-46 ........................................................... 230

6-47 Thematic material loosely based on Theme 3, mm. 49-53...................... ...............230

6-48 P edal points, m m 52-59. ........................................................................ ...................230

6-49 Alto flute solo, derived from Theme 2, mm. 59-66............ ....................................231

6-50 Clarinet solo derived from Theme 2 materials, mm. 67-74 ........................ ......... 231

6-51 Introduction of Theme 3, mm. 77-88 .......................... ........................ 232

6-52 'Chime' motive, mm 79 and 80. ...... ........................... ......................................233

6-53 Chrom atic m otion, m m 90-94............................................... .............................. 233

6-54 Expressive string solos, Theme 4, mm. 93-96. ..................................... ...............234









6-55 Retransition utilizing both Themes I and II, mm. 114-116 .......................... ..........235

6-56 Theme 1 derivative stated in imitative entrances, mm. 133-137.............. ................235

6-57 Reference of the 'Serra' theme from movement one, mm. 136-143 ............................236

6-58 Beginning of retransition, mm. 237-238....... .......................... .................... 237

6-59 Allegro molto in Theme 1 fragments, mm. 253-254............................................ 238

6-60 Final reference to first movement theme, mm. 277-282................. ............... 239









Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

THE ORCHESTRAL WORKS OF MEREDITH WILLSON

By

Valerie A. Austin

May 2008

Chair: David Z. Kushner
Major: Music

Iowa-native Meredith R. Willson contributed significantly to twentieth-century American

music. Best-known as a flutist and composer of popular songs and musicals, Willson was also a

radio musical director, division head of NBC west, popular radio host who became an Iowa icon,

and composer of orchestral works. Nevertheless, aside from just a handful of compositions, the

bulk of Willson's work, regardless of genre, remains virtually unknown. This is particularly true

of his orchestral works.

To better facilitate a discussion of Willson, this study begins with a brief synopsis of the

literary sources. A biographical overview of the composer's life follows, in which significant

aspects of Willson's life are examined, including his childhood, training, performance highlights,

major compositions, and recognition. Willson's relationship with the popular world as

examined through the composer's own writings and in writings by other individuals. Following

this information, the bulk of this study focuses on the orchestral works in relation to Willson's

life. A chapter on his training as a composer and conductor outlines his studio career and places

the orchestral compositions in their chronological output. Particular analytical attention is given

to Willson's two symphonies, as these are the only of his works for which complete scores are

known to exist.









Compositionally, Willson's orchestral works combine elements of popular and classical

music, including polytonality. This study documents Willson's orchestral compositions and

examines the social factors and cultural contexts which contributed to their writing; analyzes the

works to identify compositional procedures utilized, observes stylistic influences, and

summarizes the composer's style as an orchestral composer. Numerous musical examples and

extensive quotations from the composer's autobiographical works and interviews are included.

Two lengthy analyses of the symphonies, with musical examples, are included.

Willson's style as a symphonic composer is examined in terms of programmatic influence,

rhythm, melody, harmony, instrumentation, improvisation, and structural devices. Commentary

from popular and critical sources is incorporated throughout the study. An extensive

bibliography and catalogue of Willson's works complete the examination.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Purpose of the Study

Meredith Willson, 1902-1984, was a remarkable multi-talented American musician

whose musical skills encompassed an array of musical interests over the course of his lifetime.

The earliest professional aspect of his career was as a flute and piccolo player in John Philip

Sousa's band, and soon thereafter with the New York Philharmonic under Willem Mengelberg,

Wilhelm Furtwangler, Willem Van Hoogstraten, and Arturo Toscanini. From performance

Willson expanded into conducting, distinguishing himself by becoming the youngest director of

the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Willson was a pioneer in the new medium of radio, for

which he directed orchestras, developed programs, and managed radio stations during the 1930s

and 1940s. He influenced the development of standard accepted media formats of the era,

including stereotypical characters and 'top ten' or 'Hit Parade' listings. Willson was also a

writer, authoring a manual of popular compositional techniques, three books reflecting on his

musical pursuits, and one work of fiction. Over the course of his various musical and

professional identities, Meredith Willson maintained his creative outlet, composition.

Willson's career as a composer spanned sixty years, over which time he composed

approximately four hundred works in numerous genres. His output included hundreds of songs,

some works for band, film scores, and several stage works, such as the popular The Music Man,

and The Unsinkable Molly Brown. The area of output for which Willson is least known is his

orchestral works: two full symphonies; two symphonic poems; three suites; and several works of

no specified genre. Over the course of his career, Willson received numerous honors, awards,

and commissions, among them two Academy Award nominations and a Tony award.









During the early twentieth-century, American composers were significantly influenced by

new trends and technologies, and became both agents of this change, and affected by it.

Willson's musical life was lived during a time of dramatic musical and social change in the

United States. The purpose of this dissertation is to present a short biography of the composer,

to discuss musical influences on the compositions, to explore aspects of Willson's performance

and conducting careers, and to illuminate his lifelong connection to his native Iowa. An

overarching aim of this study is to document ways in which Willson's music was affected by

twentieth-century trends, the multitudinous facets of his career, and his diverse life experiences.

To this end the study explores circumstances surrounding Willson's orchestral compositions.

Appendices order his works by chronology and genre. In order to consider the orchestral works

within a context of his entire output, the study touches, to a reasonable extent, upon compositions

in the diverse genres of music in which Willson composed.

Works are analyzed to show how Willson used compositional elements. Extra-

compositional particulars are also explored so as to place Willson's works in the context of the

early twentieth-century and to reveal the variety of influences which inspired his compositions.

Analytical focus centers on those compositions for which a score is known to exist.

Commentary is generally omitted on transcriptions, editions, and rearrangements by Willson.

There are numerous orchestral arrangements, by both the composer and others, of Willson's

successful stage works; these will not be considered part of his orchestral output.

Need for the Study

Displaying a diversity of talent that rivaled other composers of his generation, Willson

composed songs, orchestral music, radio music, film scores, and centennial music for at least five

individual state celebrations. These works have been given short shrift in current literature and

are in need of further elucidation. Willson appeared frequently as a guest conductor for groups









as diverse as large established orchestras and middle school bands. He was honored by federal,

state, and municipal governments, as well as by universities, professional societies, and

individuals, with honorary degrees, membership invitations, and various other awards. Despite

his musical prowess, Meredith Willson has not been well-remembered in musical circles nor,

considering his high-profile radio career, by the public he served for many decades. He is

generally only recollected for one or two stage works which gained widespread popularity. The

bulk of his numerous compositions, including songs, band works, symphonies, and orchestral

works, are largely unknown and inaccessible.

Though his output was prolific and diverse, Willson remains a neglected figure in

twentieth-century music. He did not center himself as a 'classical' composer, nor as a 'popular'

composer, nor did he focus his efforts in any one genre. He rode the wave of faddish culture and

willingly popularized himself with public and press. Only a limited selection of leading books,

dictionaries, and encyclopedias mention the musician and his accomplishments, and in these the

focus is largely on his better known popular works, rather than his orchestral works.

At the time of publication most of Willson's orchestral compositions were not widely

circulated, and many scores cannot be located. This scarcity of printed scores is a factor further

contributing to the neglect of Willson's orchestral compositions. The scores for most of his

compositions for radio have disappeared, and it is likely they were either destroyed or, through

multiple purchases and repurchases of networks and radio stations, remain lost in boxes or

storage facilities. Willson made no effort to keep scores or personal papers, frequently sending

items to friends without keeping a copy. What personal papers and other forms of memorabilia

have survived, remain scattered, unpublished, and unavailable to performers, teachers, and









conductors. Some items may remain in the possession of his widow, Rosemary Sullivan

Willson, who, for many years has been largely secluded.

Though Willson's fame rests largely on his popular stage works, most of his orchestral

compositions were publicly premiered. This is largely due to the composer's friendships with

influential musical figures, as well as his own efforts in using orchestras with which he had an

affiliation, usually as a guest-conductor. Relatively few of the orchestral works, though, have

been recorded. The difficulty in finding recordings and scores, and a lack of repeat

performances of many of the premiered works has further hampered appreciation of Willson's

orchestral contributions.

Few individuals have explored Willson's life and works, and existing works focus almost

exclusively on his stage works. The most noteworthy of these, The Music Man (1957), was

produced relatively late in Willson's career. A selection of newspaper and journal articles have

focused on either the life of the composer, or on an individual career success, such as The Music

Man, but there has been little scholarship on Willson's earlier life and works. The orchestral

works were composed almost entirely in the first decade of his compositional career, from his

early Parade Fantastique (1930) to his Symphony Number 2 in EMinor (1940), an era of

Willson's life which remains largely unexplored.

Willson has been overlooked, too, by the scholarly community. A survey of the literature

reveals that discussions of his music are omitted altogether from important texts dealing with

music of the twentieth-century, music of America, and biographies of musicians. Willson is

mentioned only in passing in other texts, and the overwhelming focus of most entries is on his

stage works. These are curious omissions in important areas of Willson's creative career. Since

a study of Willson's orchestral works has not been previously undertaken, the author will rectify









this situation in the present document. The current study will also endeavor to correct errors or

misconceptions found in other printed sources and previous published materials regarding

Willson, both as a personality and as a composer. His good humor and willingness to 'play the

stooge' have contributed to the anecdotal nature of previous writings about the composer. This

study seeks to present a revisionist perspective, one which does not demolish or diminish

Willson, but brings accuracy to the circumstances of his life.

Research Procedure

Information for this study had to be gleaned from various diverse sources. The general

information and framework for the present investigation was based on material from the sources

cited in the Chapter 2, Review of the Literature. More specific details were found in such

disparate sources as newspaper and journal articles, Willson's literary works, the University of

Iowa (UI) Music Library, Mason City Public Library archives, letters, program notes, and talks

and informal interviews with members of the musical community who knew Willson personally.

The author consulted illuminating vignettes in a number of newspapers; for example, the New

York Times, the Mason City Globe-Gazette, the San Francisco Observer, and multitudinous

other city newspapers which contained one or more articles on the musician. Among the more

helpful and detailed sources on the composer were program notes from performances of his

various works.

The present study would not have been possible without the assistance of several

important institutions. The Mason City Public Library (MCPL) Archives houses family letters

and information pertaining to the ancestry and childhood of Willson and the local history of the

Willson family. This excellent archive was also the source of biographical pamphlets,

newspaper and magazine articles, and most importantly, manuscript and published copies of

several of Willson's works, though largely the songs. The University of Iowa Archives hold









manuscripts and music donated by Willson, including the score for two movements of his First

Symphony, and a variety of newspaper articles relevant to his connection with the University.

The Fleisher Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia holds the complete scores for the two

symphonies.

Analysis of Data

Using an essentially chronological approach, each orchestral work was individually studied

and addressed. An analysis of the individual works was gained through biographical readings,

score study, listening to any available released or private recordings, score reading, and program

notes. Background information, such as commissioning circumstances, premier dates, and

general life circumstances of the composer, was established and presented for each piece. A

thorough and deliberate search was made for the scores for each work. Those works for which a

score could be located were analyzed, and an attempt made to illuminate stylistic trends. Those

works for which only a reduced or piano score could be located were also analyzed for general

characteristics. Items for which no score could be found are noted, both in the body of the work

and in the appendices. Both written commentary and musical examples were used to describe

and illustrate compositional style and intent.

Findings are presented using an essentially chronological approach. The intent of this

approach is to facilitate the identification of trends in Willson's development as a composer and

the reflection of these in his compositional style. A chronological approach is also valuable in

establishing Willson's role within the diverse trends of twentieth-century music. An additional

aim of this approach is the anticipation that providing a background for and broad description of

each piece will encourage performance of Willson's works by orchestras and ensembles.

Finally, conclusions are drawn as a result of this vast research and analytical survey.









CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Biographical Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

As a thorough examination of the orchestral works of Meredith Willson has never before

been executed, any gathering of information must begin by examining general music dictionaries

and encyclopedias, and major sources on the history of music in the United States. Given the

common perception of Willson as a popular composer, sources must include a variety of books

which examine this area as part of an overall perspective; thus the review includes selected

sources on contemporary music and popular composers. While most examined references are

excellent in their own way, they generally touch only briefly upon the subject at hand. Much of

their merit lies in their bibliographies as a point of departure to additional material. The

researcher, then, must ferret material from a variety of sources, among them, newspaper and

magazine articles, reviews of Willson's works, interviews with individuals who had close contact

with the composer, record and CD jacket notes, program notes, letters, scripted talks and

lectures, and archival materials.

The remainder of this section will provide an overview of musical sources grouped by

topic or subject area: general references; books on twentieth-century musicians and composers;

texts on twentieth-century music; American music and American composers; and sources that

deal with a specific genre of music. Information exists in each grouping, with different sources

providing varying degrees of usefulness. Since virtually no research has been done on Willson's

orchestral works, little exists in the way of directly related sources. Most entries are brief and

serve more to establish a historical perspective than to provide topical data.

The first category consists of major musical sources serving as general references of music

facts. The standard music dictionary in English, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and









Musicians, recognized Meredith Willson for the first time in its 1980 edition. The entry consists

of a single paragraph, in which one learns that "Willson composed two symphonies, a set of

orchestral variations and the music for .. films."1 Also included in the entry is mention of the

three well-known stage works, The Music Man, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Here's Love.

Nowhere in the entry is there an attempt to address the compositional style of either orchestral or

stage works. The entry concludes with a bibliography of only two sources, both of which were

published significantly earlier than the entry itself.

Willson is again included in the most recent edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music

andMusicians. Published in 2000, the entry in this edition is expanded to two paragraphs.

Persons unfamiliar with the composer's orchestral works will discover that Willson's ". ..

orchestral compositions tend to be programmatic and to espouse much of the musical rhetoric of

late 19th-century Romanticism (despite such modernist felicities of orchestration as a saxophone

quartet in the First Symphony)."2 The entry also includes a repertoire list divided into two

categories. The first focus is the 'Stage Works,' and this constitutes the bulk of those works

included as Willson's repertoire. In the second, smaller, category, 'Other Works,' several

orchestral works are listed, including the early Parade Fantastique, the 0.0. Mclntyre and Jervis

Bay Suites, the two Symphonies, Symphonic Variations on American Themes, and Willson's two

best-known film scores, The Great Dictator and The Little Foxes. The bibliography is also

expanded, and the 2000 edition includes five sources, all but one published significantly earlier

than the entry itself.





1 Deane L. Root, "Meredith Willson," ed. Stanley Sadie, in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (New
York: W.W. Norton, 1980), 20:442.
2 Larry Stempel, "Meredith Willson," ed. H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie, in New Grove Dictionary of Music
and Musicians (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000), 24:421.









Another source containing a significant entry on Willson is Baker 's Biographical

Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Here one finds a sizable passage of both scope and depth.

Willson's childhood piano training by his mother is addressed, as are his youthful musical

experiences and early career. The entry is loosely structured as a chronology of his positions,

compositions, and major personal and musical events of Willson's life. This approach provides

valuable insight about where the composer was located when he wrote various works, and

suggests influences in his life that may have impacted his compositions. The premiers of both

symphonies are covered, and there is some mention of his other orchestral music.

Other general references that contain material on Willson include the Harvard

Biographical Dictionary of Music, edited by Don Michael Randel. It contains a short, one

paragraph biography which is well-balanced and mentions various diverse aspects of Willson's

career, including the fact that in his youth the composer, "played flute in John Philip Sousa's

band (1921-23), then in the New York Philharmonic under Toscanini (1924-29)."3 The entry

also traces dated highlights of Willson's career, such as 1932, when he, ". became musical

director ofNBC's Western Division, first in San Francisco, then in Los Angeles." Despite the

inclusion of such diverse aspects of Willson's musical life, there is only brief mention of his

orchestral works: "He also composed some concert music, including two symphonies (1936,

1940) and some film scores (The Great Dictator (1940))." The focus on musical works in this

entry is on those songs and stage works which gained popular success.

A retrospect look at the International Who 's Who in Music finds that Willson was included

in numerous editions, and covered for the final time in the 1980 edition, the last edition before

his 1984 death. This account mentions his early training and career, three marriages, popular


3 Don Michael Randel, ed., Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press of
Harvard University Press, 1996), 989.









songs, and books, but makes no mention of his orchestral compositions.4 An entry in the

International Cyclopedia of Music andMusicians focuses on the 'serious' versus the 'popular'

perceptions of Willson's works. This entry exemplifies perceptions about the composer, noting

that Willson ". composed symphonies and other orchestral music, choral music, and band

music. But he won his real successes with his popular music, including the scores for Broadway

musical comedies, Music Man and Molly Brown...."5 This observation, with a focus on the

serious versus the popular nature of his music, highlights a central facet of Willson's career.

It is relevant that several important literary works did not include an entry on Willson.

There is no mention of the composer, for example, in Randall Thompson's Dictionary of20th

Century Composers 1911-1971, or in Greene's Biographical Encyclopedia (1989). Willson is

also omitted from Michael Kennedy's well-known volumes, The Oxford Dictionary of Music and

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music (1994).

Books on Twentieth-Century Musicians and Composers

Another category of importance encompasses those sources focusing on composers and

performers in the twentieth-century. The life of Willson, who was born in 1902 and died in

1984, lies exclusively within this century, and consultation of these sources is necessary for the

establishment of current perspective of his compositional role in this period of music history.

One of these sources is Eric Salzman's Tii eitieit-Century Music, An Introduction, which

misspells 'Wilson' in the index, but correctly in the text. Willson is listed as one of a number of

composers for whom, "The Broadway influence, found in the movie scores of experienced





4 Adrian Gaster, ed., International Who's Who in AMusic, 9h edition (Cambridge, England: Melrose Press, 1980),
791.
5 Oscar Thompson, Editor-in-Chief, International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians, volume M-Z. 10thed. (NY:
Dodd, Mead & Company, 1975), 2469.









Broadway composers was, on the whole, less important except in the film musical itself."6 A

Tii ei1ieihl-Century Musical Chronicle, Events 1900-1988, includes copious listings of musical

events, formal and popular, by both major and minor composers. Despite the multitudes of

listings, the important contributions of Willson as listed are his birth, death, and the premier of

The Music Man.7

Nicholas Slonimsky's Music Since 1900, lists important musical events in chronological

progression, and includes two entries for Willson. The first of these is the sole entry for April

19, 1936, which reads: "Meredith Willson conducts in San Francisco the first performance of his

First Symphony on the thirtieth anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake."8 In the entry for

August 27, 1940, one learns that, "Meredith Willson, 38-year-old American composer of

popular music, conducts the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra on Treasure Island, California,

in the world premier of his 'Prelude to The Great Dictator', the thematic material of which was

"composed," by whistling and humming, by Charlie Chaplin himself, and set on paper,

organized and harmonized by Hanns Eisler and others, with Hynkel (Hitler) represented by a

hoarse trumpet. (The program included also Willson's own Second Symphony, subtitled The

Missions of California.)" 9

American Music or American Composers

A further division of the twentieth-century sources can be found in those which focus on

American music or composers. One of the major sources of information on American music is

the New Grove Dictionary ofAmerican Music, and one finds two paragraphs about Willson




6 Eric Salzman, Twentieth-Century Music, an Introduction, fourth edition (NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2001), 248.
7 Charles J. Hall, compiler, A Twentieth-Century Musical Chronicle, Events 1900-1988 (NY: Greenwood Press,
1989) Part of the Music Reference Collection No. 20, 7,174, 253.
8 Nicholas Slonimsky, Music Since 1900, fifth edition (NY: Schirmer Books, 1994), 395.
9 Ibid., 452.









included in the fourth volume of this large work.10 The entry is the same as that in the 2000

edition of New Grove Dictionary ofAmerican Music, and one finds two paragraphs about

Willson included in the fourth volume of this large work. The entry is the same as that in the

2000 edition of The New Grove Dictionary ofMusic and Musicians. Another major source of

information is Contemporary American Composers: a Biographical Dictionary. Here we learn

of Willson's private flute studies with Henry Hadley and Georges Barrere. The usual honors are

presented, along with his distinction as the recipient of the ". .. first annual Texas award to an

outstanding figure in musical life, 1958." 1 This is one of the few accounts of Willson which

completely neglects his numerous vocal works, though the entry does make passing mention of

several of the smaller orchestral works in addition to the symphonies.

A volume which deals indirectly with American music, by listing literary works related to

music, is the Literature ofAmerican Music. This citation includes two of Willson's

autobiographical works, with brief sketches of their contents and the wry summary of the

composer's ". apparent aim to tell as many funny stories as possible."12

There is a smattering of information about Willson in several sources in this category,

including A Chronicle ofAmerican Music 1700-1995. This volume is a chronological list of

significant events in American music, which notes the three successful musicals and the premier

dates of his two symphonies (1936, 1940.)13 In a chapter titled 'Contemporary Composers,'

John Howard's Our American Music mentions Willson's symphonic works in passing.14 The

Biographical Dictionary ofAmerican Music categorizes Willson as a 'Popular Composer.' The



10 Stempel, "Meredith Willson," 537-538.
11 E. Ruth Anderson, compiler, Contemporary American Composers: a Biographical Dictionary, second edition
(Boston: G.K. Hall & Co.), 561.
12 David Horn, Literature ofAmerican Music Supplement 1 (NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1988), 318-319.
13 Charles J. Hall, A Chronicle ofAmerican Music 1700-1995 (NY: Schirmer Books, 1996).
14 John Howard, Our American Music, 538.









inclusion is a single paragraph which mentions Willson's musical training and the two

symphonies, with the focus resting on his most famous popular works. 15 A brief account in The

Bibliographical Handbook ofAmerican Music mentions Willson only as the donor of a large

collection of sheet music to UCLA.16 Willson is entirely neglected, though, in the authoritative

The Cambridge History ofAmerican Music, 17 and in the biographically oriented Contemporary

American Composers.18

Genre-Specific Sources

A particular group of sources which seem to have at least some mention of Willson is that

which focuses on band literature. This is especially surprising considering that very little of

Willson's output was for band. The inclusion of Willson in band sources might be explained by

the fact that the few band pieces he composed were fight songs and include the current collegiate

fight songs for both State Universities in Iowa, and at least two high schools in the same State.

Some of his most popular songs, including It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas,19 are found in

standard band arrangements. Several pieces from his musicals are also commonly found in band

arrangements, and one piece in particular, 76 Trombones, is a standard for marching bands. A

source with an entire page devoted to a biography of Willson is Program Notes for Band.20 This

listing also includes several of his instrumental works not mentioned elsewhere, though is limited

to marches and arrangements of his Broadway hits.

The major works of Willson's orchestral output are his two symphonies, and publications

focusing on this genre should be examined. It is apparent, though, that there is a distinct lack of

15 Charles Eugene Claghorn, Biographical Dictionary ofAmerican Music (West Nyack, NY: Parker Publishing
Company, Inc., 1973), 478.
16 D.W. Krummel, ed., Biographical Handbook ofAmerican Music (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987),
160.
17 The Cambridge History ofAmerican Music, ed. David Nicholls (Cambridge University Press, 1998), 323.
18 Anderson, Contemporary American Composers. 560.
19 This is the correct title, though there exists the tendency to include the words "a lot," which are found in the text.
20 Norman E. Smith, Program Notes for Band (Chicago: GIA Publications Inc., 2002), 650-651.









inclusion of Willson's works in the standard texts on symphonies. The sizable American

Orchestral Music: A Performance Catalog fails to mention Willson's works,21 as does A Guide

to the Symphony, despite an entire chapter devoted to 'The American Symphony.'22 There is no

mention of Willson's works in the vast Da Capo Catalog of Classical Music Compositions.23 A

more serious omission is OrchestralMusic in Print, which fails to mention Willson's works in

the original printing, the 1983 supplement, and the 1994 supplement.24 Adding to the challenge

of locating Willson's scores is the sparsity of his works in the catalog of the American Society of

Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), which lists locations for only four of his works.25

The orchestral volumes in which Willson does appear are those sources geared towards

more popular orchestras. An entry for pianist Carmen Dragon, in Conductors and Composers of

Popular Orchestral Music: A Biographical and Discographical Sourcebook,26 notes that

Dragon, ". .. was employed by Meredith Willson, the NBC Radio's West Coast musical

director." The same entry goes on to draw the connection that working for Willson, ". .. led to

other important work in radio, records, motion pictures and television, as well as appearances as

guest conductor with symphony orchestras throughout the United States, South America and

Europe." Despite the allusion to his importance and influence, surprisingly the volume holds no

independent entry for Willson.

The Popular Arena

In addition to his inclusion in works on popular orchestras, Willson is covered in several

volumes dealing with the development of popular music. In .\/,ii' Tunes, the Songs, ,\/l,,i and

21 Richard Koshgarian, American Orchestral Music: A Performance Catalog (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, Inc.,
1992).
22 Robert Layton, ed. A Guide to the Symphony (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).
23 Jerzy ( i\ .lllko\\ ski The Da Capo Catalog of Classical Music Compositions (Da Capo Press, 1996).
24 Margaret K. Farish, ed. Orchestral Music in Print (Philadelphia: Musicdata, Inc., 1979).
25 ASCAP Symphonic Catalogue, 500.
26 Reuben and Naomi Musiker, Conductors and Composers of Popular Orchestral Music: A Biographical and
Discographical Sourcebook (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998), 62.









Careers ofBroadway's Major Composers, author Suskin devotes over two pages to Willson.

Though the focus is primarily on his Broadway works, Suskin tells his readers that, as a child,

Willson ". .. sang barber shop and became proficient on flute and piccolo." The author later

provides his opinion that "Meredith Willson ... was an inventive novelty writer with one great

show in him."27

Another significant entry can be found in American Song: The Complete Companion to

Tin Pan Alley Song. The entry consists of several pages of a chronology of the publication of

Willson's compositions. This is largely complete, and mentions several of Willson's orchestral

works. In the short biography preceding the list, one discovers that Willson "Studied music with

George Barrere, Henry Hadley, Mortimer Wilson, Bernard Waganaar, [and] Julius Gold."28

Stephen Banfield's Popular Song and Popular Music on Stage and Film mentions only The

Music Man, and then only to compare the protagonist to a similar character in the earlier George

Cohan musical, El Capitan. Film Music: From Violins to Video includes Willson's contributions

The Great Dictator (1940) and The Little Foxes (1941), while overlooking the composer's

recently discovered earlier film contributions.29

Subject-Specific Biographical Works

Willson's musical career spanned six decades, and little has been done to compile a

definitive musical biography. A logical place to seek information about Willson would seem to

be his personal correspondence, letters, diaries, and everything which comprises his personal





27 S. Suskin, I/, .11' Tunes: the Songs, \I /.... and Careers ofBroadway'sMajor Composers (New York, 1986,
enlarged 3/2000) 269-271.
28 Ken Bloom, American Song: The Complete Companion to Tin Pan Alley Song volume 3: 'Songwriters' (NY:
Schirmer Books, 2001), 979.
29 Film Music: From Violins to Video, compiled and edited by James L. Limbacher (Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow
Press, Inc. 1974), 683.









papers. These have never been collected30, but various letters and scores exist in several

locations. The Resources ofAmerican Music History notes that the Iowa State Historical

Department contains "miscellaneous biographical materials... 31 Some letters can be found in

the Sousa collection at the Harding Library of the University of Illinois, as well as reminiscences

of Sousa by Willson. Willson's hometown library, the Mason City Public Library (MCPL), has

an excellent archive of local history and notable figures. The MCPL collection includes a

number of binders containing copies of collected family information and early press clippings.

The scattered nature of his papers holds true, too, for Willson's scores. Willson gave

scores to people throughout the country, seldom retaining a personal copy. Recipients may or

may not have saved the works; several have not come to light in either recorded or written form.

Some scores may exist undiscovered in the libraries of current day media giants, the result of

decades of media company mergers and the resulting acquisition of materials. Willson also left

scores where he worked, so some are scattered in various public libraries throughout New York

City. Other works seem to have been left in the state in which they were written, as in the case

of the five or more centennial celebrations for which Willson composed music, which included

California, Kansas, and Texas. The lack of a central repository of his personal papers and scores

is a serious challenge to Willson research; pieces are scattered everywhere.

Mason City journalist John Skipper recently published a biography of Willson, cleverly

titled The Unsinkable Music Man.32 The work focuses largely on the popular compositions, and

includes limited reference to the orchestral works. Skipper clarifies the chronology of Willson's



30 The existence of personal papers is a matter of some debate. A very few letters can be found in scattered libraries
and archives, but a 'collection' does not exist in any public library or location. If personal papers have been
preserved they are most probably in the possession of Willson's widow, Rosemary Willson.
31 D.W. Krummel, et al., Resources ofAmerican Music History: A Directory of Source Materials from Colonial
Times to World War II (University of Illinois Press, U Chicago, 1981), 128.
32 John C. Skipper, Meredith Willson: The Unsinkable Music Man (Mason City, IA: Savas Publishing Co., 2000).









career, and brings to light some examples of inaccuracies in Willson's own autobiographical

works. The importance of Skipper's book is the clarification of some of Willson's dates and

locations. The book, however, does not cite sources, relies heavily on anecdotes, includes

numerous factual errors, and does not provide a strong basis for study. Bill Oates recently

published another biography of Willson, America's Music Man, which corrected some of

Skipper's inaccuracies and focused strongly on Willson's 'radio years.'33

The composer himself wrote two general autobiographical works, which are largely

stream-of-consciousness and anecdotal, And There IStood i i/h My Piccolo (1948)34 and Eggs I

have Laid (1955).35 A third autobiographical work, But He Doesn 't Know the Territory, centers

largely on the creation of a single work, The Music Man, and, as such, is of little relevance to the

topic at hand. In all, these autobiographical compositions are interesting and entertaining, and

provide some general impressions of Willson. On the other hand, Willson provides little

information about the writing of his symphonic works, to the point of neglecting to mention most

of them. In Willson's writings nearly all the information is anecdotal, and this presents

significant challenges in detailing the composer's life. Willson's literary gifts lay not so much in

factual accuracy as in good storytelling. Sometimes the dates and locations Willson provides do

not align with dates and places which can be verified via other, unbiased, sources. In his writings

he exaggerates some events, probably to present a more entertaining retelling of an actual event.

In still other cases there are notable omissions of important material, as in the 255 pages of And

There IStoodii ith My Piccolo, in which Willson fails to mention his twenty-six years of

marriage to Peggy Wilson, a high school sweetheart, their subsequent divorce, and his

remarriage two weeks later. Further, musical happenings related to Willson's marriage are

33 Bill Oates, Meredith Willson, America's Music Man (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2005).
34 Meredith W lllon .. I1 There I Stood With My Piccolo (NewYork: Doubleday,1948).
35 Meredith Willson, Eggs I Have Laid (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1955).









glossed over or entirely ignored. It has been reported, for example, that Willson's renowned

New York flute professor, Georges Barrere, stubbornly refused to continue with Willson as a

student in reaction to the young flute player's marriage. External sources suggest that Barrere

felt that marriage at such a young age would compromise Willson's performance career.

Because of this and other omissions, the reader is left to assume that Willson's studies with

Barrere continued uninterrupted from the time he came to New York until the time he left it for

the West Coast a decade later, though other sources suggest differently. Willson also drew

attention for paying for Peggy to follow him while on tour with the Sousa band, a practice not

allowed by Sousa. Nowhere in And There I Stood ii ilh My Piccolo does Willson mention these

or any incidents related to Peggy.

In all, Willson's writings prove to be more challenging than enlightening as source

materials. He may have neglected mention of these events for personal reasons, but the absence

of major life events lessens the value of his biographical works as sources of detailed facts about

the composer. Willson's omissions and exaggerations do not seem malicious, but the end result

is a significant need to question the accuracy of his recollections, and to use caution in accepting

his 'facts.'

A final publication of Willson's, What Every Musician .\/it,,n / Know (1938),36 has been

little explored, and is noteworthy for its focus on the composer's ideas about the composition and

performance of contemporary, largely popular, music. While it possesses much of Willson's

trademark humor and quick wit, What Every Musician .lhtl, IKnow is the sole work in which

Willson addresses functional elements of the compositional trends of his era.


36 Meredith Willson, What Every Musician Should Know (NY: Robbins Music Corporation, 1938).









CHAPTER 3
BIOGRAPHY

Family Background

Robert Reiniger Meredith Willson was born in Mason City, Iowa on May 18, 1902, to

John and Reslaie Reiniger Willson. His father, John Willson, was a lawyer who had studied law

at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. His mother was the former Rosalie Reiniger,

daughter of a Chicago lawyer, who graduated from the Armour Institute in Chicago as one of the

first trained Kindergarten teachers. 'Glory,' as he was known in his childhood, or 'Meredith,' as

he later became publicly known, was said to have entered the world to some local acclaim. His

sister reminisced, "Less than 24 hours after he was born in Mason City, Iowa, on May 18, 1902,

my brother Meredith Willson made headlines: he had weighed in at 14 pounds, 7 ounces, the

biggest baby Iowa had ever recorded."37 Meredith's birth notice in the local paper was more

mundane, announcing a normal weight of 7 pounds, 4 ounces. The sisterly exaggeration,

however, serves as a fitting introduction to certain aspects of Meredith's life, including a Willson

family habit of embellishing stories to make them more dramatic, a sense of fun, and a positive

outlook which would accompany Meredith throughout his life (Figure 3-1.).

The Willson family had strong roots in the area and enjoyed a certain degree of social

prominence. Grandfather Alonzo Willson organized a team of men to search for gold in

California in 1853, and returned with $10,000 in "cash from deals he had made with the gold

miners."38 Upon his return to the town of Owen's Corner, Alonzo increased his fortune by

setting up a business loaning money to farmers, who put up their land as collateral. His relative

wealth impacted the local community, for Alonzo established the first public library and oversaw

construction of the first school in the township, in addition to serving as its first teacher. In 1878

7 Dixie Willson, "The Man Behind 'The Music Man'," The American Weekly, May 4, 1958, 15.
38 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man, 3.









the family moved to nearby Shibboleth, where Alonzo was instrumental in changing the town

name to Mason City.

John Willson

Alonzo's son John, Meredith's father, was born August 4, 1866, on his father's farm in

Owen's Corner, Iowa, one of three boys and four girls. In 1884 John matriculated into a two-year

law course at the University of Notre Dame, where he played E-flat cornet in the Notre Dame

band and also played on the school baseball team. Upon completion of the course, the eighteen

year-old John took the state bar examination, where he represented himself as twenty-one years

of age, the legal age to practice law. As an adult he lived in Mason City where he was a

practicing lawyer for only a brief period of time. While the reasons are not clear as to why he

did not establish and maintain a legal practice, one obituary opinioned that "...the law profession

palled upon him. The mean little technicalities that baffled and bluffed justice irked against his

nature."39

John became a sort of general businessman who tried several sorts of enterprises, including

banking, contracting, and real estate. He was even a builder for a short time, and built the first

brick building in nearby Estherville. After that, in 1899, John took over management of his

father's large farm at Owens Grove. Eight years later he once more turned his attention to

various business opportunities in Mason City. At one point he co-owned a bakery in which he

was active in management, and served as secretary and treasurer of a baking corporation. The

subheading from his home-town obituary concludes that John, "Had Varied Career as Realtor,

Banker and Contractor."40





39 Obituary for J.D. Willson, Jan 10th, Mason City Globe Gazette, 1931.
40 Ibid.









The impact of Meredith's father, John Willson, on the development of his children is not

well established. Meredith recalled little in the way of musical influence, offering only that

"Papa ... played the E-flat comet in the Notre Dame band but gave it up for the guitar as he

mellowed into middle age. His [guitar] specialty was the Spanish Fandango."41 The

recollections of John's children are striking for their lack of consensus as to the personality and

influence of their father. Two of John's children, Dixie and Meredith, mentioned their father in

various interviews and articles, though their recollections of him are notably different. Dixie

remembered and wrote about her father fondly, while Meredith wrote about him with mixed

recollections, generally negative, and sometimes contradicting his own statements. Recollections

which credited John Willson as playing a positive influential role in the development of his three

talented children came largely from Dixie.

Meredith presented more unflattering recollections. In his first biographical work, And

There I Stood 1 ith My Piccolo, Meredith mentioned his father very little, only to remember him

as, "...red-headed, Scotch-Irish, Midwestern and very stubborn ..." and declared, "...there is no

stronger combination."42 In his second biographical work, Eggs IHave Laid, Willson devotes

several pages to consideration of his father. As his first work had focused glowingly on his

mother, perhaps Meredith sought a certain balance in parental memories, though not in the same

memoirs. He provided probably the best explanation for his strained relationship with his father

in Eggs IHave Laid when he reflected, "Too bad that a guy's father generally has to be a big

granite institution instead of a person. As I look back now, Papa was just the kind of man I'd

love to have sat around and visited with."43



41 \111o0.I 1,.1 There I Stood, 74.
42 "Meredith Willson Product of Sad Family Strains," Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 6, 1970
43 Willson, Eggs I Have Laid, 41.









A central point in John's life, which dramatically affected his children, was his bitter

divorce from their mother, Rosalie, in 1920. Meredith was a teenager at the time of John's

divorce from Rosalie, and had just moved to New York City, the last child to leave home. The

divorce provides some explanation for a general trend by Meredith, based on articles in which he

was directly quoted, to become more acrimonious about his father as he grew older. At the age

of sixty-eight Meredith was the subject of an article by the Iowa City Press-Citizen. The article

is dramatically titled, 'Meredith Willson Product of Sad Family Strains,' and begins by quoting

Meredith's assertion that, "All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."44 He

continued by suggesting a tense paternal relationship with roots in Meredith's own birth:

My mother and father already had a son and a daughter.... He [John] was
angry when my mother told him I was on the way and further that she was
determined she'd have me. From that time on, my father never spoke directly
to my mother by name and never in my lifetime did I hear my name pass
through my father's lips.45

The same article suggests that the rejection by Meredith's father was, "... the kind of

episode that would galvanize a youngster .. into the determined path of independence and

success."46 It is possible that Meredith meant to say "her name," rather than "my name,"

implying that his father never again spoke his mother's, Rosalie's, name. It is curious that

Meredith states that his father never spoke his name, for there are several examples, related by

Meredith, of his father speaking his son's name, and Meredith's comment is in direct contrast

with the recollection of his sister Dixie. And while John Willson is not specifically mentioned, it

seems unlikely that he, or at least his derby, would play such a role in the selection of Meredith's

name, and then never speak it.




44 "Product of Sad Family Strains."
45 Ibid., 5B.
46 Ibid.









Even the acquisition of his [Meredith's] name had a sort of dramatic aspect.
He was one week old when slips of paper bearing five potential names were
put into Dad's derby. My brother Cedric, 16 months old, held the hat while I,
as eldest of the Willson progeny now numbering three, reached in to make the
all-important choice. If my hand had taken a different direction [the name
might have been] Roderick, Rex, Alonzo or Buford. But the slip I brought out
said Meredith.47

Other quotes in the article, "Product of Sad Family Strains," are negative to the point of

near paranoia: "I wired my father and asked him to lend me the money ($50, to attend the

Damrosch (Sic) Institute)48and guaranteed I'd repay him. In May, I did, and I don't think he

ever forgave me for it, because my brother and sister never repaid his 'loans.'"49 It makes little

sense that John Willson would be angry with his son for repaying a loan, but demonstrates the

bitterness with which Meredith increasingly remembered his father.

Another part of the recollection appears to date from the early 1920's, Meredith's time

with the Sousa band: "By that time, my father was very ill and had gone into the Mayo Clinic.

When we were playing nearby, I stopped in to see him and told him I was first flute with the

Sousa band and playing a solo each day and maybe he'd like to hear me. I stood in that hospital

room and played for him and he still wouldn't admit he appreciated it or I was talented or it was

good or anything ... I really think I sped his demise. That was the last time I saw him alive."'5

It is relevant to note that Meredith's tenure with the Sousa band ended in 1923, but that John

Willson did not die until January of 1931, and that his demise occurred in a Mason City hospital.

Meredith's significant distortion of the facts is an indication of the lengths to which he would go





47 Dixie Willson, "The Man Behind," 15.
48 Willson frequently referred to the school as the 'Damrosch Institute of Musical Art,' a misnomer which has been
perpetuated, usually in writings about Willson. The Institute, while founded by and closely affiliated with
Damrosch, did not bear the founder's name and was known simply as 'The Institute of Musical Art' (IMA).
49 "Product of Sad Family Strains."
50 Ibid.









in order to indict his father, and suggests that Meredith held strong negative feelings for his

father.

Rosalie Reiniger Willson

Rosalie Reiniger was born in Charles City, Iowa, in 1860. Rosalie's father was Gustavus

G. Reiniger, a lawyer who died when Rosalie was a child of eight. Little is known of her

mother, the former Lida Meacham. Rosalie grew to be a lady with a strong personality, deep

convictions, and strongly held and voiced opinions. Given the defined gender roles of the early

twentieth-century, it is not surprising that her primary outlet was her three surviving children.

She provided an immense early influence on the development of Meredith's talent and

personality. As her role was paramount in Meredith's early years, and shaped much of his later

life, Rosalie Reiniger Willson warrants close examination.

As a nineteenth-century female from a prominent mid-western family, Rosalie's options

were likely limited to marriage, nursing, or teaching. She chose teaching and in 1885 completed

a short course in Kindergarten Education at the Armour Institute in Chicago. The Armour course

was among the first in the United States directed towards the teaching of young children.

Rosalie went on to study at the Kindergarten Department at Iowa State Teachers College, today

the University of Northern Iowa located in Cedar Falls.51

Her age at the date of her graduation, 1888, is noteworthy, for she was twenty-eight and

unmarried in an era when women commonly wed in their late teens. Rosalie met John Willson

that same year when he traveled to Chicago to play a baseball game. When she married Willson

on August 28, 1889, she was six years older than he and the editor of a weekly newspaper, "The

Blushing Bud," which focused on women's rights. After her marriage, Mrs. Willson moved with

her new husband to the small town of Estherville, near Mason City, where she took up her role as

51 In 1901 this institution became the State College of Iowa, and in 1961, the University of Northern Iowa.









the wife of a prominent citizen. By 1901 she was quite active in the Women's Christian

Temperance Union and the Humane Society. Rosalie's most zealous focus, though, was the

church. She was deeply religious, taught Sunday school, and eventually became superintendent

of the primary department of the First Congregational Church, a position she proudly held for

thirty-two years (Figure 3-2.).

Rosalie adorned the Willson home with religious and moral reminders posted in such

places as the bathroom mirror; "God Gave You This Day: Meet the Challenge," and the outside

door, "Remember, Do Unto Others..."52 The four pictures which hung in the parlor represented

stages of the 'Voyage of Life,' complete with Guardian Angel and moral warnings.53 Rosalie

also "wrote inspirational thoughts on little cards giving them, along with advice, to young people

delivering goods and papers and to other children."54 She gave many of her former kindergarten

students a card inscribed with a quotation by author Philip Brooks:

Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks
equal to your powers. Pray for power equal to your tasks. Then the doing of
your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle. Everyday (sic)
you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of your life, which has come to
you by the grace of God. 5

One childhood playmate of Meredith's kindly remembered Rosalie Willson as, "a

wonderful lady with high ideals which she worked hard to instill in children."56 Rosalie's strong

pious focus was recalled differently by various people. Some said Mrs. Willson was "a very

religious woman." Others deemed her, "a sanctimonious old gal."57 Rosalie certainly had a deep

sense of propriety and an equally strong compulsion to share it with others, an impulse

sometimes considered intrusive.

52 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man, 9.
53 \ illso0 1,1.1There I Stood, 14.
54 Letter from Marjorie S. Arundel, undated, found in MCPLA, 1.
55 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man, 9.
56 Letter from Arundel.
57 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man, 9.









Rosalie's strong focus on religion impacted her children, who were expected to regularly

attend church with her. All three children were heavily involved in church activities at the local

Congregational church. There is some evidence that Rosalie's husband, John Willson, grew to

resent Rosalie's concentration on religion, especially where it concerned the three children. It

was, nonetheless, at the local church that Meredith had his first experiences performing on stage,

in plays, and musical events. Certainly Meredith recalled certain parts of his childhood as

strongly infused with religion. He later described relating childhood events and routines to

certain sounds, "Sunday sounds began with mom playing "Jerusalem the Golden" and "Jesus

Wants Me for a Sunbeam," or maybe "The Church in the Wildwood," on the black upright piano

in the parlor ."58 (Figure 3-3.).

After he left home as a teenager, there is no evidence that Meredith had anything to do

with religion for the next forty or so years. While his upbringing was strongly religious, this

training produced little or no direct influence on Meredith Willson's output, nor a religious basis

for his works. Meredith's third marriage was to a devout Catholic, and late in life he converted

to Catholicism and composed a small Mass for his wife.

During Meredith's childhood, small town newspapers provided detailed announcements of

local happenings and events both in homes and churches. The Mason City Globe Gazette of the

early 1900s provides tantalizing information about Meredith's early musical activities. For

example, readers of 1915 are encouraged to attend an upcoming Easter service which will

include "... a special flute and piano selection by Robert Meredith Willson and sister and an

Easter play arranged by Mrs. John D. Willson ."59 We know the family was musically active




58 11 llson 1,1.1 There I Stood, 12.
59 Mason City Globe Gazette, April 8, 1915









in the community, and that the children were encouraged to participate in musical events both in

and out of church.

During their childhood Rosalie was the parent who dominated home life, the parent who

said grace at the dinner table and special prayers at Thanksgiving and Christmas.60 A cousin

who visited the Willson house as a child described it as emotionally cold and Rosalie as stern

and strict.61 Rosalie was strongly opinionated and outspoken. These characteristics can be seen

in her lifelong crusade to convince the US Postal service to reverse its address practices; Rosalie

was convinced that State information should come first, city name next and street number, the

least common element, last. She expressed her opinions on the topic at every chance, even

speaking publicly to suggest the Post Office alter their procedure. Rosalie read aloud every night

to Cedric and Meredith from a book called What Every Boy .,\ll, h Know, a dry etiquette manual

about how to act when in the company of the opposite sex.62 She had little experience beyond

her local area; there is no evidence that she traveled beyond Iowa and Illinois, other than a trip

she took late in life to New York City to visit her daughter, Dixie.

The Family and Early Musical Training

John and Rosalie Willson were both intelligent and well educated. They produced five

children, three of whom survived infancy. The oldest was Lucille Reiniger Willson, born on

August 6, 1890, who became a doting older sister to Meredith. As a teen, Lucille took to calling

herself 'Dixie', and that became the name by which she was known for much of her life. In a

page of a family album there is a rough tracing of a small hand annotated with the date of an





60 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man, 12.
61 Related by Art Fischbeck, June, 2003, who had spoken with the cousin. He indicated that the cousin was slightly
younger than Meredith, and female, though Mr. Fischbeck declined to identify her for the sake of propriety.
62 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man, 9.









infant's death.63 This was daughter Maureen, born in Estherville, who died in October of 1894

at the age of six months. Maureen's death, probably from cholera, occurred shortly after the

family moved to Mason City. The local paper, at that time called The Times, carried a brief

piece about the infant's death. It is possible that this was yet another lost Willson infant, since

The Times refers to this child as a male, and states that 'he' died of Spinal Meningitis. The dates,

however, make it more likely that these facts were in error and that the child who died was

Maureen.

The deaths of these infant siblings certainly impacted the young Dixie, and may be one

reason she bonded strongly with Meredith; the two had a lasting and fond relationship during

their childhood and through Meredith's twenties. The middle child, John Cedric Willson, was

born on 26th October, 1900, and known simply as 'Cedric'. Robert Reiniger Meredith Willson

was the youngest; an enthusiastic and energetic child nicknamed 'Morning Glory' and frequently

in his childhood called simply 'Glory.'

The Willson parents had decided ideas about how to raise their children; from birth they

guided all three of their offspring towards specific careers. Daughter Dixie later wrote about her

parent's unique views on child-rearing and the guidance they found in a book titled Prenatal

Influence. The book "outlined how potential parents could, from the moment they knew they

were to have a child, make and mold that child's future into anything they wanted it to be."64

According to Dixie, when John and Rosalie were expecting their first child, "they talked it over

and decided they would like to have an author for a child." Within a short time, "fine engravings

and copied photographs of great authors and poets" were hung on the walls, and a "bust in

bronze of a child reading a book" was brought into the house. "Dad, who enjoyed reading aloud,


63 Copies of many family papers, including this album, can be found in the Mason City Public Library Archives.
64 Dixie Willson, "The Man Behind," 16.









brought home everything he could find to read and discuss concerning the lives of great writers

and their work."65

Prenatal Influence directed the objectives for John and Rosalie's other children, as well.

When Cedric was due, explained Dixie, "they decided on a business man and bent all effort

toward that.. ." For Meredith's impending arrival, ". .. they discussed the future of this child

and decided on a musician." Dixie recalled that a bronze bust of Wagner appeared, and pictures

of great musicians were put up all around the house, and that "Books about music and composers

and musicians were read aloud by Dad and re-read by Mother." While Prenatal Influence

sounds like a fascinating book to have put into practice no such publication by that title fitting

Dixie's description has been located with certainty. It is noteworthy that Dixie is the only source

which tells of this parental guidance. It is possible that Dixie, an author, exaggerated or simply

created the entertaining Prenatal Influence story.66

While it is impossible to know exactly how the parents encouraged their first child while

she was still in diapers, Dixie's recalled her earliest thoughts were an urge to "write write write"

in every spare moment. "I was no more than ten when, instead of playing, I would hurry home

to a small desk Mama put in my room where, in my school notebooks I would write stories and

plays while the neighborhood kids romped outside."

After religion, Rosalie's second strength was early childhood education. She started the

first kindergarten in Mason City, when Meredith was about five years old. She also had a strong

theatrical bent and produced church plays with her Sunday school classes and including her

children. Meredith performed in these from an early age. Most important, both parents had


65 Ibid.
66 If Dixie's tale is accurate, this book has not been positively identified. One likely contender is Heredity and
Prenatal Culture Considered in the Light of the New Psychology," written by Newton N. Riddell and published by
Child of Light publishers in 1900, though the date of publication would suggest this was used more for Cedric and
Meredith than for Dixie, who was born in 1890.









some musical training, and music was prominent in the Willson household. Rosalie was a strong

proponent of music in the home. Rosalie set the direction for the upbringing of Meredith and his

siblings, and daughter Dixie would recall that her mother kept the children out of mischief with

"prayers and banjos."67

It seems certain that both parents played roles in encouraging and supporting Meredith's

early musical growth, but it is indeed a difficult task to establish clearly their roles in his life,

largely because of the conflicting accounts by their children. This may have been in part because

Dixie, as the oldest of the children, experienced and remembered different aspects of her parent's

relationship than did Meredith, who was the youngest child, and separated in age by twelve years

(Figure 3-4.). Part of the explanation may also be found in the divorce of John and Rosalie, an

acrimonious and public scandal which occurred soon after Meredith left the house for New York.

John left Rosalie, writing her an eight page letter of explanation for his actions, accusing her of

coldness, distance, and creating an unpleasant home environment.68 (See appendix A)

The letter also paints a bleak picture of home life for the Willson family. John labels

himself and Rosemary a mismatedd" couple, with views of life "diametrically" opposite of one

another. He tells Rosemary that he considers her "inane" and "ignorant" and provides examples

of incidents where she has publically embarrassed him, "When I think of the times you have

humiliated me before business men, even until your grown children have been ashamed of your

actions (and) begged for me, I grow to hate." John goes on to accuse Rosemary of"... sneer(ing)

at my friends and associates..." then asserts that he wants to, "...get you out of my way so that I

can, without fear of insinuation or insult, associate with the class of people that I find to be most




67 Agnes McCay, P lc icls and Banjos Started Dixie Willson on Fame's Road," Herald-Express, April, 1941.
68 This document can be found in the Mason City Public Library Archives.









honest and kind hearted, and less hypocritical than the ones to whom you wish to attach me and

yourself."

A central focus of John's complaints lie with Rosemary's religious convictions, which

John attributes to causing Rosemary to be "set and stubborn, bigoted and vain...", in addition to

her having, "an insatiable desire to ape after people that are in better circumstances than you, you

travel alone in your chosen sphere..." It is obvious, too, that the relationship of the parents has

impacted the children. John notes that he regrets that, "the children have had to listen to

disagreeable and inharmonious conversations, and have naturally acquired a querulous demeanor

that will handicap them in life." He also states that Rosemary has accused him of, "every thing

(sic) mean and crooked," and that she has encouraged the children to "do things contrary to my

desires."

Neither the letter nor the divorce papers themselves should be trusted as a completely

objective source of information, as they are likely inflated to overstate salient points. But the

letter is raw in its portrayal of the poor relations between John and Rosemary, and is a very

different view than any painted by Meredith. It establishes that home life was tense and

argumentative, and that the parents likely manipulated the children to their own ends. This

situation had probably existed for much of Meredith's life, and at one point John comments that,

It makes me rage inwardly now to think of the times without number that you have told me to

pack up and go." The divorce petition also provides new information, though much of it is

directly drawn from John's letter. In paragraph five John is accused of, "... absent(ing) himself

from home for months at a time." In paragraph eight we learn that John Willson holds stock and

ownership in property which is worth, "at least the sum of $100,000."









The divorce petition was filed on January 5t, 1920, six months after Meredith, the

youngest child, graduated from High School. Later in 1920, John remarried. The second

marriage was to Minnie H. Hartzfield, a young woman who was the same age as his children, in

fact four years younger than Dixie. John and Minnie moved into a home which had been owned

by his grandfather, Alonzo, and was located directly and insultingly behind Rosalie's home.

Rosalie, who did not drive and owned no cars, had a three-stall garage built behind her house, to

block the view of John and Minnie's house. In areas of the Midwest in the early twentieth-

century a divorced woman was termed a 'grass widow.' This colloquialism explains listings of

Rosalie Willson in newspapers and the town directory as 'widow' in the years following the

divorce.

The three Willson children chose sides, perhaps were forced to do so in order to maintain

relationships with a parent. Dixie, the eldest, remained closest to her father, perhaps due in part

to a strong father daughter relationship, and perhaps in part because her memories of the

twelve years she lived with her parents before Meredith's birth were, presumably, more pleasant

than the later years of their marriage. Meredith, the youngest child, maintained a stronger

contact with his mother. It was to her house, his childhood home, that he came on his trips back

to visit Mason City. Perhaps the most telling information about their natal home is the fact that

all three children left home at young ages and returned only for brief visits.

While many aspects of Willson's childhood remain unclear, what is certain is that the three

Willson children were strongly guided in music. This was an activity in which they were

encouraged to engage at any time. Rosalie provided early training and instruments, telling her

children, "they could own and play as many musical instruments as they wanted ... Their house









was alive with musical instruments."69 The Willson children were born during the era of

American parlor music, and their parlor held both a piano and guitar. Both parents were musical,

though which parent played which instrument is unclear; various sources report differently.

Some sources report that John played piano and Rosalie played guitar. It is more likely, though,

that John played the guitar and Rosalie was the pianist. Meredith recalled in an article published

some sixty years later that his mother, "played the piano, as did all proper ladies in those days,

and she believed in music in the home."70

Under the tutelage of his mother, Meredith began piano lessons at age six. His older sister

recalled that their mother spent "endless hours" tutoring Meredith on the piano.7 Indications are

that Meredith was a musical child, who, "could, and did, make music on just about anything on

Mother's sherbet glasses, on pieces of pipe left in the back yard by the plumber, on the inside

strings of the piano when Mr. Vance took the keyboard downtown for repairs."72

Iowa was a state with a strong musical tradition. Home music making was a widespread

tradition, and 'banjo bands,' or trios, were popular; there is a suggestion that both Cedric and

Meredith 'picked-up' the guitar, banjo, mandolin, and ukulele while they were children.73

Certainly all three children had some degree of ability on the piano and some stringed

instruments by their teens (Figure 3-5.). A major part of Iowa's strong musical tradition centered

on band music, both marching and performing, which certainly impacted the young Meredith.

As he later remembered, "Like any Iowa child, I loved to play circus and hated to practice the

piano. I hung around the bandstand in the summertime and practically passed out when they




69 Marjorie Arundel letter, 2.
70 "Product of Sad Family Strains," 5B.
71 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man, 19.
72 Dixie Willson, "The Man Behind," 16.
73 "Willson Family Anecdotes," a 5-page collection of family lore found in the MCPLA, 2.









played "Custer's Last Stand" with the red fire and everything. Naturally I wanted to play in the

band someday, and that got me to dreaming about Sousa's band and show business."74

Along with encouraging their musical activities, Rosalie provided the resources for her

children to attend functions where there might be live music, as one musician recalled:

During this time I met a friendly boy who I know now was 7 years old and
seeing him on the street he always gave me a smiling friendly greeting but I
didn't know his name. As time went on I was so glad to see this boy, at this
time, 1910, I was with Bob Gate's orchestra, married and living (in? unclear
writing) Clear Lake but being in Mason City often, after another year or two
passed the Bijou picture house opened, wanting an orchestra. I formed one
(with) piano, clarinet, drums and violin, so seeing 3 children sitting behind the
orchestra quite often and one of these was my friend I asked their name and it
was Willson.75

This sort of encouragement was important for the young Meredith, for this was a period of

time in American music when there were few boundaries between musical styles. Meredith

likely would have heard classical works played alongside popular tunes of the time.

Each Willson child learned the piano first, taught by Rosalie, and Meredith progressed

quickly enough to study with another teacher after a short time. An announcement in the Globe

Gazette informs readers of "a good attendance last evening at the piano recital by the pupils of

Prof. E. A. Patchen, held at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Earl McEwen," at which Meredith

performed Witch's Dance, by Schytte.76 The length of time Meredith studied with Professor

Patchen is unknown. After about two years of piano study, Cedric and Meredith began studying

the bassoon and flute, respectively. Not surprisingly it was Rosalie who directed Meredith's

selection of a second instrument, "After you get so you can play the piano real nice, you must

learn to play another instrument so you will stand out among the other boys when you go to



74 i 0lsoni 1i.1 There I Stood, 16.
75 Unsigned letter of reminiscence, titled 'Meeting Meredith 1909 7 years old but not knowing his name.' in
MCPLA, by John Kopecky, band director at Clear Lake.
76 Mason City Gazette









school."7 Years later Meredith recalled that his mother began 'talking up the flute' because her

father, a Stuttgart professor, was an amateur flautist."79 Rosalie "scraped" together the funds,

probably borrowing the money, and they ordered a flute from the Chicago Mail Order House.

Meredith described the arrival of the first flute seen in that part of Iowa:

Such goings on and hysterical unwrapping of paper you have never seen in
your whole born days as that Saturday morning when my cousin Walter, who
was the postman on our street, brought the package from Chicago. And what
a horrible disappointment to get the flute out finally and put it together and
discover that instead of holding this instrument in front of you .. you had to
play it sideways, practically over your shoulder, where you couldn't possibly
see what was going on." 8

The complications of returning a mail-order flute seemed less involved than suffering a

transverse playing position, and the decision was made to keep the instrument.

As there was no other flute, nor flautist, in the area, Meredith's piano teacher found a book

on how to play the flute and coached him for few lessons. Meredith then switched to study with,

"a gentleman who actually played the coret but who managed to stay one lesson ahead of me on

the flute."81 Soon thereafter he found a real flute teacher in Suiz Hazleton, who had come to

Mason City to play in the theater orchestra. Hazleton recognized an ability to improvise in the

young Willson, and suggested that this might be of real benefit in a dance orchestra. He

recommended that Willson begin playing banjo, an instrument significant in dance

accompaniments of the time. The addition of this instrument to his performance repertoire

expanded Willson's musical opportunities, and he was soon performing with regularity in nearby

towns.


77 l11son 1,1. There IStood, 18.
78 Rosalie's father had been an Illinois lawyer, so it is unclear where Meredith got the idea of his grandfather being a
"Stuttgart professor."
79 Willson, Eggs I Have Laid, 33.
80 ~o llIon 1,i. There IStood, 18.
81 \ illson. 1,i.1 There IStood, 18.
83 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man.









Hazleton gave Meredith his lessons in the tower of White Pier at Clear Lake, a few miles

from Mason City. After about a year, Hazelton told John Willson, who was paying for the

lessons, that Meredith knew more about playing the flute than Hazelton. At that point the elder

Willson began an earnest search for a good teacher, and, "hunted all over the state to find a

teacher for Meredith. He finally engaged one who made a weekly trip from Minneapolis for the

lesson."83 There is no record of how much John Willson paid for these lessons.

From his earliest musical experiences Meredith was also experimenting with playing as a

member of a group. First it was with Dixie and Cedric who were also learning to play

instruments. Very soon, though, he asked to sit in with local groups. A letter in the Mason City

archives has an illegible signature, but the writer apparently knew Meredith at a young age; "it

was 2 years later, 19XX, (illegible) when I started leading orchestra at Cecil Theatre. He

Meredith) patted me on my back and asked if he could sit in, as I didn't have flute parts out he

played off my violin part and enjoyed it, we enjoyed him."45

Acting was one of the activities encouraged in the family. "Mama had played the lead in a

great many local productions when she was a belle around Brighton, Illinois, and she tried to

give us some histrionic coaching... and although we were impressed with her scrapbook and all,

we were too filled with that native impatience ... to settle down and learn a few principles."82

From a young age, Meredith also took part in theatrical productions, both in church and

community. These included events both at the Congregational church and childhood plays

written and produced by sister and future playwright, Dixie. At age fifteen Dixie entered a

writing contest; her poem was selected as the winner over entries from 5000 adults.





82 iNlsoni 11.1 There I Stood, 45.









High School and Immediately Thereafter

Willson's high school years were musically active and the time during which he

cemented his desire to become a professional musician. His high school yearbook, The

Masonian, records that Willson played in the high school band, and sang in the glee club for four

years and in the chorus for three. As a sophomore he appeared in the school opera, and as a

senior participated in the school minstrel show. Throughout his high school years, Willson also

played in the eleven-piece high school orchestra. The group met in the evenings, at the homes of

members. Since they lacked a cello, one young lady played those parts on her euphonium. The

repertoire was wide and included light string music of the time, generally popular tunes arranged

for small string groups. The group also played band arrangements for orchestra, and a few true

classical works, such as Schubert's "Serenade."83 This was probably Willson's first significant

playing exposure to standard concert repertoire.

Willson gained his first semi-professional performance experiences just after his

freshman year in high school. At that time summer bands were sponsored by municipalities and

hugely popular throughout the State.84 He was hired to play flute and double on piccolo with an

orchestra at Lake Okoboji, a resort town about 100 miles west of Mason City. The orchestra

consisted of piano, drums, cornet, trombone, clarinet, flute, and piccolo. Willson did not own a

piccolo, but calculated that the proceeds of the summer would just cover the cost of one. He

purchased his first piccolo at the local Mason City music store, Vance's, for $96.

The 1918 summer stint also provided Willson with his first opportunity to conduct.

During the final week, the orchestra leader, a violinist named Emery Moore, was called into the



83 Willlson. l,.l There I Stood, 25.
84 So popular, in fact, that in 1923 the State of Iowa passed a law commonly known as the 'Iowa Band Act', which
enabled cities and municipalities to pass a local ordinance which could use tax dollars to provide for summer band
concerts and lessons, and even to fund an entire municipal band.









war service. Willson was an obvious replacement, as his flute could easily play the C violin

parts, so he led the group in the final performance of the season. It was immediately following

the first number that the relieved novice conductor sat heavily into his chair and onto his piccolo,

bending it into a permanent curve. In his memoirs he stated that he played the bent piccolo for a

number of years, though he sadly called it, "part scimitar and part bow and arrow."85 An Mason

City Globe Gazette article from 1940 tells what is probably a more accurate account, that

Willson traded in the bent piccolo for a "less substantial and at the same time less expensive

wooden variety."86

Hazel Erwin Griffith, who was four years older than Meredith, played the piano in the

orchestra that summer and later married one of the men who founded it. She said Meredith had

not yet turned 16 (Willson had actually had his sixteenth birthday that May) during the summer

in which he learned piccolo. In a later interview she recalled the night he sat on his piccolo.

"I've never seen a man so sad. That piccolo stayed bent for years. He even played that same one

when he took his first big job at the Winter Garden Theater in New York." Meredith was "a fine

flute player," she went on to say, "but I confess I never really ever thought he would be a big-

time success. I just thought he would end up as a musician.87

Meredith graduated from Mason City High School in 1919. In the yearbook, beneath

their name and school activities, students were permitted to include a single phrase or saying.

Willson's was, "great men are not always wise." Another yearbook inclusion was Willson's

goals for the future, and this was telling, as he wrote, "Consolidate the Wilsons." He was

referring to his plan to marry his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth "Peggy" Wilson, daughter of


85 Willlson .1,.1 There I Stood, 23.
86 "They Started Here: A Mason City Series of Success Stories, No. 2 Meredith Willson, Master Musician," Mason
City Globe Gazette, March 3rd, 1940.
87 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man, 21









the city engineer in Mason City. It was a year after his graduation that Willson returned to play

in the municipal band.

During his high school years it seems that Meredith was also serving as librarian for a

Mason City concert orchestra. A hometown article from many years later tells us that the

orchestra was "led by James A. Fulton, now a prominent composer and who has done many

arrangements for Victor Herbert.""8 While the article does not provide an exact date, indications

are that his concert orchestra participation was during his high school years. The article goes on

to tell of another musical luminary who played with the group, comet soloist Frank Simon, who

had been a soloist with Sousa's band and later became a featured soloist with the Armco band. 89

The Simon connection was to prove vital in Willson's future, for Simon, a featured cornet

soloist, held an important position in the Sousa band, even serving as assistant conductor, and

had influence with the legendary conductor. Meredith was increasingly gaining exposure to the

musical world.

New York Years

Sister Dixie provided Meredith's first contact in New York. Dixie was twenty-four years

old and dreamed of a career as a playwright. In March, 1913, Dixie wrote a musical comedy,

The Owl and the Pussycat, with original musical numbers. In February of 1914 she wrote a

three-act play, The Blue Heron, which ran in Mason City and gained local acclaim. On October

29t, 1915, Dixie married Benjamin Lambert, only to divorce him within a year. Feeling limited

in Mason City, she moved to Chicago in 1916, and in 1918 moved to New York. The reasons

she later gave for the move do not seem to match her life at the time, but are probably a literary

embellishment:


88 "They Started Here."
89 Ibid.









To help me make up my mind whether I wanted a literary or a
stage career, Mother and Dad let me join a musical comedy chorus
in nearby Chicago.90 It was via this company that I made my first
trip to New York, by which time writing had become my choice....
Meredith was then 15 and I begged Dad to let him visit me for a
look at the town where I was certain [Meredith] would find his
four-leaf clover.

On the night of his arrival I took him for a ride on the upper deck
of a Fifth Avenue bus. I was certain no sight on earth could thrill
him so much. But I was wrong. When he spotted a large electric
calendar and the current date of July 12, he exclaimed, "Look at
that, Sis. We're missing the county fair!"91

Just after he graduated from high school in 1919, at age 17, Willson made a move to New

York. Through the years, Meredith told different stories about his departure for New York, at

one point reducing his age to only fourteen at the time of the move. In his recollections, And

There I Stood ith My Piccolo, Willson reminisced that, "the main reason of going to New York

. was to study the flute with the world-famous flutist, the great Georges Barrere."92 As his

autobiography centered on his professional experiences as a musician, it stands to reason that

Willson would highlight a musical impetus for his move. Some thirty years later, however, in

another biographical article, he indicated a different reason for going to New York. This

retrospective had little to do with flute study, but Willson admitted that he moved to the city,

"because I thought it was exciting."93

Willson first called on Barrere at his New York City apartment. During their initial

meeting the young flutist arranged to take lessons and Barrere phoned several of his top pupils

and asked them to help Willson find ajob as a flute player. These contacts included Lem

Williams and Billy Kincaid, who was then principle flute with the Philadelphia Symphony


90 It is notable that Dixie indicated gaining her parent's permission, as the dates she provided indicate she was
married or newly divorced.
91 Dixie Willson, "The Man Behind," 16.
92 N110llo 1,.1 There I Stood, 29.
93 "Product of Sad Family Strains," 5B.









Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. These established players advised Willson to report to the

union every day carrying his flute, prepared in the event that absence of a regular player would

provide a substitute flute job on the spur of the moment. The young flute player was impressed

with Barrere's assistance and willingness to help a stranger. It was many years later that Willson

discovered that his mother, on the day young Meredith left Mason City for New York, had

written Barrere a letter extolling the virtues of her son and asking the great French flute player to,

"Take care of my boy, please. Help him to meet good people."94

At the time of their first meeting, Barrere (1876-1944) was inarguably the most

influential flute player in America; it is impossible to understate the importance of his influence

on the young Willson. A Frenchman by birth, Barrere had graduated from the Paris

Conservatory in 1895, became premier flutist of the Paris Opera, and also taught at the Paris

Schola Cantorum. In 1905 Barrere came to the United States to play with the New York

Symphony Orchestra, a position he held through 1928, when the New York Symphony Orchestra

merged with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The same year Barrere came to the United

States, he joined the faculty of the Institute of Musical Art (IMA), where he taught for thirty-nine

years, through the transition of the Institute into the Juilliard School of Music on September 18,

1930. He was a close friend of Frank Damrosch, founder of the IMA, and was an honorary pall

bearer at Damrosch's funeral in 1937.

Barrere was a player of great virtuosity and is credited with creating a new standard of

excellence for American flute players. His virtuosic playing inspired major additions to the solo

and chamber repertoire of the flute, including Charles Tomlinson Griffes's Poem, and Edgard

Varese's Density 21.5. During his years in New York Barrere premiered more than 170 works,

including several now standard to flute repertoire, including the Hindemith Sonata and Roussel's

94 \11i 01on1 .l 1There I Stood, 63.









Trio for flute, viola, and cello. Barrere also commissioned works from many American

composers, especially encouraging young composers. His method book, Flutist's Formula, A

Compendium of Daily Exercises, remains a standard resource for flautists.

The French flutist holds a position of preeminence in the history of American flute

playing, teaching the vast majority of outstanding flute players of the era. In addition to Willson,

Barrere taught a number of great American flutists, including William Kincaid, Frances

Blaisdell, Arthur Lora, Samuel Baron, Bernard Goldberg, and Henry Hadley, alongside whom

Willson was soon playing in the New York Philharmonic. Barrere's close ties to musical life in

New York, his contacts were paramount in Willson's success as a professional flutist. It was

through Barrere's connections that Willson obtained his first few playing experiences in New

York.

Willson substituted throughout the city and soon landed a permanent job as a member of

the pit orchestra at the Crescent Theatre in the Bronx. There he played to accompany the silent

moving pictures of the era. In his memoirs, Willson reveled in the retelling of humorous and

entertaining stories, such as the time he was playing in the pit orchestra at the Crescent Theatre

and they added a viola player:

He sat next to me in the orchestra pit and played so out of tune I
couldn't stand it anymore, and I finally leaned over to him and
whispered, "If you'll excuse me, your C string is a little flat." He
plucked at the string a couple of times and then said pleasantly,
"That's funny. It's about as tight as I usually have it."95

Sol Klein, a leader of various New York popular bands, also hired Willson as a regular,

and Willson had a steady income. Within a short time Willson realized he could enroll at the

Damrosch (Sic) Institute of Musical Arts for lessons with Barrere, with a savings of three dollars

per lesson, a not insignificant sum for a struggling young musician at that time. Willson recalled

95 \ll1 0o1 .1,.1 There I Stood, 32.









that "the only hitch was a $50 enrollment fee, returnable in May if you passed all your

subjects."96 While Willson later claimed that he had left for New York City as a teenager and

never returned home, one brief summer in Mason City would have ramification which would

forever change the young flute player's career prospects.

An article in Willson's hometown newspaper, the Mason City Globe Gazette, appeared in

the summer of 1920. It informs the reader of a musical luminary who has been hired to play with

the Mason City Municipal band, comet soloist Frank Simon. Simon had been a soloist with

Sousa's band and later became a featured soloist with the Armco band.97 Also listed are the

names of the other band members, including Meredith Willson on flute. This article indicates

that Meredith, despite later assertions to the contrary, returned home from New York for at least

one summer, the summer following his parent's bitter divorce and his father's remarriage. It also

squarely ties Meredith with a well-known American musical figure, one who would play a

promising role in the young flautists, comet soloist Frank Simon.

The John Philip Sousa Band

One of Mason City's leading residents was Harry B. Keeler, Vice President of the Mason

City Brick and Tile Company. Keeler played both trumpet and piano, was a graduate of

Boston's New England Conservatory and, most important as relates to Meredith, was a huge fan

of John Philip Sousa and his traveling band. Keeler encouraged Mason City leaders to sponsor

the Sousa band, and also to sponsor the town Municipal Band in which Willson played in the

summer of 1920.

In the Sousa band the most important figures, after Sousa himself, were the featured

soloists. Frank Simon was among the most famous of these, a 'card man', who was given the


96 "They Started Here."
97 "All Artists Engaged For Mason City Summer Band," Mason City Globe Gazette, June 7, 1920.









prestige of having a large card placed on the front of the stage where he played, a card which

displayed his photo in Sousa uniform and the name of his hometown. Keeler was immensely

impressed with Simon and concocted a plan to bring him to Mason City. After its Mason City

appearance the Sousa band went on to Des Moines, and it was to Des Moines that Keeler sent

Frank Simon a telegram, proposing the cornet soloist be featured with the Mason City Municipal

Band during Sousa's off season. Keeler pointed out the job perks of a potential Mason City

engagement: Frank would not have to work too hard, as no-one played at all on Mondays; during

the rest of the week there was an hour-long concert in the afternoon and an evening concert

lasting an hour and fifteen minutes; Keeler also mentioned the beautiful Lake Okoboji. A brief

negotiation followed, along with Frank's acceptance of the offer.

Soon after Simon's arrival in Mason City, three local groups, the Kiwanis, Rotary, and

the Lions Clubs, invited the cornettist to a special 'meeting' at the local country club. The event

was actually a concert designed to highlight the best of the local talent for the visiting musician.

Meredith Willson was a featured performer, and his performance made an impression on Simon.

"I thought he was simply great," Simon wrote in his memoirs. 'I was astounded at this young

man's artistry, how magnificently he played. I wondered how he got it, but he did play like an

angel. I was knocked off my feet.' Willson was accompanied by his mother, Rosemary, on

piano, and Simon complemented her, as well, 'You could see where he got his background of

good manners, good looks and great musicianship.'98 After the concert Simon approached

Willson. "Young man you play the flute very well. You are a very talented young man. I have

noticed your work in the band. How would you like to go with Mr. Sousa?" 99 In his memoirs

Frank Simon recalled that Willson's response was, "You know, Mr. Simon, I didn't believe this


98 Michael Freedland, Music Man: The Story of Frank Simon (Portland, Oregon: Vallentine Mitchell, 1994) 106.
99 Freeland, Story of Frank Simon, 106.









could ever happen to me, but I would give my right arm if I could get in." To this Simon

responded, "I'll see what I can do".100

Simon immediately wrote a letter to the famed conductor. "Mr. Sousa," he wrote, "you

will be pleased with this young man. He is a fine reader, he is a handsome-looking boy. He

plays well and is an excellent musician. He has style, taste and technique. He has everything.'101

The description of Willson's qualities gives an important insight into Sousa's priorities. Sousa

was as concerned with appearance as he was with musical talent. He demanded that his

musicians portray an attitude of intelligence, and a certain degree of good looks and manners.

Willson fit these qualities well, which is one of the reasons Simon took such note of him.

From the DuPont hunting preserve in California Sousa wrote back to Simon. "Have your

boy send me two pictures of himself, one in playing position and one standing holding his

instrument." On the basis of Simon's recommendation Sousa was set to hire Meredith if his

general appearance was suitable. Perhaps he was even projecting ahead to how the young flute

player would look on the Sousa band posters and publicity leaflets. As soon as Sousa's return

letter arrived, Simon advised Willson to have his photographs taken as quickly as possible.

Simon also sent another letter to Sousa, urging, "Don't pass this boy up, Mr. Sousa, he's got it

and he's going places. He has the dedication, determination and the talent."102

Simon probably did not tell the young Meredith that the Sousa band was undergoing a

transformation. Sousa's famous band was, at that time, populated by an assortment of German,

Spanish, and Italian-born musicians. Sousa had apparently told Simon that he hoped to see the

day when every one of his musicians would be a "real American." This was reflected in a



100 Ibid.
101 Ibid., 107.
102 Freeland, Story of Frank Simon, 108.









comment Frank made to Meredith, "You're just the type of young American boy that Mr. Sousa

wants for his band."103

The future looked bright. Willson played in the band all summer, excitedly anticipating

his Sousa possibilities. Immediately after the final band concert, on August 29t, 1920, Meredith

drove his long-time sweetheart Peggy drove 37 miles to Albert Lea, Minnesota, and there the

two were married. The Albert Lea location, which Meredith and Peggy called their elopement,

was almost certainly designed to avoid the Willson parents. John and Rosemary's separation and

divorce, and John's quick remarriage to a much younger woman, were agonizingly painful for

the family, and Meredith returned to New York with Peggy as soon as the summer band ended.

In 1921, while attending the Institute of Musical Arts and studying with Barrere, Willson

was hired as principle flutist and piccolo player in the John Philip Sousa Band. Though he came

under the strict regulation Sousa imposed on his bandsmen, several friends of the family relate

that Meredith took Peggy with him on at least one Sousa band tour, even though Sousa himself

did not approve. In one article he joked that, "he and Mrs. Willson honeymooned with Sousa's

band supplying musical accompaniment."104 Willson held his chair in the Sousa band during the

1921, 1922, and 1923 seasons, and was one of, perhaps the youngest, instrumentalists to hold a

soloist position with the band.105 In 1923 Willson recommended his brother, Cedric, to Sousa as

an excellent bassoon player. Like Meredith, Cedric was hired without an audition and played in

the band through the 1924 season. Meredith played with the Sousa Band through 1923, touring

the United States, Mexico, and Cuba, and reminisced that, "We traveled a lot and always in band





103 Ibid.
104 "They Started Here."
105 The 'soloist' position seems unique to the time these were musicians who played with the band and were
featured on technically challenging solos.









uniform. They locked up our own clothes and we were walking advertisements."106 He

continued to study with Barrere in the brief intervals between performance tours (Figure 3-6.).

The breadth of Sousa's compositions stretches far beyond the marches for which he is best

remembered, a depth of career which likely set an example for Willson. Sousa's nickname, "The

March King," primarily reflects the public memory of his numerous marches and would suggest

that these were his only musical contributions, though Sousa composed and arranged in a

surprising number of musical genres. His original vocal works included seventy songs, based

largely on the works of American poets, fifteen operettas, and a number of works which fall into

genres as diverse as hymns and pageants. Sousa's instrumental works include one hundred and

thirty-five marches and include four overtures, eleven programmatic suites, instrumental solos,

and more than three hundred arrangements of works in various genres.107

Meredith's tenure in Sousa's band provided the regular playing the young musician needed

to hone his performance skills. The band performed an average of two concerts per day,

sometimes even playing in two different states on the same day. A further aspect of the Sousa

experience was Willson's growing association with musicians of significant stature in the

professional world, all of whom had played with Sousa at one time or another. Willson recalled

that each Sousa season would close with a grand concert at Madison Square Garden, attended by

former bandsmen from points near and far. In one of these concerts Willson glanced around and

realized he was playing with some of the leading American instrumentalists. "Standing on my

right was Ellis McDiarmid from the Cincinnati Symphony and one of the best flute players I ever

knew, and next to me on the other side was the first trombone of the Phildelphia Symphony,

Simon Mantia, and next to him was Arthur Pryor, who had his own world-famous band by this

106 "Product of Sad Family Strains," 5B.
107 The Corporation for Public Broadcasting's series The American Experience, produced an hour-long special
entitled "If You Knew Sousa" which briefly mentions Willson and Sousa's mentoring of him.









time."108 As a musician in the Sousa band, Willson was a member of a sort of music fraternity

and gained a lifelong series of contacts in varied musical fields. These associations were vital to

his success in the music world.

During periods of time when Willson was in New York, usually in the Sousa off-season,

he continued his flute studies. He studied sporadically with Barrere. There is an indication that

there was some sort of opposition to Willson being married at such a young age, by either

Barrere or Damrosch, and that this opposition resulted in Willson being denied the opportunity to

study for a period of time. A 'memory book' by Willson's cousin, Jeanette Hardy Cain, states

that as a result of Meredith's marriage to Peggy, "Mr. Damrosch got mad and wouldn't take him

anymore, so that is how he happened to join Sousa's Band."109 Another person who knew

Willson told this author that this was incorrect, that it was Barrere who refused to teach Willson

because of his marriage. Eventually peace was made and Willson continued his studies. From

1923-1924 Willson also studied with Henry Hadley. Other flute instructors with whom he

studied during his years in New York include Mortimer Wilson, Bernard Wagenaar, and Julius

Gold.

Willson's relationship with his wife, Peggy, during these years seems to have been good.

One article informs readers that, "Mrs. Willson was not idle in this period either, for she went to

school and in time earned a teacher's certificate."110 There were early signs of marital friction,

however. Acquaintances of the couple suggest they began a private conflict over the issue of

children from early in their marriage. Meredith is said to have wanted children, though Peggy






108 Willson, And There I Stood, 43.
109 Jeanette Hardy-Cain, unpublished 'Memory Book,' found in the Archives of the Mason City Public Library.
110 "They Started Here."









rejected the idea early on, due to concerns that pregnancy would ruin her figure.111 Though their

marriage last nearly two decades, the two had no children.

One of Willson's most important contacts in New York City was Hugo Reisenfeld, whom

he met soon after his move to the city. Reisenfeld conducted the orchestra in the Rialto Theatre,

and Willson began playing in the Theatre orchestra during the Sousa off-season, perhaps in 1920

(article from Mason City states he was ...). The Rialto was among New York's most important

motion picture houses at that time. In this era, radio was in its infancy and there were as yet no

films with sound, nor was there television. Entertainment was live, and in this world the

orchestra was of vital importance as 'the voice of the silent drama.' This was particularly true in

New York City, which boasted large theatres and full-sized orchestras. Where space and funding

allowed, the orchestra was of sizeable proportions and conductors of major stature would be

retained. Elaborate thematic scoring was prevalent and even the delineation of a newsreel could

be a precise art.

For example, there are several historical scores for The Thief ofBagdad, including

Mortimer Wilson's specially-composed score for the New York premiere and the James Bradford

"cue sheet" score. But these are by no means the only legitimate scores for the film. Local theater

musicians were ultimately responsible for choosing the music for silent films shown in their

theaters, so almost every theater had a different score. Perhaps a third of America's movie

houses had orchestras, which at that time ranged from three to twenty-five players. Large

theaters in large cities might have an expanded orchestra, but most theaters would not have used

Wilson's score, as they did not have the one hundred-piece orchestra required. Instead, they

would have compiled their own scores from their own music libraries, possibly with the help of



111 Fischbeck Interview.









James Bradford's cue sheet.112 The cue sheet would have helped to determine the type of

emotion meant to be drawn from the film action, and this music would have been drawn from

short arrangements catalogued accordingly.

The conductor of the Rialto, Hugo Reisenfeld, had been born in Vienna in 1879. At the

time Willson met him, Reisenfeld served as managing director of three important New York

theaters, the Rivoli, the Rialto (Figure 3-7), and the Criterion, and was a pioneer in the

composition and performance of theater music. Reisenfeld felt that too many theater musicians

failed to correlate their music with the mood of whatever was being shown. 113 His approach was

to score music which followed what he called the 'mood' of a particular film or scene. During

his time at the Rialto, Reisenfeld oversaw the cataloguing of over twenty thousand pieces of

music and had them all organized according to the mood they represented. The headings

included such diverse themes as, "'Spanish dances,' 'romances,' 'religious ecstasy,' 'cowboys,'

'running horses,' 'joy,' and so forth. Reisenfeld was of the opinion that cataloguing by mood

greatly facilitated the arranging of a score, "The musician simply has to note what kind of

emotion or situation is registered in each scene and then turn to his files for its musical

counterpart."

While it is impossible to say how Reisenfeld's system, unique for its era, influenced

Willson, one can infer that as a musician playing under Reisenfeld's baton, Willson knew of the

conductor's theory and performed music which Reisenfeld felt to reflect the emotional content of

whatever silent film was playing at the time. A programmatic approach can be found throughout


112 A cue sheet is a list of scenes in a film, with a suggested piece of music for each scene, an approximate duration
of the scene, and occasionally comments such as percussion effects to watch for. The cue sheet was sent to each
theater several days ahead of the film, so that the music director could select music from his library before having
seen the film if necessary. The cue sheet for The Thief of Bagdad is six pages long and contains 64 musical cues.
hlp \\ \ .mont-alto.com/recordings/ThiefOBagdad/ThiefCues.html, accessed 23rd August, 2004.
113 Riesenfeld, Hugo. "The Advancement in Motion Picture Music", The American Hebrew (April 3, 1925), 632.
Available online at http://www.cinemaweb.com/silentfilm/bookshelf/6_riese2.htm, accessed 26th August, 2004.









Willson's symphonic works, perhaps in large part due to the influence of Reisenfeld. The two

had a working relationship which extended beyond the Rialto. They collaborated on at least one

of Willson's early compositions, and the score of a film, My Cavalier, released November 1,

1928, and all indications are that Reisenfeld was an important musical mentor for the young

Willson.

1920's New York was also a world center of growth in technology, not the least of it

centered on entertainment in the form of music. Reisenfeld was interested in this sort of growth,

and involved himself in it, as well. He involved himself with the work of Dr. Lee De Forest,

who was experimenting with the technology to incorporate sound with moving pictures. In 1923

Reisenfeld supported the process by hiring Willson to provide live music for De Forest's

experiments. Every morning Willson would head to the studio to play for what became one of

technology's greatest achievements:

His place was the old Norma Talmadge Studio over on East Twenty-eighth
Street, and I would play scales on my flute hour after hour while this man
would record on film. The next day he would play it back and we would
listen. There was so much surface noise and static scratching that you
couldn't recognize the sound for a flute, but at least you knew you were
hearing tones and the pitch was accurate.

Well, I never knew anyone to have the patience this man had. We would
listen to yesterday's scales, and that night he would tear out every bit of
insulation and rewire the whole studio, then in the morning more scales.

The next day we'd listen to the playbacks again, and sometimes the rewiring
made it sound worse and sometimes slightly better. But either way, that
patient man panned out little grains of golden know-how, and after a few
months the scales not only played back as clear as could be, but now you
knew it was a flute."114

Thus De Forest, using Willson as his musical model, developed the first method with

which to tie recorded sound to the motion picture. De Forest might well be considered the


114 Willson, And There I Stood, 59.









world's first sound engineer. The final test linking sound and motion was a moving picture of a

girl dancing to the music of a four-piece orchestra, Willson included, playing Brahms's Waltz in

A Major, and the 'talking picture' was born.

Reisenfeld, ever the innovator, became one of the first to compose for the new medium,

and his works included scores for numerous early 'talking pictures.' The Rialto theatre became

the first venue for sound on film, the first performance of which took place on April 15th, 1923.

Sadly, however, Reisenfeld is little known to history. His programmatic cataloguing system may

be the reason, for he composed and catalogued so much music that early 'talking pictures' made

liberal use of it, yet gave little credit to the musical point of origin. Riesenfeld's extensive

musical files seem to have formed a major source for 'stock' music in early films. Works and

parts of works by Riesenfeld were featured in over one-hundred movie scores of the 1920s and

1930s, yet few credited the composer.115 Following an extended illness Riesenfeld died in Los

Angeles in 1939.

In the 1920s Willson was still working with Riesenfeld at the Rialto and encountering

some of the great musical figures of the day, including Rialto guest conductor Victor Herbert.

Herbert wrote music for a series of elaborate tableaux and conducted the orchestra during a week

of rehearsals and performances. Willson was most impressed with Herbert and recalled that,

"All of us musicians in New York had a real affection and admiration for this great man, and

also he was very amusing at rehearsals on account of... he was Irish and very witty."116 One

incident made a lasting humorous impression, and Willson described several musicians joking

around in Herbert's dressing room when a "... frightened-looking little man all full of apologies

came bowing and scraping in...". The gentlemen was a wealthy amateur who produced a score,


115 h1p "1 \ \" .imdb.com/name/nm0006252/ accessed December 20th, 2004.
116 Willson, And There I Stood, 48.









...gorgeously bound in Morocco leather with beautiful gold-embossed letters on the cover that

read "Mass in F, Dedicated to Victor Herbert."

It was still about forty-five minutes before curtain time, so Mr.
Herbert took the score, settled back in his chair, and proceeded to
look through the music, painstakingly scrutinizing every note on
every page, while the small (man) chewed off his nails and
perspired all over his necktie.

A half-hour later Victor Herbert closed the "Mass in F" and
handed it back to his admirer and, fixing him with a curiously
intense look, he said, "By God, it IS in F!"117

That this was the major incident with Herbert which Willson chose to recall in his memoir

illuminates his sense of fun. While Herbert was an excellent conductor and well-known and

regarded composer, Willson focused on the humorous aspects of his personality, rather than on

his musical accomplishments. Willson frequently seems to have eschewed the serious, and

chosen to move towards humor.

Many of Herbert's musical connections were similar to Willson's, though not

contemporarily. Like Willson, Herbert was involved with the bands of the time. In the 1890s

Herbert was connected to numerous bands, including the famous 22nd Regiment Band of the

New York National Guard, previously directed by Patrick Gilmore. In 1914 Herbert and John

Philip Sousa were among the principal founders of The American Society of Composers,

Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). The group has a strong presence in the modern era, where it

continues to protect copyrights, and collects royalties on behalf of the organization's members.

In 1916 Herbert wrote the first identifiable through-composed score for film, still silent at the

time, The Fall of a Nation, and for this is sometimes considered the first composer to write for

film. Herbert died suddenly of a heart attack in 1924, within a year of meeting Willson, so there

was only a brief association between the two. Yet Herbert, like the leading musical figures of

117 Ibid., 48-49.









the time, was a musician of multiple talents; instrumentalist, composer, and conductor. These

multiple musical facets, found among the great musicians of the era, served as a model for the

young Willson. Herbert's charm and wit also impressed Willson. Willson's admiration for a

one-liner, as well as his desire to be the showman who provided the punch-line, came to closely

emulate his musical heroes, of whom Herbert was one. He grew to be known as a humorous and

entertaining musician willing to be the stooge or butt of a joke, characterizations which

sometimes overshadowed his musical gifts. In the 1920s Willson was in the right place at the

right time. He was working with musicians and conductors of immense talent, leaders in their

fields. He was living in one of the great musical centers of the early twentieth-century, working

with talented and influential music personages. No wonder, then, that he soon tried his hand at

composition.

1924 was a year marked by two important events for the young Willson. The first

landmark was the publication of his first composition, a work he called Parade Fantastique.

While he claimed to have been, "writing all kinds of musical junk ever since I was old enough to

hold a pencil .. .," 1 only one previous work by Willson is known to have been written; a small

piece he mentioned composing while in high school. No score has been found for this juvenile

work, and Parade Fantastique takes a place as the earliest known orchestral composition by

Willson.

Willson relates the story of his best friend, Abe Meyer, who was a secretary to Reisenfeld.

Meyer 'pestered' Riesenfeld to listen to the Parade Fantastique, and Reisenfeld agreed to help

Willson publish the work. Willson admits to a resistance to make suggested edits, particularly to

the overall form of the work, and referred to the piece as his 'child'.118 Willson opinioned that,

"A man isn't really a composer till this happens, I think it is entirely safe to say that there is

118 Ibid., 58.









no feeling like the one a person gets the first time he sees his own composition in print, 'real'

print. He is now a composer, his music is available to everybody, he has actually created

something."119

New York Philharmonic

The second major event of 1924 was Willson's admission to the New York Philharmonic

Orchestra, a group he fondly called, ". .. that obstinate, stubborn, spoiled, conceited, pampered,

gorgeous instrument known as the Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York." The

program from October 16, 1924 records Willson's first performance with the New York

Philharmonic as R.M. Willson. The conductor was Van Hoogstraten, in a concert which

included Weber, Respighi, Mozart and Wagner.

For the rest of his life Willson told the semi-apocryphal story that his inaugural concert

with the New York Philharmonic marked only the second time Willson had heard a symphony

orchestra, and he was living the experience as principal flutist. Willson told the story of the

overture of this first concert having been Beethoven's Lenora and then recalled that the

orchestra, "... rushed through rather sketchily at the rehearsal on account of everybody (but me)

had played it a million times." Willson had been hired as second chair flutist; the first chair

flutist at the time was John Amans. At the time of Willson's premier Amans was temporarily

sidelined by acute appendicitis, thus Willson's so-called premier performance was as first chair

flutist. Willson was fond of recalling this particular concert, referring to himself as "...a dude in

a canoe shooting the rapids for the first time...", but just leaning back in his metaphorical canoe

and enjoying it. Willson enjoyed pretending ignorance of common orchestral literature and

customs, so told a fine story of conductor Van Hoogstraten gesturing to the novice flute player,


119 Ibid., 56.









who looked around confusedly, and had to be told to get up and bow. Willson stood up and

bowed,

... as nonchalantly as possible and early the next morning rushed over to
ask my teacher, Mr. Barrere, if they always did that to a new member.

What overture was it?" he said, and I said, "'Leonore' by Beethoven."

Well, he started to laugh and rocked back and forth so furiously that his
favorite chair, with him in it, turned a complete somersault and ended up
upside down in the corner, his famous Parisian beard waving helplessly at the
ceiling. He finally managed to say, "That overture has in it one of the most
celebrated flute solos in the whole symphonic repertoire.

I helped the world's greatest flutist to his feet and his little boy, Jean, who
was four years old by now, laughed and laughed, too, and for the first time I
wasn't scared to death of my teacher."120

While Beethoven's Lenora Overture was not on the program of Willson's first concert

with the New York Philharmonic, it is likely that the incident happened. It was at this time, upon

joining the Philharmonic that Willson first began to develop a sort of jovial 'bumpkin' persona.

He would state that he never heard of such and such symphony growing up in Iowa, or that he

had never heard of a certain famous composer but would be happy to learn the flute parts, then

proceed to astonish by playing a part superbly. This act certainly worked in his favor and

became a favorite of his, as illustrated in the above example.

The New York Philharmonic Society, as it was known in those days, was a changing

organization. In 1921 it had merged with the National Symphony orchestra, whose conductor,

(Josef) Wilhelm Mengelberg, became one of the lead conductors of the New York Philharmonic

(Figure 3-8). Wilhelm Furtwangler was a featured guest conductor until 1925, when he was

appointed a permanent conductor. Arturo Toscanini was conductor from 1927-1933. The

overlap in years is notable, for the Philharmonic retained concurrent permanent conductors


120 Ibid., 61-63.









during the 1920s. Those were years during which the Philharmonic absorbed several smaller

orchestras, including the City Symphony, the American National Orchestra, and the State

Symphony Orchestra. The amalgamation of various performing orchestras produced multi-

faceted results. It reduced competition, strengthened a base of public support, and brought in

new talent. Willson was one of the young talented musicians brought in during this time; he

played with the Philharmonic for five years, from 1924 through 1929.

During his years in the Philharmonic, Willson played primarily under conductors

Mengelberg, Furtwangler, and Toscanini. His writings suggest that the young flutist was the

least fond of (Josef) Willem Mengelberg, a Dutch pianist and celebrated conductor. Mengelberg

first guest conducted the New York Philharmonic in 1905. In 1921 he became conductor of the

newly organized National Symphony, which soon merged with the New York Philharmonic.

Mengelberg was retained as a permanent conductor, a post he held until 1930.121 Willson called

Mengelberg his 'bogeyman,' and related an experience which, no doubt, helped to set a poor

tone between the two. Willson, with his keen sense of fun, was standing in the musician's locker

room, telling a joke about a musician who went insane every time the name 'Mengelberg' was

mentioned, when he discovered that Mengelberg was standing "unsmiling" behind him. 122

Mengelberg was a European-trained conductor, and had a definite opinion about how every note

in a composition would be played; musicians were expected to accept his word as law. Willson

illustrated the conductor's attention to detail by recounting incidents such as his placement of

special signs throughout music. One example given by Willson was Tschaikovsky's Fifth

Symphony, a work frequently played by the Philharmonic. The famous horn solo was apparently

heavily marked, to the point where horn player Bruno Jaenicke could scarcely see the notes.


121 Living Musicians, Compiled and Edited by David Ewen (New York: The H. W. Wilson Company), 1940.
122 Willson, And There I Stood, 70.









Willson recounted that Jaenicke went to Mengelberg before rehearsal one morning, to let

Mengelberg know that he could not, "...see the notes for the parts." Jaenicke produced a new

horn part asked Mengelberg to add any expression marks he would like played.

Mr. Mengelberg said, "Hou haff ze old part?" Mr. Jaenicke handed him the
old part. After studying it for a few moments Mr. Mengelberg said, "Zis old
part is pairfectly fine, except you must can add a crescendo here and a
diminooendo at zis blace, one more forte in ze next measure, and two more
pianissimos by ze end."123

Despite his respect for the written note, Mengelberg often made sweeping alterations in

scores. His attitude to this practice comes vividly to life in the two following quotations: "The

performer must help the creator," and "Faithfulness to the notes is a recent invention."124

Mengelberg was a link in the nineteenth-century, Austro-Germanic romantic tradition of

conducting: Wagner-Mahler-Mengelberg-Furtwangler. The chain would be broken with the next

conductor of the Philharmonic, Toscanini, who would become the leading pioneer of a more

objective, typically twentieth-century style of conducting. As a musician playing under the great

conductors Willson expressed a preference for the style of Toscanini, rather than of the

Germanic romanticists. He seemed to appreciate Toscanini's clarity and excellent musicianship.

Willson's writings about Mengelberg may have been colored by events of the time.

Mengelberg had been a prestigious, highly-regarded conductor who maintained an excellent

reputation with the American public. His star, however, began to fade under the increasing

popularity of Arturo Toscanini. Willson published his first biography, And There I Stood With

My Piccolo, in 1948, shortly after the Second World War. The prevailing anti-German sentiment

of the time, coupled with the writing of a book Willson hoped to be a popular favorite, may have

prompted Willson to portray the Germanic composers in a somewhat less than favorable light.


123 Ibid., 84.
124 Frits Zwart, "Willem Mengelberg Dirigent Conductor", Haags Gemeentemuseum, 1995.









While Mengelberg was a Dutch citizen, both his parents were German and he was closely

connected with certain German composers whom he championed in the U.S. After the Second

World War Mengelberg, who spent the war years conducting in the Netherlands, came under

public censure for cooperating with the Germans. While Willson's recollections are not overtly

hostile, he definitely presents Mengelberg as Germanic:

Mengelberg used to invent words. "Tee-totto" meant crisply marked. "Tee-
tottissimo" meant very crisply marked. "Sevcik was a world-famous violinist
especially renowned for his brilliant bowing, so Mengelberg tried to coerce
brilliant bowing from his string section by often asking for "Sevcikissimo."
An expression which no member of the orchestra was able to decipher was
"the Bismark bow." "In fact, nobody knew what (Mengelberg) meant until
years after he went back to Holland. By that time some genius had figured out
that Bismark was bald except for two or three hairs, so when Mengelberg
asked for "the Bismark," he was only trying to get the string players to play
lightly, with, if possible only two or three hairs of the bow."125

During Willson's tenure in the New York Philharmonic, Mengelberg was one of the few

conductors in the States to perform the music of Gustav Mahler. The conductor had met and

befriended Mahler in 1902 and zealously promoted his compositions. 126 He would tell the

orchestra members, "Szhentlemen you must can like this moosic. Mahler iss ze Bateoffen von

our time."127 Mengelberg was also good friends with Richard Strauss, whose Ein Heldenleben is

dedicated to him. Despite, or perhaps because of, the tutelage ofMengleberg, Willson never

professed a great admiration for the music of Mahler, Strauss, nor of Bruckner, whom

Mengelberg also championed.

Willson's biographical works provide a glimpse into the political workings of the New

York Philharmonic of the 1920s. He writes little of Furtwangler other than that the board of

Director's wanted Toscanini. The implication is that they set out to rid themselves of


125 Willson, And There I Stood, 96-97.
126 Mahler had also been a highly-touted conductor of the Philharmonic Society from 1909 through 1911.
127 Willson, And There I Stood, 96.









Furtwangler: "The music critic on the Herald Tribune, Lawrence Gilman, had written

Furtwangler's epitaph in the nature of a scathing review of what most of us in the orchestra

thought was a very magnificent all-Wagner concert, and Maestro Toscanini ... replaced ...

Furtwangler as the Philharmonic's permanent conductor."128 Willson reserved his greatest praise

for Toscanini, a conductor he called, "... the greatest by 10 miles than any other before or since .

129

In addition to the primary conductors Willson played under a host of musical giants who

guest conducted the Philharmonic, including Damrosch, Goossens, Reiner, Stravinsky, and

others. The New York Philharmonic was renowned for introducing some of the great musicians

of the day. Before rehearsal one day Willson asked several musicians about the guest soloist,

none of whom knew much about him, nor could remember his name. Mengelberg was the

conductor that day, and when he came in to begin rehearsal was, "... followed by an anemic high

school sophomore in a pink shirt who looked like he was apologizing for being alive as he sat

down nervously at the big concert grand, sniffling from a runny nose." Mengleberg introduced

the young pianist as, "...one of ze great pianists von our time." Willson records a rather bored

shuffling from members of the Philharmonic, none of whom had ever heard of the young man.

The young man's nose was dripping very noticeably by now, but apparently
he was used to it because he didn't pay any attention. Mengelberg glared
around the room, hit the throne a couple of times with his stick, and finally
threw the down beat.

Well this pink boy crashed down onto the keyboard with the most electrifying
sound I'd ever heard in my whole born days, and by the end of the first
movement that hall was rocking with the most majestic, monumental
reverberations in the history of the building, mixed with the hysterical shouts




128 Ibid., 98.
129 "Product of Sad Family Strains," 5B.









of the dignified, superior gentlemen of the Philharmonic: Horowitz had played
in Carnegie Hall for the first time."130

Of all the musicians with whom Willson worked, and out of his several years playing in

the New York Philharmonic, Willson reserves his highest praise for Toscanini. He recounted

several incidences of Toscanini's legendary ear, as well as his infamous temper. As a conductor

Toscanini inspired, according to Willson, both fear and love. Willson recounted completing a

composition some years after he moved to the West Coast, which the NBC music director,

Frank Black, mentioned to Toscanini, who responded that he would be interested in seeing the

piece. Excited by the possibility of Toscanini conducting one of his works, Willson records the

story, probably apocryphal, of rushing to New York with his score, a twenty-three hour journey

at the time, to watch Toscanini rehearse at Radio City.

There were those eyes and they darted at me, around me, over me, and
through me. That hoarse voice began:

"Ah yes, ah yes, ah yes caro, my dear, my dear I remember, I remember
Willson, the flute, the flute, the American flute. You are now in California,
no? With sunshine, the beautiful sunshine, and the oranges. You are well,
no? You are happy? I am glad to see you. Ah yes, ah yes, ah yes I
remember, I remember."

Pause long pause.

"Ah yes, ah yes I remember the American flute. Is always sun in
California? I will come once to California, ah yes."

Pause.

"You wish to see me about something, no?"

I shook my head and bowed myself backward out of the dressing room with
my score still under my arm. I hurried out to La Guardia Field, sat there half
the night waiting for a seat on a westbound plane, arrived in Los Angeles
some twenty-three hours later, and I've never brought up the subject since.131



130 Willson, And There I Stood, 86-88.
131 Ibid., 106-107.









Willson's years with the New York Philharmonic were also notable for his first exposure

over a growing medium, radio. On November 15th, 1926 Willson played a concert which was

the first broadcast of a music program on the NBC radio network. This broadcast, the

culmination of a concept of wiring different radio stations together to facilitate coverage of large

areas, was an event known as 'the birth of NBC.'132 The concert was conducted by Walter

Damrosch, and included the New York Oratorio Society, and the Goldman Band. In 1922 the

New York Philharmonic became one of the first orchestras to be broadcast, via radio, in a live

concert. The Philharmonic quickly became one of the most frequently broadcast orchestras in

the world, and it is likely that Willson participated in a broadcast prior to the 1926 NBC premier,

though there are currently no records indicating this.

As a talented flute player in New York in the 1920's, Willson also played with other

groups, such as the New York Chamber Music society.133 He found himself involved with some

of the more progressive and daring trends in music, which he blatantly disliked. Details of

exactly whose works he played have not come to light, but Willson deemed the music, "ugly,

cacophonous schnozola..." One assumes he is referring to compositional experiments with

atonality. Willson did admire the music of some contemporary composers, and these included

Resphigi, Stravinsky, and Gershwin, all tonal composers. He was bound to be stung by criticism

from some of the notable critics of the day, including Olin Downes. When Willson played for

dancer Angna Enters, Downes wrote: "Miss Enters is perhaps the greatest mime of our day. As

for the rest of the evening, its items were uniformly vapid."134 Willson never forgot the




132 "Electrification of Sound: Audiovisual Collections Between the Wars," Library of Congress Motion Pictures,
FL. i., 1...r-. Recorded Sound, An Illustrated Guide (Washington, 2002), 24.
133 "They Started Here."
134 Willson, And There I Stood, 111.









comment and included it in his memoirs to illustrate how a young musician could take such

criticism to heart.

The West Coast Years

Sometime in the mid 1920s Willson made the acquaintance of Aldoph Linden, a Seattle

banker who was attempting to build a coast-to-coast network. In these early radio days there was

a difficulty in linking broadcasts, as Willson explained, "... there was only one complete coast-

to-coast network, and it was highly desirable to broadcast not only east to west, but also west to

east, and this network-reversing was a big technical chore and expensive, too, in those days, so

Mr. Linden thought of having his coast-to-coast station hooked together in a figure-eight pattern,

so that the broadcast would constantly be flowing in both directions at once and no network

reversals would ever be necessary."135 In addition to his banking interests Linden owned

Seattle's Camlin Hotel, produced and sold phonograph records, was involved with oil interests,

and, like Willson, was a native of Iowa.

In 1928, while Willson was still living in New York, Linden hired him as musical director

for a series of summer concerts in Seattle, designed to promote the coast-to-coast radio stations.

While not financially successful, the concert series was noteworthy as a beginning of new

horizons for Willson. It marked a number of firsts for the young musician: first significant

exposure to life on the West Coast, his first foray into conducting, and his introduction to and

initial contacts in the burgeoning world of radio. The concerts, however, were not well attended.

In his writings Willson simply recalled that the radio venture failed and he returned to New

York,136 blaming the lack of attendance on poor weather. The details were more dramatic, as




135 Ibid., 114.
136 Ibid., 117.









Linden and his partner were arrested for embezzling bank funds to bankroll the network. They

were later convicted and sent to Walla Walla prison.137

The enterprise had created ongoing problems for Willson, as well, for he had convinced a

number of New York musicians to accompany him to the West Coast. They had been promised

pay at the end of the summer, but the low turn-out and arrest of the sponsoring partners meant no

funds were available. Willson lived in fear that musicians were going to seek him out and hold

him responsible for their unpaid services, but all was forgiven.

Sometime in 1929 Meredith and Peggy Willson headed west for a permanent relocation to

the West Coast. There seems to have been no single impetus for the move, but a combination of

circumstances. The moved heralded what was to become the bulk of his professional career:

Willson's work in radio and, later, television. Willson had an important contact in Hollywood in

the person of good friend Abe Meyer, who was now musical director of Tiffany-Stahl, a

company which produced moving pictures. Willson recalled his 1929 efforts in Hollywood:

In those early days Hollywood was a glorified fish fry, and the important thing
was to look busy, so at Abe's suggestion I took up cigar smoking and spent
my mornings walking around the Tiffany-Stahl lot, knitting my brows and
smoking cigars.138

Tiffany-Stahl was an early film company which first specialized in silent films. As

technology for sound became available Tiffany-Stahl became one of the first studies to integrate

the new sound technology and produce numerous 'Talkies.' In his first months in California,

Willson scored music for several films produced by the company.139 Willson mentioned the

names of two of these films in And There I Stood ii ith My Piccolo. One was a December 1929

science-fiction film called The Lost Zeppelin, another was the melodramatic Peacock Alley,

137 J. Kingston Pierce, Eccentric Seattle, Washington State University Press, 2003
138 Willson, And There I Stood, 129.
139 Dates for Tiffany-Stahl films can be found at http://www.vitaphone.org/tiffany.html, accessed 10th February,
2005.









which was released in January of 1930 (Figures 3-9 and 3-10). It is relevant to note that the

films were released within two months of each other. Composers were expected to write, score,

rehearse, conduct, and record quickly. Composers of these early 'talkies' did all the composing

and scoring, but had not yet gained enough stature for inclusion on advertisements. When it

came to the actual recording of the film, music, voices, and sound effects were recorded at one

time, with actors, conductor, and orchestra in the same room and reading the same script. This

practice resulted in one of the few remaining traces we have of Willson's earliest film scores,

ASCAP cue sheets. These cue sheets still survive in the ASCAP archives and list Willson as

composer for several early films.

Recent research has proved that Willson wrote scores for several additional Tiffany-Stahl

films, including My Cavalier (also known as The Cavalier), released November 1, 1928, The

Taming of the .,/l ei' (1929 United Artists), and Wide Open, 1930.140 Composing credit for My

Cavalier was given to Hugo Reisenfeld, Willson's colleague from the New York Rialto theater,

who worked in partnership with Willson. No copy of the film has thus far come to light, nor has

any score; only the ASCAP cue sheets are known to exist. Wide Open and The Taming of the

.\VI e' incorporated works Willson composed in 1929; Tornado and The Siege, which, as

examples of some of Willson's first orchestral compositions, will be addressed in a later chapter.

In the latter part of 1932 Tiffany-Stahl was absorbed into World Wide Pictures. Somewhat later

Willson also contributed to a twelve-part serial, Undersea Kingdom, which was released in 1936.

Undersea Kingdom has recently been found and is in circulation on DVD among certain early

film buffs, but the extent of Willson's contributions is not clear. With no existing scores and no

credits it is difficult to determine exactly to which musical portions Willson contributed. Many

early films were lost, composers were recognized haphazardly, and there remains the possibility

140 ASCAP sheets indicate Willson as composer and conductor.









that Willson composed music for films which have yet to be rediscovered. Of these early 'talkie'

scores Willson admitted that he, "didn't know much about picture scoring in fact, didn't know

anything about picture scoring," though he did possess what he felt was one vital qualification,

his "cigar gave out the proper smoke screen."141

At about the same time as he was composing his first film scores Willson was hired as

musical director of radio station KFRC, based in San Francisco. 142 The call sign 'KFRC' was an

acronym which stood for "Known for Radio Clearness," a promotion of the station's transmitter

system. The station was owned by entrepreneur Don Lee, who had accumulated much wealth as

the California franchisee for Cadillac automobiles. In the late 1920s Lee had branched out into

radio and set up wire-line connections between several stations, one of the first examples of a

'network.' In 1929 Don Lee entered into an agreement with Columbia Broadcasting System

(CBS) for his stations to become the western outlets for CBS; he touted this as the Don Lee-

Columbia Network. Willson's hiring was a direct result of the contract, for Lee sought out the

best talent he could find to promote and run the new network.

Thus Willson began to serve in a new capacity for radio, that of Music Director and/or

Orchestra Leader for widely-heard radio programs. The positions were not well-defined and

seem to have overlapped. As Orchestra Leader his primary job would have been to rehearse and

conduct the orchestra, with limited input regarding musical selections. As Music Director,

Willson would have had a broader influence in what was being heard in the broadcast, as he

would have selected the music and integrated it into the narrative portions of the program. His

earliest widely-heard big show was Blue Monday Jamboree, which in 1929 began a successful

run of several seasons. Willson recalled Blue Monday Jamboree, as, "... a two-hour clambake


141 Willson, And There I Stood, 129.
142 11ul1 \ "\ .oldradio.com/archives/stations/sf/kfrcl.htm









every Monday night from eight to ten, and you could shoot off a gun in any street in California

on that night and never hit anybody on account of they were all home listening to The Blue

Monday Jamboree. I can't think of anything that's ever been done on the radio that we didn't do

first on that program."143 Indeed, many 'stock' characters, which came to define radio and early

television, were developed for The Blue Monday Jamboree. These include comedy duos like

those later imitated by Amos 'n' Andy, widely used stereotypical ethnic characters of the day

such as the wise-cracking Mexican janitor, the standard singing cowboy, and many more. KFCR

also played the first original musical comedies written for radio, as well as murder mysteries and

comedic whodunits. Even the voice of the character 'foghorn leghorn,' popular in children's

television cartoons of the 1960s, was attributed to emulating a character on The Blue Monday

Jamboree.

As is the case with many early radio programs, the significant impact of Blue Monday

Jamboree is not well understood in the modern era. Recordings were sometimes made, but

generally the better recordings were reused or lost, though curiosity about particularly poor

performances kept those recordings in circulation. A few years later many early recordings

made on aluminum and glass cylinders were contributed to recycling efforts of the second World

War, and thus lost forever. One of the ideas Willson premiered, probably on Blue Monday

Jamboree, was that of "Chiffon Jazz". He had the idea that the audience would prefer a sort of

modified jazz or dance music to listen to over the air. He began to arrange works in which the

brasses and saxophones were replaced by violins and woodwinds, a practice which became

popular and has continued to this day.144




143 Willson, And There I Stood, 135-136.
144 'You and I,' Super Song Book (popular magazine, no publisher listed, 1940), 3.









Peggy and Meredith settled in San Francisco and began a long and productive association

with the city. The NBC Western Division headquarters were in San Francisco and, due in part to

the strong Don-Lee, NBC connection Willson was appointed music director of the Western

Division of NBC in 1932. This position was, presumably, excellent training for Willson, and

San Francisco was the center of West Coast radio, then emerging from infancy into the major

form of entertainment. Radio broadcasts in the early days were live, and studios were usually

filled with people; the musical director, engineers, guests, and a live orchestra which varied in

size from a quartet up to one hundred musicians. The variety of music played was remarkably

wide, ranging from classical concertos to jazz (Figure 3-11).

This period was busy and productive for Willson. It was in these early years with NBC

that Willson began to implement innovative programming ideas for radio. One of these was the

program, Concert in Rhythm, the first to feature popular dance music not to be danced to, but

simply to be listened to. Another innovation was in the form of a half hour radio program Waltz

Time, devoted entirely to the playing of waltzes. Both Concert in Rhythm and Waltz Time ran in

1932. In 1933 Willson became orchestra director of the popular Captain Dobbsie's Ship ofJoy,

which ran for three years, and also became orchestra director of his first big hit radio program,

Carefree Carnival, which ran through 1939.

In all, this was a heady time in radio. The country was in the middle of the great depression

and people depended on radio as often their sole form of entertainment, news, and even

education. Willson was at the center of developing the new medium, given largely a carte

blanche to try new things. After two or three uncertain years caused by the depression, musical

activity boomed again on a burgeoning radio and record industry and the public's need for

communication and entertainment as war clouds rolled in during the following decade. Willson









was immensely busy during these years, directing sometimes as many as seventeen musical radio

programs a week. He also found time for appearances as a guest conductor for regional

orchestras, including the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and

Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Researching the 'radio years' of Willson's career has the potential to be highly confusing,

for early radio was not the standardized system we know today. Rather, it was a growing

conglomerate of independent owners who shaped rather loose ties to networks. In the early years

of radio, there were two NBC networks, NBC Blue and NBC Red. From the early 1920s, large

cities had multiple stations, problematic when more than one wanted a network feed. If the

network was already affiliated with a station it could not affiliate with a second station. NBC

solved this dilemma by creating two networks, which it named Blue and Red, potentially

doubling the number of stations which could have an NBC affiliation. Additionally, in the early

years, some stations carried shows from more than one network. The autonomy of the early

stations was a boon to the spread of different genres of music. Local stations had, when needed,

the resources of a national hookup, but they also realized the value of maintaining and drawing

upon regional aspects. For example, Willson built a Spanish program around a local singer,

Carmen Castillo, while at KFRC. 145 Networks depended on their local affiliate stations to

provide national advertising and nationally directed, high-budget programming.

Station owner Don Lee died of a sudden heart attack in 1934, and his stations were taken

over by his son, Tommy Lee, with the CBS arrangement continuing through the end of 1936.

During the early 1930s there had been growing friction between the Lee organization and

Columbia over programming control issues. The Lee group wanted to continue their

programming autonomy, while CBS sought more control over the broadcasts. It is notable that

145 Willson, And There I Stood, 134.









Willson departed the network in 1936, the same year in which the CBS moved its affiliation to

station KSFO. At that time the Lee stations became affiliates of the Mutual network and moved

their radio headquarters to Los Angeles. Willson left no clue that he had any preference nor

played any role in KFRC's switch in network affiliation.

Willson remained in San Francisco and became musical director of the NBC stations KGO

and KPO. As radio expanded in popularity and scope in the 1930s certain challenges arose. One

was the difficulty of having a single network which served the different time zones of the east

and west coasts. This was live radio, with no option to record and replay, so a show which

broadcast in the evening on the east coast would be broadcasting at mid-afternoon on the west

coast. One attempted solution was a double broadcast, in which shows would broadcast from

LA in the afternoon for an evening program for NY, and then cast and crew would reassemble

several hours later and do the show again for the West Coast. The dilemma of live broadcasting

and time zones required the network stations in the Pacific to air much of their own

programming, which in turn called for a person to coordinate the performance and broadcasts. In

1935 Willson was named to this important post and became the music director for the West

Coast division of the NBC network, essentially half the national network.

The following year, 1936, was a banner year for Willson. He completed and premiered his

First Symphony subtitled 'San Francisco Symphony,' and inspired by his time living and

working in San Francisco and his deep passion for the city. Willson guest conducted the San

Francisco Symphony Orchestra in the April 19th premier of the work, in the process becoming

their youngest ever guest conductor. The work premiered to some acclaim. Willson seemed to

be on the brink of carving a permanent niche for himself as a symphonic composer.









At the end of his 1936 season Meredith and Peggy took a month-long cruise aboard the

S.S. Virginia, crossed through the Panama Canal, then spent two weeks amid familiar scenes in

New York City. While there he directed the NBC symphony orchestra in Radio City. The

couple then made a trip to Mason City, where they stayed with Peggy's mother. In the language

of the time Willson told the local paper that he was making the trip as a celebration of the

completion of his First Symphony. He added, "Who knows, I might write a Mason City

symphony Mason City has plenty to crow about. I like it better every time I come here."146

The following summer he hinted that his symphony would be played by the New York

Philharmonic, though the work was apparently never written.

His work in radio, however, was about to pull Willson in another direction. From the mid

1930s radio headquarters had begun to shift gradually southward to Los Angeles, in large part

because of the talent pool in nearby Hollywood. The location made it more convenient, too, for

big name artists to perform on radio and in movies, and NBC moved many of its shows to Los

Angeles. In 1937, less than a year after the premier of his San Francisco Symphony, Willson,

still NBC Western Director, made the move to Los Angeles and signed an agent from the

William Morris agency. Just after moving to Los Angeles, Willson became the musical director

and host of thirty-minute variety radio show which became one of his best remembered

programs, NBC's Good News (1937-1939). That summer Willson finished the first season of

GoodNews and took a European vacation. In London he saw his first television and was asked

to conduct a broadcast with the BBC orchestra, which he declined due to a slight illness.

In 1938, riding on name recognition and the success of his First Symphony, Meredith

wrote a guide to composition, conducting, and radio, titling it What Every Young Musician

.\lI,,n, Know. The work was a good-natured manual, filled with slang of the era, giving advice

146 "Meredith Willson Plans to Continue Composing," Mason City Globe Gazette, June 3rd, 1936.









about how to approach the popular music world. The 1930s world of popular music included a

variety of forms, from classical to swing, and Willson's guide addressed them all. Indeed, the

move to Los Angeles marked the beginning of Willson's affiliation with many of the popular

radio shows of the era. He worked in various capacities, as host, co-host, orchestra conductor,

and musical director, for many years. In his various capacities Willson became instrumental in

developing what became stock characters on radio; stereotypes which were later carried over

onto television. As one of the few speaking characters in the radio studio, and one whose voice

the audience would recognize, the orchestra conductor was frequently used as an actor or

'stooge' to whom questions were asked. Willson cultivated this role with a passion. He enjoyed

serving as both serious orchestra conductor and the butt of jokes, but never at the expense of

musical quality. A former performer, he respected his orchestras and once commented, "When

you play in an orchestra you're scared of the conductor, and when you become a conductor

you're scared of the orchestra because they're the ones who can really tell whether you know

your stuff or not."147

In his role as Music Director Willson found himself largely outside the loose network

boundaries. While different stations might share the same ownership, they might also have

different network affiliations. It was not uncommon to find stations in different cities which

shared ownership, but which held different network contracts. As music director, Willson need

only go from one station to another, a frequent, sometimes daily, occurrence, to find himself

working for different networks. This explains the confusion of records which show Willson

working at two or more studios and/or networks at the same time. Additionally, affiliation with a

network was not as exclusive as it is today, and Willson moved his shows. He sometimes

directed a show on one network concurrent with directing the same show on a different network.

147 Willson, And There I Stood, 69.









A source which does an excellent and detailed examination of Willson's chronology and

affiliation with different Old Time Radio, OTR, networks, and details the various shows he

directed is Bill Oates' book, Meredith Willson, America's Music Man. 148

Over the course of his radio and television career Willson worked for the Red and Blue

NBC networks and for CBS. In the1940s the FCC ruled that the NBC Red and Blue networks

comprised a monopoly and forced NBC to relinquish a network. Hence the 'Blue' network spun

off to become the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in about 1945. As a result, some

sources show Willson working for ABC. 149 The changes between networks seem to have been

encouraged, at least in part, through advertising sponsorship of networks and specific shows.

Though somewhat later, an example can be found in Willson's show Sparkle Time (1946-47),

also known as The Meredith Willson .\l,Ni and Ford.h\l,\ in,,in The program began on CBS,

sponsored in part by Ford, then moved to ABC, sponsored by Canada Dry Ginger Ale and later,

again, Ford. Simultaneously, Willson was directing other shows on NBC.

As Music Director Willson influenced the format of radio programs, and thus impacted

developments in the field. He developed the idea of taking the ten most played songs of the

week, as published by Variety magazine, and making them into a show he called The Big Ten.

The network later sold this concept, and it became the NBC Lucky Strike Hit Parade. The idea

of featuring and counting down the top hits of the week originated with Willson and is carried on

in the recording industry to this day.

Another significant feature of Willson's radio years was the number of celebrities and

rising stars with whom Willson worked. A list is practically a 'who's who' of notable

performers of the day, and includes such luminaries as Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald, Judy

148 Bill Oates. Meredith Willson,America's Music Man (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2005).
149 Bill Oates also notes that in the late 1920s Willson worked for a Seattle network called ABC, a network which
failed, not to be confused with today's ABC network.









Garland, Buddy Ebsen, Mickey Rooney, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, Fannie

Brice, Jimmy Stewart, and more. Willson was never really a 'name-dropper,' but did

occasionally mention the celebrities with whom he worked. Writing about the 1938 premier of

GoodNews, for example, he recalled "We had lots of glamour and had rehearsed for many days

with a big orchestra and chorus of seventy people and Jeanette MacDonald and ... Judy Garland

... and Buddy Ebsen."150 Willson painted vignettes of some of these personalities in his

memoirs:

Nelson Eddy was getting good and tired of hanging around M.G.M. doing bit
parts and was happy to get away to San Francisco and get a chance to sing
again. He was barely in his twenties, but he killed all the people with the most
tastefully complete singing of the "Toreador Song" you'll ever want to hear.
He was a bit on the callow side in those days, as it comes to me now.151

Sometime in 1939, using the GoodNews program as his platform, Willson commissioned

ten well-known American composers to write original works in various prescribed traditional

forms. The idea was probably first been broadcast in the summer, as several newspapers

reported on it in mid-to late August. From The New York Herald Tribune:

Noticing that no American works have figured in the lists of favorite melodies
named in various polls and performed in his "Concert Hall" radio hours,
Meredith Willson is commissioning ten American composers to write works
in small forms such as those of the minuet, serenade, caprice and barcarolle.
These will be performed in the Concert Hall program, which originates from
Los Angeles on Thursday nights over an N. B. C. national network.

The committee choosing the list often composers consists of Mr. Willson, Dr.
Frank Black, of the National Broadcasting Company, and Howard Barlow, of
the Columbia Broadcasting System. ..

Favored tunes which have already figured on Mr. Willson's programs include
Beethoven's and Paderewski's minuets, Schubert's "Serenade," the Brahms
Lullaby, Kreisler's "Caprice Viennois" and the Barcarolle from Offenbach's
"Tales of Hoffmann." Mr. Willson thinks that American composers of


150 Willson, And There I Stood, 149-150.
151 Willson, And There I Stood, 132.









popular music have hitherto lacked the incentive to compose works of such a
type.152

Another article asserts that "It is Mr. Willson's contention that American popular

composers have rarely been given the opportunity to try their talents in the more classic

forms."153 Another article continues this thought, providing more detail about what Willson

considered to be the problem:

Meredith, who is almost painfully in earnest about this, is worried because
there were no American names in the list of composers of the "ten most
beloved melodies ever written," he has put on the air in the past. "It is
obvious," says Meredith, "that American composers lack the stimulus and
incentive to write in classical forms.

The Wilson (sic) composer's list is not yet complete, but it's our guess that
those who have felt the urge to write in the "classical" form have already done
so and will continue As for those other writers who wouldn't swap a dozen
barcarolles for one simple song a la Berlin, we regret they'd stick to their own
very good lasts, keep far away from forms for which they have little sympathy
and out of which they don't get much fun. 154

Willson presented the resulting compositions each week during the GoodNews program,

conducting the premier performances himself.155 Each work was preceded by the designation

'American.' The pieces composed include American waltz, by Peter De Rose; American

arabesque, Vernon Duke; American barcarolle, Harry Warren; American lullaby, Duke

Ellington; American humoresque, Sigmund Romberg; American caprice, Morton Gould;

American minuet, Harold Arlen; American nocturne, Dana Suesse; March for Americans, Ferde

Grofe, and American serenade, Louis Alter. The works were recorded by Decca in 1941 in a

five disc collection titled the "Album of Modern American compositions".



152 'Ten U.S. Composers Will Get Commissions,' The New York Herald Tribune, August 20, 1939, Sunday.
153 'Youngest Baton-Waver Lords It at Fair Tonight: Master Lorin Maazel to Conduct Tschaikowsky's Marche
Slave(sic), Festival at Bergamo, Brooklyn Opera, Opportunity." The New York World-Telegram, August 18, 1939,
Friday.
154 'Meredith Willson, who is to lead the orchestra...', The New York Post, August 17, 1939, Thursday.
155 'Willson Signs Contract to Record Music Album', Mason City Globe-Gazette, 12/31/1940.









The exposure of his 1936 First Symphony, and close affiliation with Hollywood soon

resulted in a new venture. Around 1938 Willson was contacted by Charlie Chaplin, who asked if

he might be interested in writing music for a new film, The Great Dictator. In an interview

recorded in 1959 Willson recalled his collaboration with Chaplin with great fondness. His

mention of Chaplin's lack of politics is particularly relevant given the time of the era of the

interview. In 1952 Chaplin had come under severe pressure through accusations from Senator

Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, which accused the

filmmaker of communist leanings. Willson's recollections of eight weeks spent scoring with

Chaplin were quite different:

I had lunch with him every single day, and every day I was absolutely sick from laughing.
Such a fantastically humorous man and I never heard him tell a joke. He only told
experiences, things that had happened. All of this eight weeks on the lot, lunching every
day, maybe from 12:30 to 2:30 we were leisurely the minute the picture was finished,
Charlie would be out of work. He wouldn't have anything to occupy his mind. So he
pretended that he was in a big hurry, but actually he hated to have it get over. In all that
time, I never heard him speak a word of politics. We never exchanged one word about
politics. He had something to say in general about the quality of the guy who was reading
the news, maybe didn't like his voice but his leanings that we've been led to believe he
has politically, and his "citizen of the world" poppycock is just a shame. It's too bad,
because Charlie is such a great artist in every way. This man is a genius, no doubt about it.
He would have been a genius as a house painter or as a portrait artist, or in the ballet he
could have out Nijinsky'd Nijinsky. Whatever he put his mind to, he would have been
the greatest.156

Willson was also still heavily involved with songwriting and his radio career and was one

of the country's well-known entertainment figures. As such there were frequent news articles

about him. Many of these were brief lines informing the radio public which artists would be

featured on an upcoming show. These would mention Willson's name along with those of other

celebrities:



156 New York, Columbia University, [Willson, "The Reminiscences of Meredith Willson", Popular Arts Project
Series V, volume IX, Category IA, Oral History Research Office, 1961] 34.









Lionel Barrymore again will visit Robert Young, Fanny Brice, Frank Morgan,
Meredith Willson, Connie Boswell and other members of the cast of Good
News of 1939, when he stars in a dramatic sketch during the broadcast at 7
p.m. today over WMAQ.157

Other articles, though still brief, provided somewhat more substance about Willson, the

man, such as those articles which seem to have evolved from a short interview or even overheard

comments. Like the smaller articles, these list celebrities and, frequently, the names of shows.

These vignettes are somewhat longer and more anecdotal, relating short stories or incidents

which involved radio personalities. Even small items were of interest to the public:

Frank Morgan hit the jack pot on a new soft drink vending machine just
installed in the artists' corridor of NBC's Hollywood Radio City. First of the
Good News of 1939 cast to spot the machine, Morgan insisted upon treating
Fanny Brice, Bob Young, Meredith Willson, Hanley Stafford, Warren Hull
and Connie Boswell. He started feeding nickels faster than the machine could
take them, and before long the janitor was busy mopping, and collecting
tipped over paper cups. After much effort but little refreshment, the Good
News cast adjourned to their air cooled studio to enjoy iced coffee, leaving
Morgan still trying to explain what he had done to the machine. 158

Willson was frequently asked his opinion about musical items, such as the current trend in

writing silly songs:


Carloadings may fall off, the business index may sink out of sight, but the
current "silly" music craze is a sure sign that bigger and better times have
come, according to Meredith Willson, Good News musical director, here for a
visit.

The fad for nursery rhyme swing that began with "A Tisket A Tasket" and
continued with "The Mulberry Bush," "Rumplestiltskin," and "The Three
Little Fishes," he explained, is the same kind of absurdity we had during the
flush twenties in the form of "Yes, We Have No Bananas' and "Barney
Google."

"All such songs are superficial from a musical viewpoint," Willson declares,
"and they will not have any more lasting effect on musical trends than


157 'Lionel Barrymore Visits Snooks' Springfield, III Journal, Springfield, Ill, June 8, 1939.
158 'Air Land Chatter' Sacramento California Bee, Sacramento, California, June 8, 1939.









'Ferdinand the Bull' on literature, but they reflect a fundamental upswing in
our national spirit. They herald better business and good cheer."159

There were also articles which included Willson as part of a significant event. He was

sometimes featured as the main event, sometimes mentioned along with many other well-known

performers:

It started with a tremendous crash of cymbals and the majestic sweep of
Meredith Willson's symphony orchestra carrying Tony Martin, famed tenor of
screen and stage, into Irving Berlin's patriotic masterpiece, "God Bless
America."

Tiny, red-headed Judy Garland held an honor position in the broadcast that
of unfurling before her nation-wide audience a "radio American flag" in the
symbolic singing of MacDowell's "To a Wild Rose" for he red of the flag,
Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home," for the Dixie cotton fields
representing the white, and George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" for the
blue field.

Jeanette MacDonald had an equally impressive patriotic role when called
upon to sing 'The Star-Spangled Banner."

Robert Taylor introduced what was probably the most dramatic bit of acting
on the program the landing of the Pilgrims, played by noted film stars under
the direction of Frank Capra.160

1940 was a productive year for Willson. In addition to The Great Dictator, Willson

completed his Second Symphony, which he subtitled The Missions of California. About 1938

Willson had met conductor Albert Coates, of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Coates

suggested that Willson compose a second symphony. He began work immediately and

completed the work in 1940. He also composed a song titled, Wings on High, which he

dedicated to the United States Aviation Forces.161 The Mason City Globe Gazette touted that the

work had, ". .. been accepted by them (the United States Aviation Forces) as their theme


159 'Silly Songs Herald Bigger, Better Days,' Duluth Minnesota Herald, Duluth, Minnesota, August 4th 1939.
160 'Patriotic Music Marks Program' Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois
161 It was only after the Second World War that the Air Force was established, and until that time several branches of
the military had aviation services. Willson's dedication seems to be directed towards those members of all branches
who worked in aviation, rather than to a single service.









melody."162 During this year he also began work on what would become one of his most famous

radio affiliations, the Maxwell House Coffee Time, which ran through 1949.

In 1941 Willson was hired by CBS to host a one hour radio program The Ford Summer

Hour. This was also the year he composed two songs which achieved wide-spread radio

popularity, You andI, and Two in Love. Willson was delighted that both songs "got on the Hit

Parade at the same time, which I thought was slightly ironic, or poetic justice, or sump'n, in view

of the fact that I invented the Hit Parade."163 You andl stayed on the Hit Parade for 19 weeks.

Also in 1941 Willson scored the music for the Goldwyn film The Little Foxes, based on the play

by Lillian Hellman. The film version starred Bette Davis. For his work on The Little Foxes

Willson received his second nomination by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences,

for 'Scoring of a Dramatic Picture.'

In the early 1940s Willson, like many Americans, was becoming increasingly focused on

events of the war which would soon expand to the United States and become the Second World

War. One incident particularly caught his interest. A 1940 poem, authored by Gene Fowler,

related a tale of the heroism of the captain and crew of a ship, the Jervis Bay.164 While escorting

a convoy the Jervis Bay was attacked by the German warship Admiral Scheer. Most of the

officers were killed during the shelling. The Captain of the Jervis Bay, Fogarty Fegen, suffered

the loss of one of his arms, but stayed on deck issuing orders and was later killed by a shell. The

crew refused to abandon ship but continued firing on the German fleet in order to occupy the

attackers and provide the rest of the convoy ships a chance to escape. Moved by the story of

these gallant actions, Willson composed The Jervis Bay, an orchestral work he termed a



162 Mason City Globe Gazette, August 10h, 1940.
163 Willson, And There I Stood, 170.
164 Gene Fowler. The Jervis Bay Goes Down (New York: Random House), 1941.









symphonic poem. The Jervis Bay was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in

1942, with Willson sharing the podium with Francescatti and guest conducting his own work.

Later that same year Willson enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was given the rank of major

and made head of the Music Division of the Armed Forces Radio Service, essentially music

director of Armed Forces Radio. At one point Willson was contacted by a musical friend,

guitarist Les Paul, who had recently been drafted. Willson pulled strings to get Paul assigned to

his unit, and Paul edited many hours of prerecorded entertainment into variety shows for Armed

Forces network distribution, basically serving as a recording engineer. 165 Les Paul went on to

become a famed guitarist and well-remembered for the guitar named for him. He considered the

work he did with Willson to be among the most important of his career.

During his time in the Army Willson joined forces with radio personality John Nesbitt and

co-hosted a half hour show entitled The Meredith Willson John Nesbitt h\le,,ii, on NBC. Under

his influence the Armed Forces Radio Service also produced such memorable programs as

Command Performance and Mail Call for GIs throughout the world.

It was during this busy time that Willson wrote again for film, contributing the piece "Ta

Ra Ra Boom De Ay" to the movie Happy Go Lucky, released in 1943. The stars were big names

of the era, Mary Martin and Dick Powell, and Willson's piece, to which Mary Martin dances,

was the show-stopper of the film.166 In 1944 Willson worked on a radio documentary program

entitled 'The Passing Parade,' written and produced by Nesbitt. The fifteen-minute program was

shown in film houses as a short subject.

After Willson's 1946 discharge from the Army, he returned to radio. He exited the service

determined to embark on a personal crusade to do something about what he felt were the trite

165 Robert Denman, "Les Paul: The Living Legend of the Electric Guitar", Classic Jazz Guitar 9/1 (2005)
http://www.classicjazzguitar.com/articles/article.jsp?article=25
166 11p "11\ \ \ .imdb.com/title/tt0035969/, accessed 22nd September, 2005









musical programs on radio and the tired format into which commercial announcements had

fallen. In his zeal to make commercials palatable, Willson conceived the "Talking People," a

speaking chorus to deliver the sponsor's message, and various other ingenious devices. For the

next decade he continued working on radio as commentator, composer, conductor, and musical

director. Willson also continued to develop his own radio personality as a comedian, usually

serving as the 'stooge' of jokes.

1948 marked several landmark events in Willson's personal life. One of these was the

publication of his first biography, And There I Stood With My Piccolo, which became a

bestseller. The major changes, however, were in Willson's personal life. On March 5th of 1948

Meredith Willson's divorce from Elizabeth 'Peggy' Willson became final. Just a week later, on

March 13th, 1948, Willson married Ralina Rina Zirova, who was generally called Rini.

Apparently Meredith met Rini, a singer of Russian and French parentage, during a rehearsal.

The two quickly fell in love, and Meredith requested a divorce from Peggy. As was common

practice at that time Peggy was the party who filed the divorce papers, on grounds of "mental

cruelty."

Meredith's twenty-nine year marriage to Peggy produced no children, and various friends

of the family tell of an increasing strain this decision placed on the relationship. Peggy is said to

have insisted that bearing children would ruin her figure. As Willson's career and public stature

grew, so did his wife's. Peggy appeared in many newspaper and magazine articles about

Willson; these frequently accompanied by pictures. This public scrutiny may have hardened her

resolve not to bear children, and sources close to the family relate that this was a source of

conflict between Meredith and Peggy. In July of 1947 the couple was featured in a bucolic









pictorial in The American Home magazine. 167 By early 1948 they were in the middle of a

divorce.

Despite Willson's twenty-nine years of marriage to Peggy, information about their life

together is scanty. Willson, in fact, never mentioned Peggy in any of his autobiographical

works. The primary sources for information about her are newspaper and magazine articles

which mention Peggy alongside Meredith, or feature her as the wife of a popular musical figure.

Besides the American Home magazine there are several newspaper and magazine articles which

mention or feature Peggy Willson. One is a story published in the Albert Lea Tribune in

1939.168

The last column that O. O. McIntyre ever wrote, chatted about a love story
that was considered Hollywood's most romantic: that of the famous Meredith
Willson ...

The Wilsons and the Willsons lived next door in Mason City, Iowa. Meredith
and Peggy had grown up together and every tree in the neighborhood had
carved hearts on them, M. W. P. W. 1910. Their parents thought this was
puppy love and even during college days the couple still were very serious.
One day, Meredith came home, in the spring, and told Peggy he would not go
back to college until she went along. So he borrowed $12 from his brother
and later, in fact on August 29, 1920, they made the trip to Albert Lea, Minn.,
where they proceeded to look for the prettiest parsonage. It happened to be
the Methodist one. The only thing they remember about is that the minister
had a cold and reeked of Smith Brother's cough drops. And that, on the way
out of the house, Peggy saw the dining room table set for dinner with two
large and 10 little chairs drawn up around it, and for some reason, cried.

The Albert Lea story draws heavily on columnist O.O. McIntyre's last column, published

posthumously. Both contain many factual errors, and an equal number of exaggerations. The

Wilson and Willson families, for instance, lived close, but not next door to each other, Willson

never went to college, but took a single class at Damrosch while beginning his professional

career, there is no evidence of initials carved in trees, and so on... The article is, on the other

167 The American Home, 37/6, 1947.
168 Albert Lea is 37 miles from Mason City, the city in which both Meredith and Peggy Willson grew up.









hand, a very public confirmation that the couple was generally considered to have a happy

marriage.169

Another article, this one from 1940, boasts, "Twenty Years of Marital Bliss" and

celebrates the couple's long and happy marriage.

Many stories have been written about "ideal marriages" but none fits the plot
better than the union of Peggy and Meredith Willson.

This week, in the city where admittedly they have spent "the happiest years of
their married life," Mr. and Mrs. Willson will celebrate their twentieth
anniversary amid a series of fetes to be rendered by San Francisco
friends.170

The Willson's, who lived in Los Angeles at the time, are said in this article to have found it

fitting to return to San Francisco to celebrate their anniversary, "Because it was in San Francisco

that Willson first rose to fame." An article from the couple's hometown newspaper, the Mason

City Globe-Gazette, trumpets an upcoming visit in which Willson will direct the North Iowa

band festival. This article features a picture of Meredith playing the piano, Peggy fondly holding

his shoulder, and the couple smiling at their cat, who sits atop the piano, and portraying the

image of a happy and successful couple. 171

According to friends of the couple, in an attempt to remove memories of Peggy from

Meredith's life, Rini proceeded to throw away many of Willson's early press clippings and

papers, with special emphasis on items which mentioned Peggy. This purge provides a partial

explanation for the lack of papers and information about Willson's early career and works. A set

of scrapbooks kept by Meredith and Peggy bears the unique feature of scratched out and partially





169 'Here's an Interesting Story' Albert Lea Tribune, Albert Lea, Minnesota, February 21, 1939.
170 'Twenty Years of Marital Bliss' San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, California, August 25, 1940, 4.
171 Meredith Willson Invited to Festival: Asked to Lead Massed Bands. Mason City Globe-Gazette, Mason City,
Iowa, May 18th, 1945.









destroyed entries.172 The missing entries were articles which mentioned Peggy, defaced by

second wife Rini (figure 3-8). Rini, on the other hand, was featured prominently in Willson's

second memoir, Eggs IHave Laid. Willson indicated that the two had a close personal and

working relationship and that Rini, a singer, was frequently consulted about works in process.

In the divorce settlement Peggy received more than fifty thousand dollars in bonds,

insurance and securities, twenty-five percent of Willson's continued earnings, a gas station, and

the Beverly Hills home which had so recently been featured in The American Home magazine.

Two years later, in 1950, Peggy married wealthy businessman Leroy Van Bomel. Van Bomel's

obituary states that he was president of the National Dairy and increased sales to $1 billion, "thus

making his company one of the nation's biggest food processors."173 Peggy died in 1986 and her

ashes were interred in Mason City's Elmwood Cemetery.

In 1949 Willson was included in David Ewen's American Composers Today, A

Biographical and Critical Guide. This entry is flattering and exaggerated in some respects.

What is most relevant about this period is Willson's recognition by, and popularity with the

listening public. Television had had begun to spread in the 1940s, and by the end of the decade

was growing rapidly, pulling sponsors and audience away from radio. In 1950 Willson became

part of radio's attempt to remain competitive with television. This was in the form of a ninety-

minute extravaganza entitled The Big ,\n,i', co-hosted by Willson and Tallulah Bankhead.

Willson composed the theme song for the show 'May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You...'

which closed every show and gained wide popularity. The song was a number one hit and


172 These scrapbooks contain articles sent to the Willson's from fans throughout the country, with entries ranging in
length from two to three lines to several pages, and covering much of his early career. The scrapbooks are currently
in possession of Art Fischbeck, retired Mason City town historian and archivist. He relates that they were "thrown
in the trash" by Willson's third wife, Rosemary Sullivan, in an attempt to remove items which reminded Meredith of
his former wives. Neighbors who had been friends of Rini's rescued them from the trash and sent them to
Fischbeck.
173 Time Magazine, Friday, Dec. 30, 1966.









became one of the pieces for which Willson is today most remembered. The inspiration for the

song came from his mother, who every week dismissed her Sunday school class saying, "May

the good Lord bless and keep you!" The Big .\l ,Ni ran until 1952. Willson's long and salubrious

radio career ended in 1952 with a 30-minute musical variety program on NBC, Encore, which

ran for just a year. He continued to guest conduct orchestras for special programs for the next

few years, but Encore was the last regular program for which he served as orchestra conductor.

Posthumous

During his lifetime Willson received praise from groups as diverse as Parents magazines,

military associations, church organizations and others, who lauded the composer for presenting

an entertaining picture of America's better side. The childless composer was an active member

of the Big Brothers organization and a six-time president of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of

Big Brothers. President Kennedy presented Willson with the National Big Brother Award in

recognition of his service to the country's youth. President Lyndon Johnson appointed Willson to

the National Council of the Humanities. In 1982, the National Academy of Popular Music

elected him to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Willson received honorary doctorates from at least

five colleges/universities. Willson received recognition from the National Fathers Day

Committee, and The Salvation Army honored him for service to it and other volunteer

organizations. 174 A stamp featuring Willson was released on Sept. 21, 1999, in New York City,

as part of a series to commemorate the important contributions of Broadway songwriters.

Acknowledgement of Willson's musical talents continued after his death. Willson was

posthumously awarded the Iowa Award for lifetime achievement by Iowa Governor Terry

Brandstad and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan. In recognition of

Willson's great contribution to musical theater and twentieth-century music, the Mason City

174 Mason City Globe-Gazette Obituary.









Foundation has created 'Music Man Square' in Willson's birthplace, Mason City, Iowa. The

facility is a mall-like structure with a faux street down the center designed to emulate a street

from the early twentieth-century. The sides of the street are lined with old-time business fronts

and buildings drawn from The Music Man. The designers based the names on the shops from

citizen names they found in a 1912 city directory. While the names reflect those of prominent

1912 Mason City residents, they do not necessarily relate to the business fronts on which they

are found. The large space, plus the attached 'reunion hall' auditorium, attracts public events

such as class reunions, wedding receptions, band festivals, and even debates between

Presidential candidates.














































Figure 3-1. Note on this photograph from the family album reads, "Robert Reiniger 'Meredith'
Willson, 6 months old" (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives).

















































Figure 3-2. Rosalie with Meredith, circa 1904 (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives).














103






























Figure 3-3. Rosalie coaching sons Cedric, left, and Meredith on the "black upright piano in the
parlor." (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives).


Figure 3-4. Willson Family, circa 1908. Left to right: (Dixie), Cedric, Rosalie, John, Meredith.
John's appearance in the background, in different shades and perspectives, suggests
that the photographer may have added a pre-existing photo to create the 'family'
portrait (Courtesy of Mason City Public Library Archives).





























Figure 3-5. Meredith with banjo, Cedric with an instrument identified as a long-neck mandolin,
and Dixie (seated), with mandolin (Courtesy of Mason City Public Library Archives).


Figure 3-6. Cedric, left, and Meredith in their Sousa uniforms (Courtesy Mason City Public
Library Archives).














' *** -
..l. -*,-. *


Figure 3-7. Vintage postcard of the Rialto theater, demolished around 1932, site of one of
Willson's first playing positions in New York City (public domain).



















106















'"l-




e .Mti1 atel itorer sotoo
" ,r '" -ril cpey and for lrcela\
,.; 0 ^- ..-- r' 5er.-.,t 'rote Cij
1 -**t>Aii **^1 b' ll^\he1 ^ A


Anti-RadioStance rid'. F r ", 119

C.- (Cnt nud ro paenms 1) t
wou t ...u MGM GOC
bid remarked hltotstnont entry pro M 1
eAe c OmIngO out f Hollywood now-
y o eemrcn to have two or more.
pomrc-h m anufcrer MUTES IN
product and the ahn Compaines rep-
'rented ,byt o.sho.o, Studio Dropping
M: sartste t I Studio Dropping
Met..o' ms ""ceni at' Radio Program
wlthdnwing it. connection from
Maxwell House Coffee's Good News' (Continued froh Page 1
series June was followed by a fully en to it, which was to with-
stateent frontm A. W. Hobler, ps- it hic w
dent of Bato.& wloF snbeney on draw at the close f its contracted
the oCCmnt, that he wa not wonrry- prEod.
Ith a out thet he wof te pr or- Action of MGM will finally cose
n' e Ib to that chapter in How radio in
radio's fte ability to draw on ,ho, &i.h t -le 'ortid p i od i
selio tare Hobler added tht th which the studio participated s
studIos that have alruidy acted an-' unit in setting up a prom, it is
taonistilaly toward radle will fnd bleed. This ws the first studio
that the players themselves hav alliance of this tye, he ill-fated
;amethbing to say about their rights Warters-Lrky Strike owbirllOs,
t ork n te nir. e h dietrl which followed, giving Hollywood two
thot to isttr, whaeP 1 r abortive trials at meching production
fse to bear the brunt of the sort of in the competitive media.
grandstandd play that had been put The retirement of MGM will c-
on the week before if Hollywood' cur at the heightof th prnrsm'o
Hoblert referenl e wa. to Dnrryl 'sucess. It ha risen steadily under
Zmnoch'. pulling of Tyrone Power rthe siniiion of Sidnel, ranking
bathe Sundy night Woodburi he lesdln shows on the ir.
oo. Cneral Foods ios areprd to hen
Hobltr stated that his client hd t d a dthe p nlm m t-arlably effo-
th1 rlom t to onelie with the t lv In t iLIng p od uctt and the rhudio
of 'Good News' ad that it was prob- wa ale to derive hey eploitelio
tilb e ,t the suroedetg variety pro- Lthroglh iBts owerage
gram would Include nny e Breakp of the show will foe
('Baby Snooks') ind Mieredlrctb ll- CtIer Fods, through its agent.
nelher o6 whom ar e en me ro Bowles. to ffrom another
tlodio Mntret rl. The lieny Is Hollywood slrie enlisting talent from
also orident of being abte to rtain frrlawe and glest ranks. il s be-
the service of rank Morglo. lied. Meredith Willson, cor ror,
Stetroment which Mtlroas New will pbably foma the keystone of the
York offle Isiued Friday (10) deslg- show, for the sooner has leaned
lited March 30 a tlhe last 'Good: lally I the paot to music.
News broedret It'IWOolI roduace,,
vSeverel boom laterVnlflhbola M. B ry e,
scheSrk agreed tob 'd thin mo- "oarryorer 0o- ey
eorl Fod chne.r'plelned that Inr wll potr bue to Abrahm
Lthi sw dea e s t at o egenry when they present a dr-.
wtuld hbanMe ar ol e to bitld IT mert sLetoe darown fom the lIfe
batltute pth ,," f te mtyod president, dAile
in Comnh tinI g ol p a 9Uon,, ton i gaSt of Good N" os
WUlllo s Roger, roien l sales' H tonight p t oelrk, oter
NBC-WflC network under
manager for the llm empeny, sio d tuspices of Mroell House ffee.
that 'lnee our business Is with -: Guet ol dui the bd-
hibitors, Metro in fairness t them cot wIll hbe Zuor, blllnt Roe-
1 taking this I p to disTourag radio d_ airono, aned Dolsa MecPhli
prticipation by star u e'tone u who Iostned her
lmnpressioc Hollywood hoo bee pre out engl ement to a a a
Imresin bofuest icuu of Leso, wit
;that Schenck didn't like the Ueup ?eetari.tre eaus d Mor-
with the eosmne re l program Iro. Phall Wl l f 'Duoty Rood." end
the stort and that he was ow the "M'antlday.-
verge of crnelinjg the eellince Mlet!r of Ceremoniel Robert
around the lrt of this year when Young illl present lor the fint
the question ofl "entw t came op; m L Aete w nr cr O in fot, it had almost been agreed to weekly ifer fith wilcobe "atu-
rall off the show In late Derembr. bul of redt's' A o"
Another reputed stromi opponent t9 Members of the utet are YoUnm
the connection was Edward J, Man- firnt tenor; nk =Morgn, seonc
nix, letro v. p., and general studio tnor; Hlaniey 8taflord, third tenor.
mnnaser. His objections always an "dMeredit1 Wlllson. fourth tenor.
stem from the n evlmstanees thatoi- Thlir first p rcmntatrn I te or.-
herIals for the air htaws t ntertered e of "bober stoop" humolra.
tlons will be '"+5'y Down Yonder to:
seriously with the fllm-mnkiL rou-- stn e Corfiold."
tine In the Metro studioe. Fumny Bire M naby Bnoolk And
Frash Morgen end erith W beard In another round o their
aon-' orrhestrea.iger W, t-;5 Iteterel Cooflict. and Fn Mor-
_: s M eas bonotfu) ever, will h on
"i Hollyrwood, will be featured Ia*d with new stories ot.hl 6 own

lll be hard in the Good ews of iulo lmoi MOM's "l U
1939 show. which provides Comedy. em cepe *t
dnmautic TrVleWs of the new pic-
tures, and Wllsorns muscalealbum.


00 Iovk IF awnI u
nucleus FaPn (Baby Snooks)
tv1s ed MerediUh Wit-ison and his
rtor. orhiestr--
:i i----ili =-


TOE


)D NEWS AIRSHOW

HEED TO EXHIBITORS



Sa
fi .
;0 x of ducts the dcI

i;n4 4ainw riU4,' i
od W- eel
m awnl noi so nt ] oerd
lnn H an t "o l.nI she went Ion -e r"
.,t i ill t l$rowed 1 i from h l b ,.
with Interest by ZeI T5 ,I. Ect on -ii, g0B' a
re ers:I r" t l he eg .
ountolle. Me i ., w fra I r.and' on,.
F b. 1;., 533 lock for tbe.. ,l nt toey
IThe Al ea Ptn. th. IthppneM to ,i wedding
e 1. read aton d that .. r*he ed, b thi It t



4 eb tnt b tOTe it~lr l dlnlng rod's t. set for dioner
"cr04 r wtt"o ar 10 1lltt" crhail
that f i drLawn up ,arI I t. wn for some
me .och X r1 1sorl to rao, tte Wrrt


s te YESTI
Meot IPtd o' rat e f lt l Pt. y sa dt..
s .it re as oner

sla. r let Of his valed ti..
p t 'd 'u with M i
hurts tgsfo. 0 e was
STheir .t hour.
t'h 0Ij bthe:


Kay Kyser's Band

Is Voted As Best
X" I Kyser and his mrcestrlr fra.
turned tery Wednetday In xay
Kysert College of Muslo Knowl
edge over KFBK, were acclaimed In
a poll of radle eelebritlr as "the
boa of the. por."
Reports of th poll, inducted by
Gllmose Mike, weekly Malgaine ot
radio newi, showed a ueanimou
vte for Ky Kyser end his orches-
ire by the emmlittee often teletedt
Sto a hoo mthe intlllt -bhd fr
Membern o the committee were
i Bln Crosby. Rudy Vallet. Bob
Hope, Maron Tlley, Meredlth Wll-
son, Iu omberde, no
iyaeil ey o eanne y Rls and
D P I vwell..


The bariti
wiith i unique
'Silly Dilly' on Air wcll.recogn te
Eddie Cherkos' new tune, 'Silly heard ech T
DillV.' or which MAredith Wills ight, Warrei
wrote musec, will be nTigh 5 Fro M. Moroe
on the ood News program. Morg
r.onsor of Good Ne..w ofr 93
with Frank Morgan, At aL, has part:
completed pIalu for next fll' played
progreM The names of Flatnlel fill
Brie and Moe- fr or- irn. iw
chetra r Ar prominent in the ar- the
rangemonr, but other than that while
there s complete silence. T .,r-


Figure 3-8. Page from the scrapbook kept by Meredith and Peggy Willson's during his radio

days. The two defaced entries represent an apparent attempt by Willson's second

wife to remove memorabilia associated with first wife, Peggy (From Art Fischbeck).





107



























Figure 3-9. (Josef) Wilhelm Mengelberg (1871-1951), Willson's 'bogeyman' (public domain).






















































Figure 3-10. Poster for one of Willson's early films. Composers of these early 'talkies' did all the
composing and scoring, but had not yet gained enough stature for inclusion on
advertisements (public domain).





109








































Figure 3-11. Poster for another ofWillson's early films, Peacock Alley (public domain).








































Figure 3-12. Meredith Wilson while directing the Carefree Carnival program, during rehearsal
with the Williams Sisters: Top standing is Laura Williams, middle is Alice Sizer and
sitting is Ethelyn Williams (public domain).









CHAPTER 4
WILLSON AS COMPOSER AND CONDUCTOR

Background

Willson's rise as a performer in New York coincided with a period of great flux in the

symphonic world. The New York Philharmonic program of 16th October, 1924, documents the

first performance of flautist R.M. Willson with the New York Philharmonic. The concert was

directed by the Dutch conductor Wilhelm Van Hoogstraten, and included works by Weber,

Respighi, Mozart and Wagner. Willson's tenure in the New York Philharmonic was marked in

large part by the power-struggle among conductors and resulting significant public commentaries

on their various conducting styles. These public arguments and merges with other orchestras

resulted in the hiring and firing of many of the Philharmonic musicians during Willson's tenure,

and directly impacted Willson's continued employment with the orchestra. The controversies

may well have impacted his future career decisions, as well, for he would leave the Philharmonic

just after its largest merger, with the New York Symphony Society, another august musical

organization. It was during this merger that more than forty musicians were released from their

respective orchestras, though there is no evidence that Willson was one of these.

During Willson's years with the group, the New York Philharmonic merged with several

groups. The first of these happened in 1921, before Willson's arrival, and the New York

Philharmonic inherited conductor Willem Mengelberg after its merger with the National

Symphony. Mengelberg was a Dutch pianist and conductor of the Germanic post-Romantic

school, a good friend and advocate of Mahler, and a well-known interpreter of the works of

Richard Strauss. As a conductor he demanded a great deal of personal respect and was called a

'demigod'. In 1924 and 1925 he was joined by co-conductor Willem Van Hoogstraten. Van

Hoogstraten, also Dutch, first became a guest conductor for the New York Philharmonic summer









concert series in 1922, a position he held through 1939. He was appointed an associate

conductor of the orchestra in 1923, a post he left after the 1925 season. Both were

overshadowed by the rise of Toscanini, first as a frequent guest conductor, and finally in his

1925 appointment as sole permanent conductor. Mengelberg and Van Hoogstraten shared a

predilection for romantic interpretations, especially with regard to illustrating or illuminating a

score. Toscanini's approach was less interpretive and focused more on direct and accurate

playing of what was written. Toscanini was noted for his conducting crispness and clarity, a

move away from the Germanic tradition. Mengelberg and Toscanini had frequent clashes over

interpretations of music and rehearsal techniques. These disagreements were frequently engaged

in front of the instrumentalists and eventually resulted in Mengelberg's departure. The

arguments became widely public, and the New York Times editors and readers engaged in

ongoing debate about the virtues of conducting styles, the role of a conductor, his style, status,

virtues, and faults. As a member of the New York Philharmonic there can be no doubt that

Willson was sharply aware of the debate about conductors.

During his New York years, Willson performed under various conductors in famous New

York locations, such as Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, and the Brooklyn

Academy of Music. In addition to the well-known Philharmonic conductors, Willson also

played under a stellar list of guest soloists and conductors. These included Efrem Zimbalist,

Pablo Casals, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, and Igor Stravinsky, in his first appearance in the United

States.

A defining event of the twentieth-century took place the evening of November 15, 1926 -

the inaugural and well-publicized broadcast of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). The

transmission was preceded by a September advertisement in New York newspapers, announcing









that the Radio Corporation of America had purchased WEAF, New York, from the American

Telephone and Telegraph Company.175 The advertisement trumpeted that the transaction cost

the organizers one million dollars. The station would be incorporated as the National

Broadcasting Company with the intent to broadcast programs through WEAF, and also would

make these programs available to outlets throughout the country. The advertisement emphasized

that the time was ripe for such a venture, as already five million homes in the United States were

equipped with radios and some twenty-one million homes "remain to be supplied."

Set in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria, New York's pre-eminent hotel and

social center of the era, this landmark broadcast lasted a remarkable four and one-half hours and

highlighted numerous luminaries of the day. The gala inaugural featured such diverse

performances as the New York Oratorio Society, concert pianist Harold Bauer, Metropolitan

opera's baritone Tito Ruffo, Cesare Sodero's grand- and light-opera ensembles, Edwin Franko

Goldman's band, and the comedy team of Weber and Fields. Also integrated were well-known

dance orchestras of the day, including those of Vincent Lopez, Ben Bernie from the Roosevelt

Hotel Grill, George Olsen from the Hotel Pennsylvania, and Ben A. Rolfe from the Palais d'Or.

A remarkable feature of the broadcast was the inclusion of performers who were broadcast

from locations around the country. Scottish-American soprano Mary Garden was broadcast from

Chicago singing a collection of Americana songs which included Annie Laurie, Little Gray

Home in the West, and Open Thy Blue Eyes. From Independence, Kansas, humorist Will Rogers

twanged "Fifteen Minutes with a Diplomat," a droll monologue in which he mimicked President

Calvin Coolidge so impeccably that many listeners thought they were actually hearing the




175 The parent corporation was General Electric Corporation, and it was from these initials, GEC, that the famous
three chimes originated, using the corresponding musical notes. The network three chimes theme is used to this day.









President. Also in attendance was Meredith Willson, performing on his flute as a member of the

New York Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Walter Damrosch.176

It is worth noting that the United States underwent a dramatic transformation in a short

period of time. The early twentieth-century was marked by a period of interlinked explosive

technological growth, expansion of communication media, and experimentation in new art

forms. The first radio broadcast occurred in November of 1920, and by the time of the NBC

broadcast, some six years later, more than five million homes had purchased radios. Those six

years marked the transformation of a novelty into a national medium, one that would form the

backbone of telecommunications industry of today. By 1929 Willson was integrally involved

with radio, helping to define the role of music and musicians in the medium, and carving out a

significant aspect of his career in the process. Willson's presence at one of the defining

moments of the era serves to illustrate his link with the foremost musical events of the time.

Willson's musical paths were integrally coupled with the age and its multitudinous directions.

Willson came of age with the century, and did so in its quick and eager nucleus of growth, New

York City. Willson's desire to expand his musical horizons towards composition and conducting

rose with his fortunes in NYC. He was youthful, talented, and exuberant and, despite a lack of

formal training in either musical arena, felt he might make an impact.

Training as a Composer

As far as can be established, Willson had no formal training in composition. His

childhood included piano lessons and encounters with various instruments, and what pedagogical

instruction he did receive was based entirely in Mason City, and largely from his mother. But

there exist no childhood piano sketches, no experiments in musical invention or mystic early


176 This ground-breaking broadcast was featured in a Library of Congress online exhibit, at
hup \ \\ \\ .loc.gov/exhibits/bobhope/radio.html, accessed March 12th, 2006.









works of any type, lost or extant, from his early years. There were no early lessons in

composition or studies with the great compositional pedagogues of his day, and nothing in his

early life indicates an early interest in composition. Willson recounted only a single early

unnamed work, penned in high school, for which he did not provide a title and which is not

currently known to exist. This was a song for the Mason City high school class of 1919, about

which Willson commented upon some forty years later:

... confidentially, just between us and the tape, was possibly the worst group of notes and
words ever put down on paper, and I just shudder that somebody might dig it up and try to
render it someday. I would like to go on record here: please don't do that to me, posterity!
Dig up anything you like, but not my class of 1919 song! 177

There is no evidence in the available information on Willson's early life and career that his

early career goals included composition. Indeed, while there is an abundance of evidence which

supports his development as a performer, there is an equal lack of indication to suggest that the

young Willson ever planned a career as a composer. On one occasion Willson even mentioned

his lack of interest in serious study of technique, recounting that he and his two siblings were,

"...too filled with that native impatience... to settle down and learn a few principles."178

Composition, rather, seems to have been an outgrowth of his performance career. While his

formal training was limited, Willson's childhood was marked by an abundance of creativity at

home, and maternal encouragement towards a spirit of experimentation. It was certainly this

spirit which eventually propelled the flutist into composition.

The First World War and subsequent influenza pandemic were followed by an era of

prosperity and growth, and the performing arts boomed during the 1920s. Recordings were

beginning to be mass-produced and better quality disks became available when electronic


177 New York, Columbia University, [Willson, "The Reminiscences of Meredith Willson", Popular Arts Project
Series V, volume IX, Category IA, Oral History Research Office, 1961] 36.
178 Willson, There I Stood, 45.









transcriptions replaced inferior acoustic recordings. The public took to purchasing recordings in

increasing numbers. Another result of the post-war boom was the construction of many new

theaters and music halls, in part to house the many new orchestras which were founded in the

1920s. New York was the epicenter of musical growth and experimentation of the post-war era.

Even during Willson's heady early years performing New York, there is no evidence that

he took courses in orchestration or composition in his brief course of formal studies. It may have

been that Willson later felt this omission to have been a career deficit, for in one interview he

suggested that, "during my time at Damrosch I studied composition." In There I Stood 1 i/h my

Piccolo Willson related a story of taking over the pit piano during an intermission at the Crescent

Theatre, "glad of the chance to try over an exercise in sequence I had to have ready for the next

morning's class at the Institute." He goes on to note that he saved the exercise and, "used it ten

years later as the theme for... 'Thoughts while Strolling',"179 a movement of his 0.0. Mclntyre

Suite.

While Willson implied that his initial forays into composition dated to his student days at

the Institute of Musical Art, this study would have been independent. His course records from

the Institute document courses in flute, under Georges Barrere, ear-training with Helen W.

Whiley, and performance in the orchestra under Frank Damrosch. Willson also studied theory

with George A. Wedge, but Wedge was known as a basic theory and applied harmony teacher.

Even the well-known textbooks authored by the theorist, such as Ear Training and Sight Singing

Applied to Elementary Music Theory,180 deal with applications of basic theory, and, as in the

case of AppliedHarmony, aspects of simple harmony.181 Wedge's works were fundamental in


179 Ibid, 31.
180 George A(nson). Wedge, Ear Training and Sight Singing Applied to Elementary Music Theory (New York: G.
Schirmer Inc., 1921).
181 George A(nson) Wedge., Applied Harmony (New York: G. Schirmer Inc., 1930).









the theoretical world, and still used today, but there is nothing which suggests Willson studied

concepts of orchestration or composition with Wedge.

Willson's youthful move to New York placed him in the foremost center of music in the

United States. He was working in the foremost musical center in the United States, surrounded

by exceptional musicians and composers, and it was during Willson's years in New York that his

first composition was published. Many of Willson's professional instructors and acquaintances

had multiple careers. Barrere, for example, was a highly-regarded flutist and pedagogue who

taught at Damrosch/Juilliard for thirty-nine years, and also edited many editions of flute music

and published a landmark flute method, Flutists Formulae: A Compendium of Daily Studies on 6

Basic Exercises.182 Willson's theory instructor, George Wedge, established a well-regarded

system for the teaching of music theory, published his own texts on written theory,183 and

harmony,184 and this was in addition to serving for a time as the Director of Juilliard. In addition

to the multi-faceted Barrere and Wedge, Willson worked alongside many musicians and pianists

who also composed. Surrounded by professional musicians, many of whom had successfully

published their compositions, it is no surprise that Willson turned his talents in that direction. In

typical Willson fashion, though, he wrote little about his decision to begin composing, providing

only a series of one-liners, like "I had become a composer because I never could play the piano

very well and it was embarrassing to just sit there."185

The October 1, 1999 Naxos CD release of Willson's two symphonies creates even more

confusion about Willson's compositional training, for the jacket notes state that he studied,



182 Georges Barrre, Flutists Formulae A Compendium ofDaily Studies on 6 Basic Exercises (New York: G.
Schirmer Inc., 1935).
183 Wedge, Ear Training and Sight Singing.
184 George A(nson) Wedge, Advanced Ear-Training and Sight-Singing as Applied to the Study of Harmony (New
York: G. Schirmer Inc., 1922).
185 Eggs I have Laid, 29.









"composition from Mortimer Wilson and conducting from Henry Hadley."186 This assertion is

not supported by other sources, nor existing evidence. It is certainly possible that Willson took a

few sporadic lessons with Wilson and Hadley, but there is no indication of sustained

compositional study with either of them, or any evidence that Willson studied with other

composers of the era.

Willson was accurate, though, in his implication that this was the period of time during

which he composed his first works, and it is relevant that this period, 1921-1923, was also the

time during which the flutist performed with the Sousa band. All indications are that Willson's

training in composition was self-guided and largely wrought through influential figures who

Willson met in his performance career. These were the musical figures with whom Willson

worked on a daily basis, and who came to play an integral role in influencing his development as

a composer. First and foremost among these was John Phillip Sousa.

Willson strongly admired Sousa and thought highly of the bandsman's compositions:

"Every part of a Sousa march (is) inspired the bass line, the woodwind figures, the trombone

countermelodies, and even the peckhorn afterbeats." 187 This was a period of time in which

Willson was becoming increasingly interested in score reading and composition, and the

experienced Sousa assumed a father-like role for the young Willson:

After I joined the band I used to sit on the train every day with a pocket score of the
'Nutcracker Suite' just to make an impression on anyone who happened to walk down the
aisle. Actually I had no idea how to read a score.

Mr. Sousa suspected this, I'm sure, as I used to stay on one page entirely too long, but
instead of asking me embarrassing questions he slid into my seat one day and started
giving me little hints about orchestrating and how he got so he could read a score and
all. 188


186 (jacket notes, Naxos CD).
18 Willson, There I Stood, 35
188 Ibid, 34-35









Earliest Publications

Willson's first published composition was a song, Two, marked as a 'fox-trot' arranged for

piano and voice and published in 1927. The publishers were a company with the name of Pro-

Arte Producers, located at 119 West 57th Street in New York City. No trace of the company now

exists, though it is possible that Pro-Arte Producers was absorbed into a large publishing

company at a later date. The street address currently belongs to a multi-level building, and

several of the resident businesses are arts-affiliated. Along with the expected dentists, laser

treatment centers, and day spas, 119 West 57th street is currently home to a number of talent

agencies and arts agents.

Distribution of Willson's first published work seems to have been limited. Only a single

copy is publically available, this a Xerox of an original Willson sent to his brother Cedric. The

work carries a caveat at the top of the page. On the left hand side of the page is the word,

"Warning!" followed by:

PROFESSIONAL COPY
This Copy is intended for the use of PROFESSIONAL SINGERS ONLY, and any one
(sic) found selling or exposing it for sale is liable to a fine or imprisonment, or both, and
will be prosecuted under the copyright law by THE PUBLISHER.


While impressive, the warning may have served less as a deterrent and more to pique

interest in the work. Two was composed during the Tin Pan Alley era, and given its popular

thrust, the work was most likely composed with the hope that it would find a large audience. At

the time the music houses in lower Manhattan received a steady stream of songwriters,

performers, musicians, and producers, all hoping to score a popular success. Willson did not

publish his first work with a known Tin Pan Alley publisher, or exactly in the Tin Pan Alley

geographical area. While the Pro-Arte Producers were on west 57th Street, Tin Pan Alley was

centered in the area of West 28th Street, between Broadway and 6th Avenue. Small local









publishers flourished throughout the city and Willson probably found it easier to be published

with one of these groups than with the more established publishing giants. Because Two was the

initial work of an composer who was not well recognized, it most likely received a limited

distribution to the music houses. The 'professional copy' probably represents the work's limited

distribution to music houses, perhaps the work's sole distribution.

Two is marked as a 'Fox-trot', a popular song and dance idiom of the 1920s. While his

first published composition seems to indicate Willson is aiming towards a career as a popular

songwriter, in the following year he followed Two with three new published works, these in

various idioms Parade Fantastique, film music for My Cavalier, and American Foxtrot.

Willson's first few works were published while he was living in New York, but the majority of

Willson's orchestral works were written during the years after he moved to the west coast.

First Orchestral Publication, Parade Fantastique

It is noteworthy that Willson's second publication was an orchestral work, Parade

Fantastique, and geared towards a 'classical' audience. Because of the limited distribution of

Two, the orchestral Parade Fantastique is generally considered to be Willson's first publication.

Willson intended his Parade Fantastique to be a combination mix of a traditional march and

macabre musical images reminiscent of the Halloween season. There is some suggestion that

Parade Fantastique was not well-received by publishers. One story tells of Willson appearing at

the publisher's office to collect royalties on Parade Fantastique, being handed, "pocket change

and ushered unceremoniously to the door."189

Fantastique was published and distributed in 1928, Willson's final season in New York.

Despite intensive searches undertaken by several different researchers on both coasts, the score



189 Oates, America's Music Man, 35









for this work cannot be located.190 Parade Fantastique used in two early films. ASCAP

records indicate that Willson's score was first used as mood music in The Last Performance, a

film made in 1927 by the Jewel division of Universal pictures. The film was distributed by

Universal in 1929, and Willson's Parade Fantastique was probably added at that time. The

second film that used the work was Love in the Desert, made in 1928 and distributed in 1929 by

the short-lived company 'Film Booking Offices of America' (FBO). While it is possible that

editions of these films will someday be found and distributed, neither The Last Performance nor

Love in the Desert is known to exist. A plot summary of the film Love in the Desert provides

some hint of the action for which Willson's music was found suitable:

An early sound film for flapper star Olive Borden, this low-budget effort from FBO
featured the erstwhile "Joy Girl" as Zarah, "a beautiful Arabian" saving irrigation engineer
Bob Winslow (Hugh Trevor) from being abducted by bandit leader Abdullah (Noah
Beery). The latter naturally takes umbrage to this and threatens a massacre if Zarah does
not return as his bride. The plucky girl does return but is rescued in the nick of time by
Bob, who kills Abdullah in a climactic fistfight. 191

The sole known musical source of Parade Fantastique is a single recording made during a

live performance on one of Willson's radio programs, Good News, on the eleventh of May,

1939. During the program Ed Sullivan narrates a segment titled 'Water under the Bridge,'

apparently devoted to the telling of personal stories of success. In this segment Sullivan tells a

dramatic short story of the eighteen-year old Meredith Willson's first rehearsal with the New

York Philharmonic, under Von Hoogstraten. Willson's actual age is reduced by several years,

and his role as the unprepared country boy exaggerated. The parts of the characters are read by

actors.




190 While the original publisher is unknown, the copyright, according to public record, is Transmark music. The
Transmark company, however, insists that they do not hold the copyright, and asserts that they hold no scores other
than Willson's popular, and frequently rented, musicals.
191 lup ll "\ \ .mtv.com/movies/movie/65646/moviemain.jhtml, accessed 12th November, 2006.









The skit includes standard Willson humor, as when the Willson character explains to

another musician, "I've never even heard a symphony, but I'll catch on." Later in the segment

Von Hoogstraten is quoted as having asked whether the young flute player has played

Tschikovsky's Sii\il Symphony. The Willson character quips that he did not even know

Tschikovsky wrote that many symphonies, and Von Hoogstraten to have replied, "Then I hope

you enjoy it." The skit goes on to inform the listener that a mere three years later the New York

Philharmonic, again under Von Hoogstraten, premiered Willson's first orchestral work, the

Parade Fantastique.

The story is apparently just that, for the facts do not seem to support the plot narrated by

Sullivan. Von Hoogstraten left New York in 1925 to become the conductor of the Oregon

Symphony Orchestra, so would not have been easily available for a 1928 premier on the opposite

coast. While he was a frequent guest-conductor throughout the United States during his tenure in

Oregon, the New York philharmonic archivists can find no record of Willson's Parade

Fantastique ever having been rehearsed or performed by the group. It is also standard policy for

the New York philharmonic to retain scores for every work it performs, and there is no score for

Parade Fantastique in its archives. The lack of substantiating evidence renders the work's

reported premier with the New York Philharmonic, unlikely.

On the sole existing recording, the 1939 GoodNews program, only three or so minutes of

the work were played, barely enough to provide a sample for aural analysis of a work thought to

have been twenty or so minutes long. The overall impression of the brief sample is that Parade

Fantastique is melodically-centered, tuneful, and falls into the loose genre of what is now called

film music. The work is in the key of A minor, the main theme an ascending triad. There are a

few rumbling sounds before the initial wind instrument entrances, though it is not clear whether










these are studio noises or drums. The piece begins with a brief muted trumpet fanfare-like

statement (example 4-1).


Con sordino
Trumpet in C ( F [ [
3 3


Example 4-1. Trumpet fanfare which begins Parade Fantastique

The quiet fanfare is followed by a motif found throughout what is known of the work.

This motif is played by the woodwinds and is characterized by a descending pattern (example 4-

2). The woodwind motif repeats a number of times in a simple progression largely marked by a

full statement starting on different pitches.



Woodwinds P
I I I I


Example 4-2. Woodwind motif

Played beneath the woodwind motif is an accompaniment march pattern which underlies

the entire recorded portion of the work. This march is found in the string sections. It is made up

of arco strings, perhaps with some woodwinds, playing a basic staccato rhythmic pattern. The

pattern generally consists of two measures of quarter notes, the third measure with two quarter

notes, an eighth-note triplet, and another quarter note, varied in the subsequent measure so the

triplet falls on the second beat (example 4-3). The rhythmic pattern occurs in four measure

increments, each fourth measure ending on a cadence note:




I i
Strings asic string rhythmic pattern, staccato eighth note march in the string section.



Example 4-3. Basic string rhythmic pattern, staccato eighth note march in the string section.









The sole striking feature of the work is the inclusion of wordless male voices which help to

outline the rhythmic pattern. These are syllabic and wordless (or unintelligible). Each part is

added separately in additive fashion, and the main melody enters after all the accompanying

parts are in place.



Violins


Example 4-4. Main theme of Parade Fantastique.

The overall compositional style is uncomplicated, characterized by a combination of

march-like rhythmic patterns and melodic themes. These two features would become hallmarks

of Willson's compositional style. At one point Willson indicated that he had loosely based the

idea for the composition on Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique, though Willson's Parade

Fantastique is more aurally reminiscent of a programmatic work composed fewer than thirty

years earlier, Paul Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Willson composed two other works in 1928. The first of these was the title song and

accompaniment music for the film My Cavalier, written with Hugo Riesenfeld. Neither the

music nor the film is available. Reisenfeld, mentioned in chapter three, was the musical director

of the Rialto and Rivoli theaters for which Willson was hired to play in the early 1920s.

Riesenfeld had catalogued thousands of musical themes by their potential film use. Willson

gives Riesenfeld only a passing mention in his works, but it is likely the Austrian had some

influence on Willson's development as a composer. Willson was in his early twenties when the

two met, an impressionable age, and certainly played melodies taken from Riesenfeld's extensive

catalogue of silent film themes. The final piece Willson published in 1928 was a work titled









American Fox Trot. Because this piece has not been located, its scoring is unclear. It seems

likely that it is a work for piano.

Willson's first published compositions do not clarify how he was trained in composition,

but only add some confusion as to exactly how he composed. In 1929 Willson published a piano

piece, .h/hine, subtitled an 'American Intermezzo for Piano.'192 .\/llne is a popular idiom

piece, jazz-like in its approach. This two-page composition presents something of an enigma.

An ascription in the publication states the 'Piano Arrangement is by Robert Armbruster.' There

is no hint as to or from what instruments it is transcribed, for which instrument it was written,

nor why Willson, a talented pianist in his own right, would need a transcriptionist.

This attribution, like several found in early Willson works, inspires conjecture. Perhaps,

for example, Willson composed a melody and hired Armbruster to arrange it. Another

possibility is that Willson asked for Armbruster's assistance in some way, or just for the use of

his name. Armbruster was a known and frequently-used studio pianist in New York City, and

Willson may have felt his chances of getting the work published were enhanced by an affiliation

with a known musician. Yet another possible scenario is that Willson composed both melody

and harmony and had Armbruster polish the rough work towards a finished product. Or did

Willson compose the work on another instrument, flute, perhaps, and hire Armbruster to

transcribe the work for piano?

In the 1920s, Armbruster was an 'in demand' pianist who recorded piano rolls of numerous

popular artists of the day. From 1915 into the 1930s he recorded numerous piano rolls for the

Duo-Arts company, performing classical, popular salon, and ballad arrangements. He is perhaps

best remembered for recording several of Gershwin's works onto piano rolls, including



192 Meredith Willson, Skyline: American Intermezzo for Piano, (New York: Edwin F. Kalmus, Inc, 1929).









Rhapsody in Blue.193 Though Willson never mentioned Armbruster in his writings it is likely

that the two had a working relationship which spanned many years. Nearly thirty years later, in

1964, Armbruster would serve as Musical Director for the film version of Willson's Unsinkable

Molly Brown. As radio become more widespread, Armbruster became a conductor.

It is relevant to Willson's growth as a composer that he knew Armbruster and, presumably,

Gershwin. The three of them were musically active and at the beginnings of their careers, were

active during the period when jazz was undergoing a transformation from its humble origins to

its emergence as a serious art form, one which would enter American concert halls. Gershwin

performed with the New York Philharmonic during Willson's tenure as first flautist. The

Rhapsody in Blue premiered in 1924, the same year that Willson joined the Philharmonic society.

Gershwin's Concerto in F was even more integrally connected to Willson's musical circle. It

was commissioned by the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, and had its first public

performance with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Walter Damrosch, on Thursday

afternoon, December 3, 1925, at Carnegie Hall. Gershwin himself was the soloist, and R.

Meredith Willson one of the flutists.

In his own works Willson mentions Gershwin only to provide passing admiration, and

does not relate any events which mention Gershwin. Gershwin's initial reception into the

classical arena was poor. Critic Winthrop Sargeant, for example, related the first interaction

between Gershwin and members of the New York Symphony Orchestra, an orchestra later

assimilated into the New York Philharmonic:

When fledgling American composer George Gershwin came for a special visit, an air of
European snobbery and artistic egotism pervaded the direction. On this occasion the

193 Beginning in 1934 Armbruster served as conductor for the 60-minute Lux Radio Theatre. Some contemporary
Old Time Radio analysts consider this to have the most important dramatic show in radio. The show ran a
remarkable 19 years, through 1955, and during its apex was estimated to have an audience as high as forty million
listeners. The 931 episodes were based on popular films of the era, with major stars playing the roles.









Philharmonic was to play Gershwin's Concerto in F for piano and orchestra... Under the
leadership of the primarily European classical musicians, the orchestra members rebuffed
the young artist's work and misplayed it at rehearsal, feigning not to understand the new
jazz patterns. Returning to get their haughty goats, Gershwin attended a later rehearsal not
wearing traditional formal wear. Instead he played the piano sporting a derby hat, while
smoking a big, fat cigar, much to the chagrin of the stuffy assemblage. 194

It is important to note that during this era jazz was generally not well accepted by either the

concert-going public or formally trained musicians, especially those of the Philharmonic. Dr.

Frank Damrosch, director of the Institute of Musical Art during Willson's brief time there as a

student, and closely affiliated with the New York Philharmonic, commented that, "Jazz is to real

music what the caricature is to the portrait."195 A host of popular articles from the era, such as

an article in the Ladies Home Journal decry jazz as sinful,196 and suggest the genre is worthy

only of being purged entirely from the musical scene of the United States.197 Willson's

affiliation with the pioneers of jazz in the concert hall, along with his early works in popular

idioms, suggests that from his earliest compositions he was acutely attuned to the popular arena

and the lucrative potentials of his works.

A Trio of works, The Tornado, The Siege, The Phenomena

1929 was also the year of publication for three more orchestral works, The Tornado, The

Siege, and The Phenomena. The first of Willson's extant published orchestral works, these

works seem to have been composed together, almost as three movements of a single work. While

a full score for the works has not survived, many of the individual instrumental parts recently

appeared in the small archive of the Mason City Music Man Square. Their provenance is

uncertain, but evidence suggests that they were given to a former director of Music Man Square

by Rosemary Sullivan Willson, Willson's third, and surviving, wife.

194 Winthrop Sargeant, Genius, Goddesses and People (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1949), 212.
195 Maureen Anderson, "The White Reception of Jazz in America", African American Review (Spring, 2004): 10.
196 Anne Shaw Faulkner. 'Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?' Ladies Home Journal (August, 1921): 16-40.
197 R. McMahon, 'Unspeakable Jazz Must Go'. Ladies Home Journal (December, 1921): 34.









The theatrical titles combine with musical evidence drawn from the available parts to

indicate a programmatic direction in Willson's early compositional approach. The major

features as revealed by the parts are heavy chromaticism, numerous instrumental runs, and a

good bit of musical drama in the form of varied tempo, meter changes, and dramatic dynamic

shifts. The works lie squarely in the post-romantic genre. As they were likely composed in

imitation of Reisenfeld's catalogued theme music, it is no surprise that ASCAP records indicate

the works, sometimes in their entirety, were used in several early films.

From East to West Coast

The years in which his first compositions were being used as film music were also the

years during which Meredith and Peggy made a dramatic relocation. As previously indicated,

the Willsons departed New York and made a permanent move to the West Coast in 1929. The

reasons behind this cross-country relocation remain obscure. Willson provided no single

comprehensive explanation for the move, but offered a variety of vague reasons in different

sources. In And There I Stood\ ith My Piccolo he states only that he got, "spunk enough to put

away the flute and piccolo and scram to California and start my second career from scratch."198

While this seems to indicate a positive choice in the move, Willson, at the same time, expresses

regret at leaving New York, "Just when I'm getting used to New York in fact, beginning to

consider myself a New Yorker who could never live anyplace but I find myself headin' West .

"199 A 1938 article proclaims that "Willson felt he was standing still in New York."200 In an







198 Willson, There I Stood, 118.
199 Ibid, 119.
200 Tom Moriarty, 1938. 'The Young Master: Of Meredith Willson, Symbol of the New Hollywood', Unknown
Newspaper ( June 18): 77/2.









interview done many years later he provided a typical Willson one-liner, declaring that he had

gone to "Seattle to see a football game back in 1929 and stayed." 201

It is somewhat curious that Willson would leave a promising performance career and

established performance contacts in New York City. As a flutist he had survived the 1928

merger of the New York Philharmonic with the Symphonic Society of New York, during which

time many musicians were let go. In 1929, when Toscanini became sole permanent conductor,

he dismissed a number of musicians. It is possible that Willson was among them, though there

are no definitive records of the dismissed personnel in the archives of the present-day New York

Philharmonic. Comparisons of programs show that Willson left the Philharmonic during this

time, but do not provide the reason. The theory that Willson was among the dismissed musicians

is not necessarily borne out in his recollections, for he wrote glowingly of Toscanini and fondly

recalled a number of rehearsal incidents, as well as later wishing to show a score to Toscanini.

These recollections provide no conclusive evidence, however, since Toscanini was a guest

conductor of the New York Philharmonic and Willson would have played under the legendary

conductor several times before Toscanini was named sole permanent conductor. This

recollection of Toscanini in a positive light may also have been good politics, especially

considering the high regard with which Toscanini was viewed by the American public. On the

other hand, it is possible that Willson could have retained his position under Toscanini, but

decided to move west for other reasons entirely.

This change was intensified by the 1929 stock market crash. Many New York music

establishments suffered reduction or closure. Little has been written regarding the plight of

symphonic musicians during those years, but repercussions can be suggested. With fully one


201 'Meredith Willson, A Fabulous Career that Started in San Francisco', San Francisco Examiner, Pictoral Living
Section, July 22, 1962.









third of Americans unemployed, there was little extra cash for luxuries such as musical

performances. Most professional musicians, as we have seen in Willson's case, relied on

multiple positions to provide their income. Even if a single orchestra survived others would fail,

resulting in partial loss of income, and musicians would have to look elsewhere for additional

funds. A second major trend of these years was the growth of industry in radio and talking

pictures. It seems logical to suggest that, if Willson foresaw the loss of opportunities for

performing in New York, he was smart enough, and motivated enough, to seek new horizons in

the musical fields of growth radio and film.

Willson's move may even have been related to a series of events which propelled many

musicians and actors towards the West Coast. In October of 1927 The Jazz Singer premiered,

the first full-length film to use sound. The live productions of Broadway suddenly paled with

comparison to the film possibilities of the West Coast. Almost overnight, Hollywood was seen

as the new Broadway, and a flood of talented performers headed towards the West Coast. The

possibility that this was the reason for Willson's move is strengthened by the brief memoir of a

cousin, Jeanette Hardy Cain, who temporarily lived around the corner from Meredith and Peggy

in New York. She wrote of Willson's last few months in New York, "Meredith was very

thoughtful and not talking much. Peggy said that he was trying to decide what to do, because the

music world was changing, due to talking pictures and radio coming in."202

Willson's Early Vitaphone Compositions

Willson's first position after his move to the West Coast was in composing film scores. He

asserted that he simply needed a job, and took to writing film scores as mean to support himself

and Peggy through their early days in California:



202 Memory book by Jeanette Hardy Cain, page 2, MCPLA.









I went out there at the behest of my dear friend, who is still my dear friend through the
years, Abe Myer ... and he immediately engaged me at Tympahny Stall (sic). He said,
"This is all a big fish fry out there, all you've got to do is learn to smoke cigars and walk
around looking important and I can put you on the payroll right now." So I learned to
smoke cigars at $100 a week, and I scored a couple of pictures one was something about
up in the North with snow and an igloo and Conway girls and I wrote the music for it,
recorded it and so on.203

The era of the 1920s and 1930s was a time during which film scores were increasingly

composed by acknowledged classical composers. The trend was most pronounced among the

French, who, it should be noted, held a strong compositional influence on U.S. composers of the

era. As early as 1908 Camille Saint-Saens composed what may have been the very first film

score, music for L 'Assassinat du due de Guise. In 1924 Darius Milhaud composed a score for

Marcel L'Herbier's L 'Inhumaine, 1924, and in 1927 Arthur Honegger composed for Abel

Gance' s Napoleon.

Among the first instances of music composed for film in the United States was that of

Louis F. Gottshalk204 who in 1914 composed full-length scores for the Oz Film Manufacturing

Company. Perhaps the biggest landmark piece in this country was Victor Herbert's 1915 score

for Fall of a Nation. Willson, as previously mentioned, worked with Herbert during his New

York years. Willson also had direct contact with this trend in 1928, when the New York

Philharmonic recorded the music for Warner Brothers' Don Juan, the discs of which were to be

coordinated when the film was shown, a process known as Vitaphone. The Don Juan score was

composed by the fairly unknown William Axt and David Mendoza. Many years later Willson,

during a taped interview, recalled his experience in making the Don Juan recording:

... the music was of course scored and synchronized to the scene. Henry Hadley
conducted various concert pieces, as little special features that went along with the main
feature, short subject (sic). ... They were all people from the Philharmonic who made these
recordings. Of course, I was only a flute player; I knew Herman Heller because he was a

203 Columbia interview, 28.
204 Not to be confused with Louis Moreau Gottshalk, who was the great-uncle of this composer.









very democratic type of a conductor.205 We made a lot of money that week, we boys in the
Philharmonic. In fact it was longer than that a month, I guess and we got paid overtime
and everything else, because in those days the thing that happened was, the machinery
would break down. We could have recorded this whole thing in half a day, but the
machinery always broke down. We would record maybe a two minute sequence, and it
would break down or we'd start to record a two minute sequence, get into the seventh
bar, and we'd have to stop. Then we'd go out and stand on 34th St. and smoke and eat ice-
cream for two hours and a half while they fixed the machinery.206

The Vitaphone process was used by Warner Brothers, and the term was used as a sort of

company name. Willson's Parade Fantastique has already been noted to have been used in

several early films, and ASCAP records detail many songs and melodies composed by Willson

during the late 1920's and early 1930's which found their way into a number of early talking

picture, Vitaphone, scores. Though Willson was largely affiliated with the Tiffany-Stahl studios,

his works were used in productions by other companies. When motion picture companies

simultaneously released both silent and sound films, publishers provided a reservoir of useful

tunes to augment the story's mood. In the 1920s and 1930s, copyright laws for motion picture

music were in their infancy. The composer had little or no involvement with the use of a work;

the studio which purchased the work owned it and could use it or sell it on demand. The Edward

Everett Horton comedy Wide Open (Vitaphone 1929) used Willson's 1929 piano piece, .\hyn ',

and the Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Mary Pickford adaptation of The Taming of the .\/l el'

(United Artists 1930) incorporated his Tornado in the sound version. Other Meredith Willson

works used in early sound films include The Siege (Second Floor Mystery) Vitaphone 1930, and

Defiance (Czar of Broadway Universal) 1930. These films are lost, or may exist in studio vaults.

It is a virtual certainty that there are still more early films which feature Willson's compositions




205 Henry Heller was a conductor for Vitaphone. It is unclear why both Henry Hadley and Henry Heller are
mentioned as conductors of this project.
206 Columbia interview, 28.









and are, as yet, unrecognized. None is currently available to the general public, and Willson's

compositional contributions are known only through ASCAP records.

The Lost Zeppelin of 1929 is one of the few extant films which uses Willson's music, and

provides some insight into early film music. There was a general film theme, but the film itself

had no background or transitional music. Music was not used to enhance or accompany certain

scenes or bridge changes in scene or mood, but was almost incidental in application within the

move. For example, an actor might enter a room and turn on a radio, at which point the

composed piece would begin. After a time there would be some lines of dialogue which related

to the music, such as, "Shall I turn the radio off?" and an actor would turn off the radio, at which

point the music went silent until the next literal need arose. The Lost Zeppelin also provides the

tantalizing possibility of Willson's first appearance on film, for there is a dance number in a

nightclub scene, during which a live orchestra plays. The conductor has a shock of dark hair, a

Willson trait, and is likely Willson himself, though his firm identification is made problematic by

that constant curse of a conductor; his back is to the audience the whole time.

But Willson had his musical sights set elsewhere, and wrote film music for only two years

or so. The details of his move out of film music are unclear, but it seems that radio was his

decided path:

This (film music) was not for me, however. I was interested in radio. I went up to San
Francisco to see a football game, and ended up being engaged as musical director of
KFRC, the CBS affiliate there, Don Lee station, and I remained there until some years
later (when) I went over to NBC as their musical director, conductor of the Western
division. The headquarters were in San Francisco. There was nothing in Los Angeles at
that time at all, in the way of radio. Subsequently that headquarters moved to Los Angeles.
I moved with them.207





207 Ibid, 32.









Willson as Conductor

Already established as a fine flautist, Willson's move to the west coast also marked the

launch of his career as a conductor. While he continued to play the flute and piccolo

sporadically through the rest of his life, Willson's major musical focii in California became

conducting, composition, and his evolution as a radio personality. As with his approach to

composition, there is little which suggests an early interest in becoming a conductor, and only a

few engagements as a conductor prior to the westward move.

We can conjecture that, as principal flautist in small groups, Willson would have

occasionally been called upon to direct groups in which he played, both in Mason City and in

New York. He references one such occurrence in And There I Stood ith my Piccolo. This was

his 1918 summer stint with the orchestra at Lake Okoboji where he replaced the

violinist/conductor who had been drafted. The experience was brief and marked by his relieved

collapse onto his piccolo.208 Beyond this and few more limited experiences he may have had,

there is no evidence that Willson engaged in any formal training as a conductor, or had

significant experience as a conductor, before he began studio work in California.

I was not in any way disposed toward conducting. Every musician, I guess, wants to
conduct, but I never gave that any serious thought till a friend of mine, Adolph Linden,
talked me into leaving the Philharmonic, to go out to Seattle and conduct the Seattle
Symphony Orchestra for one summer. I did so, and then a dear friend of mine, Abe Myer,
who was Hugo Riesenfeldt's (sic) secretary, when we were the same age back at the
Rialty(sic) Theatre-he had since gone to Hollywood and become a very important
executive in the Tympany-Stall(sic) Company, that made moving pictures. He insisted
that I come to Hollywood insisted wouldn't take no for an answer -- said, 'Just come.
Look, there's a big fish-fry out here.' This was in 1929. Sound had just come in.209

Willson's first significant experience in conducting was the briefly-described summer stint

in Seattle. There is little available information about this engagement, for it was apparently a


208 Willson, There I Stood, 23.
209 Columbia oral history, 27.









financial failure. Willson had convinced other musicians from the New York Philharmonic to

play in a Seattle concert series, and was embarrassed when funding for their payment fell

through. The following season in New York was his last, and at its conclusion he made the

permanent move to California.

Willson learned the art of conducting largely by way of his work in early radio. With only

a few weeks experience as a conductor, but with plenty of zeal and confidence, he somehow

acquired ajob coordinating music for a radio station. This was a fairly new concept, and

Willson largely defined the role through his own trials and errors. Soon he found himself

conducting radio studio orchestras, in situations which required that he perfect his conducting

skills quickly and quietly. In early radio and recording studios there was no way to keep

instruments or voices from being heard. Warm-ups were nearly impossible for one show would

immediately follow another in the same studio. There was generally only a single rehearsal

before a broadcast. In early radio the need for absolute silence while on air was vitally

important. Lack of clarity of broadcast equipment meant that ambient noise would be amplified

and transmitted, distorting whatever intended voices and sounds might be being broadcast at the

time. This was especially true in the earliest years of radio transmission, the very years in which

Willson developed as a conductor. Early radio studios necessitated the development of certain

hand signals, as there was no way to orally communicate without being broadcast. It would

seem to follow that clarity in conducting style would be a valuable asset, as this would improve

the ability to communicate silently.

One significant difference in studio and public conducting was the lack of a visual

audience. Where symphonic conductors would draw critics and public opinion, studio

conductors were not seen, and their work remained generally uncommented upon. Indeed, it









seems that public appeal, measured in the ability to engage orally a distant audience, was likely

to indicate greater success than fine conducting skills. Still, despite his lack of formal training,

all evidence points towards Willson being a skilled, demanding, and generally excellent

conductor. What Willson did possess was the experience of playing under several of the best-

regarded conductors of his era; Mengelberg, Furtwangler, Von Hoogenstraten, and Toscanini,

during the remarkable period of New York public argument about conducting styles. In that

vein, a 1936 article suggests Willson was a demanding conductor, that, "...no matter what style

Meredith Willson is called upon to direct, he insists upon accuracy, brilliance, finish. Perfection

is not enough. He seeks something even higher. And some day he'll find it."210 In the style of

his former conductors Willson had a dramatic conducting presence, using large hand and body

gestures as he directed, an effect which elicited the observation that, "His dark hair, usually

neatly parted, becomes a waving mass as he leans from the podium and implores his musicians

to "Give! Give!"211 A series of studio photos from the era portray a youthful Willson in trendy

clothing and positions which seem to have been staged to look casual (figure 4-1). He was in

some way unprepared for the photo session, for he is waving a pencil, rather than a baton.

One of Willson's conducting trademarks was a temperamental use of conducting batons.

His loss of batons, usually via throwing them across the room, was legendary in the studio world,

and Willson was said to have brought, "... at least a dozen batons to the studio for each

broadcast, and their mortality rate is high, so high, in fact, that he keeps a stock of 25 extras

always on hand."212 The observation was made by an unknown staff reporter who was probably

not a trained musician. The reporter went on to comment about Willson's conducting style,


210 Herb Caen, 1936. "Prying Meredith Willson Apart, Discovering What Makes Him Tick So Fast", San Francisco
Chronicle, 77/2 (Sunday, 2 August), 37.
211 Ibid.
212 Ibid.









noting that, "Each wave of his baton, each gesture of his left hand means something as he seeks

to draw the utmost from the orchestra. And if he doesn't like someone's performance, he isn't

hesitant in expressing his views."213

Willson's conducting skills also received high marks from well-known critics such as

Alfred Frankenstein of the San Francisco Chronicle. After issuing a mediocre review for the

premier of Willson 's First Symphony, critic Alfred Frankenstein tempered the remarks by adding,

"Willson's talents as a conductor of other men's music were neatly and positively displayed in

well rounded performances of the overture to Glinka's "Russlan and Ludmilla." Mozart's

"Nachtmusik" and the "Spanish Caprice" of Rimsky-Korsakoff."214

Frankenstein also critiqued Willson's Second Symphony several years later. The review

was similar, featuring tepid comments about Willson's work, with more complimentary remarks

about Willson's interpretation of Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony, the "...one true masterpiece

among that composer's symphonies, and its performance was completely admirable both for the

spurting virility of its dance movements and the delicacy with which its more graciously tinted

pictures were projected."215 A further note about Willson's conducting was that he seems to

have been highly regarded by the musicians who played under him. One article touted that,

"Musicians like Willson. We mean all types of musicians, from the most finished symphony

soloist to the hottest "jam" trumpeter."216

Film Scores

Willson maintained his conducting and composing careers simultaneously, and was once

again approached to compose for film in 1938. As previously mentioned, Willson collaborated


213 Ibid.
214 Alfred Frankenstein, 1936. "Symphony Introduced by Willson", San Francisco Chronicle (Monday, 20 April),
77/2.
215 Alfred Frankenstein, 1942. "Willson and Francescatti Share Bows", San Francisco Chronicle (February 7), 11/4.
216 Caen, 'Prying Meredith Willson Apart' 77/3.









with Charlie Chaplin for music to the movie The Great Dictator. In directing Willson's

composition, Chaplin indeed served as a 'Great Dictator,' and it is impossible to determine the

extent of acknowledgement which should be given to Willson or Chaplin for the resulting score.

In August of 1940 the prelude of The Great Dictator was given a premier by the San Francisco

Symphony orchestra with Willson as guest conductor. A notice in the San Francisco Chronicle

states, "Chaplin himself composed the entire score to the picture, although Willson did the

orchestrating."217

It is probably accurate to say that Chaplin provided some ideas, and Willson was

responsible for most of everything else, including new composition and scoring. Willson

provided only a tantalizing hint of how the two worked together:

I've seen him (Chaplin) take a sound track and cut it all up and past it back together and
come up with some of the dangedest effects you ever heard effects a composer would
never think of. Don't kid yourself about that one. He would have been great at anything -
music, law, ballet dancing, or painting house, sign, or portrait. I got the screen credit for
"The Great Dictator" Music score, but the best parts of it were all Charlie's ideas, like
using the Lohengrin "Prelude" in the famous balloon-dance scene. "I can't say I see eye to
eye with Mr. Chaplin about a lot of things, including his politics, and I think he is a very
selfish and in many ways inconsiderate man, but I also think he is a great artist and I will
certainly say that it was a real pleasure to watch him day after day and see him tick."218

Willson's comment about who received compositional credit is noteworthy. In Chaplin's

writings and casual conversations he frequently claimed that he, Chaplin, wrote the score. While

he obviously impacted the creation of the music, it was Willson who was given 'official' credit

and certainly did the bulk of the musical work. Willson's contributions included original

composition, scoring, conducting, and serving as musical director during recording sessions. As

with other early film scores, no written score can be located. The Academy of Motion Pictures

Arts and Sciences nominated Willson for a Music Scoring award. He was in excellent company,


217 "Music Programs," San Francisco Chronicle, August 25h, 1940, 22.
218 Willson, And There I Stood, 166-167.









for this was also the year that Aaron Copland was nominated in the same category for the score

of Our Town.

In The Great Dictator there are a few scenes known to have been entirely composed by

Willson. In the only interview in which he addressed his actual compositional input to The

Great Dictator, Willson noted that he had to have working titles for his works. He recalled

telling Time Magazine that, 'You've gotta have titles so you know where you're at, and these are

all filed away and cleared, registered, and you've got to have a title." One example Willson gave

was a "... tender scene where he's in the barber shop shaving somebody." Willson named this

the Barber Shop Appassionato. Another example is related with regard to a scene Willson

refers to as "the pudding scene". In this scene a coin is in pudding and characters are eating the

pudding with the understanding that whoever finds the coin must go and "...kill the

Schicklegrubber." Willson recollected, "I wrote for that, the Pudding Scherzo."

Willson compared this with a similar scene, in which the main character shaves himself,

which was sychronized to the Brahms Hungarian Dance Number Five. Willson gave credit to

Chaplin for tying the Brahms piece to the scene. A similar scene was one where Chaplin's

character plays with a globe as though it is a balloon. Chaplin set this to Wagner's Lohengrin

Prelude. Willson concluded that most of the original music was his, but that, "...wherever you

heard a recognizable tune, that is all Chaplin."

I had many scenes I had the love scene the dominant scene was Austerlitz scene, where
the Pualette Goddard scene moved over to Austerlitz across this beautiful bridge, and this
is also a love scene. I did the music for that. Kind of a popular song in the Rachmaninoff
harmony period style.219

(regarding Great Dictator and Little Foxes) I wasn't interested in scoring pictures. I was
interested in radio then, and had my own program, and was very happy with that.220


219 Columbia interview, 36-37.
220 Ibid., 33.









When pressed about his point of view on writing for film, Willson finally provided an

illuminating view about writing for early film:


My point of view that I had at the time of course is antiquated completely. There were the
general theories about such things as, if you heard the music it was going to be wrong, if
you didn't know there as any music in it then it was going to be a good score all those
cliches. Views have changed. We used to do quite a little bit of Mickey-Mousing in those
days. If somebody would fall down the stairs, or it was dramatic or tragic or what, we'd
maybe do falling-down-stairs music. Nowadays they don't do that. They get a more
general atmosphere of the vibrations in the room, rather than this kind of thing.221


What Every Young Musician Should Know

During the radio years Willson was conducting nearly every day. As a public figure he

was also frequently asked questions by would-be musicians, received unsolicited manuscripts,

and generally became accustomed to proffering advice about how to succeed as a modem

musician. Eventually he codified and published this advice in an instructional guide entitled

What Every Young Musician .\l,,n/ilKnow, with the subtitle 'A Concise and Modern Volume

Revealing the Inside of Radio Musical Technique' (figure 4-2). The forty-page work was

published by the Robbins Music Corporation in 1938, just two years after the premier of his First

Symphony. The publication provides important insight to Willson and New York musical life in

the early twentieth-century. Wilson uses a great deal of popular humor and language of the era,

some of which is self-directed, and calls his approach to the writing, ". .. a sort of casual every

day discussion that should be easily read and understood."222 The previously given caution of

trusting Willson's facts comes into focus in the 'Biographical Note.' Here Willson relates that

he, "directed the local orchestra when he was twelve," and goes on to tell of purchasing a silver




221 Ibid., 35-36.
222 Willson, What Every Young Musician, 2.









piccolo with the profits, a tale which contrasts the reality of his first conducting experience at age

seventeen, for which he had purchased the piccolo just previous to the job.

In this, as with others of his published work, Willson expresses an aversion to formal

textbook style and language. He presents answers to musical questions in what he called a

'casual every day discussion that should be easily read and understood.' His language was that

of the popular, rife with radio slang, and intended to seize reader interest.

In his foreword Willson sets forth his idea of several "practical problems" of current music

which the work will address: "How can you make a printed arrangement sound like a special?"

"What are some simple rules for segueing from one chorus to another?" "With the modem

instrumentation consisting so largely of brass, how can the strings be used most effectively to

blend with saxophones, trumpets and trombones" "How do you write a drum part? ""What are

the signs used in a radio studio?" "What are the definitions of some of the new musical terms

which have been born in the popular orchestras of the day?"223 These posed questions suggest

that the intended audience is people hoping to become composers in the popular idioms of the

day, studio and dance band orchestrations.

For the purchasing public the single page 'Biographical Note' is both humorous and

exaggerated, and seems more designed to impress a reader than provide accurate information.

Willson cannot be held entirely to account for the inaccuracies, for it seems equally possible that

the publishers helped to embroider his early years in an attempt to help sales. The embroidery

begins with Willson claiming that by the age of four weeks, he was able to hum "a rather

pleasing obilgato to his nurse's contralto rendition of "Sweet and Low."224 A curious tendency

to loosely apply musical terms, found throughout Willson's works, is demonstrated through his


223 Ibid.
224 Ibid. 3.









self-description of his ability, at age five, to "...improvise agitatos and mysteriosos." His exact

performance meaning is unclear, but seems to suggest a child pounding a thunderstorm or gently

picking pleasant sounds on his piano keys, rather than applying a specific musical technique.

Equally vague is what musical style or approach Willson indicates through his use of the

terms agitatoo" and "mysterioso. This loose application of terms is part of Willson's attempt to

make his work non-text like. In the Foreword, Willson apologizes for even attempting to write

the forty page booklet, because there are many other writings available on the same subject.

"But," he explained, "sometimes the youthful American mind has absorbing solutions to

practical problems that differ from the standard music textbooks."225 On page four Willson

writes a brief 'Preface,' which is worth reproducing in its entirety:


The purpose of this preface is to enable me to state clearly my loathing for a certain device
that frequently clutters up many otherwise lucid books about music. I refer to that rude,
impudent, interrupting, irritating thought breaker-upper known as the footnote.*

As a matter of fact I have the sneaking suspicion that nobody reads prefaces anyhow so I
will throw you a curve and discuss my preface under the heading of (at this point the text
stops abruptly, and the reader turns the page to find the heading for CHAPTER ONE.)226


Note the insertion of the asterisk, then a standard indication of a footnote. When the reader

jumps to the matching asterisked text at the bottom of the page, said reader finds, "*7his is the

first and last footnote you will encounter in this book".

Chapter one begins with another unrelated passage designed for humor, "A blood curdling

scream escaped the white lips of voluptuous young Amanda Whittlebottom. Before the scream

dies away, I will hurry into my reasons for writing this book and what I hope to accomplish

thereby. You may now forget about Miss Whittlebottom, as she occurred in the foregoing lines


225 Ibid.
226 Ibid. 4.









merely to trap you into actually starting to read this short volume"227 Willson goes on to state a

more serious purpose of the book, "... to put down some practical information referring to the

popular studio and dance band combination of today, that to my knowledge has not previously

been set forth."228

Chapter Two is titled "Have A Baton" and provides basic instruction in the techniques of

conducting. Willson begins with details of how to hold a baton, and provides diagrams of

conducting patterns. While basic patterns are presented, the art of embellishment with the baton

is stressed. The idea of clarity for the sake of the musicians seems to be secondary to the need

for aggrandizement of the conductor. In this section Willson's legendary fondness for batons is

once again apparent, for he includes four full pages of specific directions on how to wield a

baton, including a caution about one thing novice conductors would discover: they are not

leading the orchestra; it's the other way around. The most important thing about the "technique

of the stick," as Willson called it, was that it must never be stationary. Once the music starts, the

stick must move constantly. Willson also described various hand signals and explained why they

were necessary in radio studios.

Chapter Three carries a title, Meet the Orchestra. As the heading title suggests, this is an

introduction to the orchestra of the early twentieth-century, a valuable insight into changing

instrumental times. Willson discusses what he refers to as the "modern orchestra," though his

meaning is unclear. It is likely he was referring to an orchestra designed for radio and/or a dance

band. Willson suggests that a primary difference is that the modem grouping is, in fact, more

band than orchestra. He attributes this to a dearth of strings and the preponderance of brass and

woodwinds, an instrumentation heavily dominated by saxophones, "...usually two tenors and an


227 Ibid. 5.
228 Ibid. 5.









alto, or two altos and a tenor, two trumpets and one trombone, and a rhythm section comprising

piano, drums, guitar and bass."229 Willson instructs that "the saxophones and brass blend

perfectly together in almost any combination." He gives examples of a duet of tenor saxophone

and trombone, a tenor saxophone playing melody with harmonic brass support, and a trumpet

playing lead and harmonically supported by saxophones. He also provides definitions for what

he calls the modernr vernacular of the musician", a series of musical terms which originated

almost as slang, and soon became accepted terms:

"Rip" several anticipated grace notes from the brass section
"Sock" exaggerating the rhythm tempo
"Bend" saxophones, brass and strings smearing a sustained note
"Button" the final chord
"Spat" the shortest possible cymbal crash
"Jig" or "Bounce" a tempo indication usually concerning tunes of a dotted eighth and
sixteenth nature
"Lick" referring to any ad lib solo passage
"Riff' exactly the same thing as a lick
"Slurp: the tying of two or more notes together by means of a glissando

Suites: O.O. Mclntyre and Jervis Bay

As did many composers, Willson sometimes recycled his works. Parts of pieces appeared

on his radio programs, sometimes using part of one piece as a basis for another. This practice

had the unintentional results of producing a certain difficulty in tracing individual works. One of

the most difficult pieces to pin down is an orchestral work he completed in its entirety in 1934,

the 0.0. Mclntyre Suite. During his brief time at Damrosch, Willson, then playing in numerous

venues, wrote an exercise for a class. He saved it, and years later modified it for the theme of one

movement of the 0.O. Mclntyre Suite, 'Thoughts while Strolling.'






229 Willson, What Every Young Musician, 10.









The work was titled after, and dedicated to newspaper columnist O.O. McIntyre.

Willson spoke of McIntyre as a, "...remarkable man I was proud to know."230 He went on to

provide only the most superficial reasons for his fondness, that, "...McIntyre always wore purple

pajamas, and Mrs. McIntyre is a wonderful woman and sends me post cards from places like the

deck of the Empress ofIndia every once in a while."231 0.O. McIntyre (1884-1938) was born

Oscar Odd McIntyre in Plattsburg, Missouri. He started journalism career at Gallipolis, Ohio

but before long he was writing a syndicated column "New York Day by Day" which would

eventually appear in over 500 newspapers, a remarkable distribution for the 1930s. No score to

the Willson's Suite is known to exist, though a transcription for solo piano has recently come to

light for a single movement, the afore-mentioned 'Thoughts while Strolling.'

The second of Willson's two suites was composed some years later, around 1941. This

was the Jervis Bay Suite, so titled in honor of a British ship which sank in the early days of the

Second World War.232 The Jervis Bay had been a passenger ship, but was converted to a cruiser

for use in wartime. In November of 1940 the Jervis Bay was the sole escort for Convoy of

thirty-seven freighters headed towards Britain. Before the United States entered the war

freighters transported munitions to England, and in that capacity were vital to the British war

effort and a frequent target for German attacks. On November 5th the convoy was attacked by a

German battleship, the Admiral Scheer. Captain Fegen of the Jervis Bay immediately realized he

was significantly outgunned by the battleship, but ordered the convoy to scatter. This move was

a standard defense against German warships, to provide ships in the convoy the chance to

escape, and to offer the attacker with fewer immediate targets. What was especially heroic in

230 Willson, There I stood, 32
231 Ibid., 32.
232 Some sources list the ship as having a British registration, while other sources name the registration as Irish. The
ship was British. The confusion probably arises from the nationalities of the men aboard, for the officers were
mostly Irish and the crew, English.









this instance is that Captain Fegen steered the Jervis Bay directly towards the battleship, drawing

the German ship into a one-sided, hopeless engagement. The bridge and gunnery control center

were seriously damaged almost immediately, and Captain Fegen shouted orders to continue the

fight. Shortly thereafter he was hit by a shell and lost an arm, only to be killed a few moments

later by another shell. Various reports say the battle lasted from only twenty-four minutes to two

hours. Of the 255 men on the Jervis Bay, only sixty-five were rescued. Captain Fegen was

posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for valor. The citation that accompanies the award is as

follows:

For valour in challenging hopeless odds and giving his life to save the many ships it was
his duty to protect. On the 5th of November, 1940, in heavy seas, Captain Fegen, in His
Majesty's Armed Merchant Cruiser Jervis Bay, was escorting thirty-eight Merchantmen.
Sighting a powerful German warship he at once drew clear of the Convoy, made straight
for the enemy and brought his ship between the raider and her prey, so that they might
scatter and escape. Crippled, in flames, unable to reply, for nearly an hour the Jervis Bay
held the German's fire. So she went down; but of the Merchantmen all but four or five
were saved.233

The actions of Captain Fegen and the Jervis Bay, heroic by any standard, inspired at least

three narrative poems, a book, and a memorial. Willson read an account of the action and a

narrative poems authored by Gene Fowler. So moved was he by the story that he composed a

symphonic poem, with narration, based on the events.

Both of Willson's suites bear programmatic titles. The 0.0. Mclntyre Suite has a loose

association with the columnist, and the Jervis Bay Suite a close tie to the event, as well as to the

subsequently written poem which inspired its composition. Without scores it is impossible to

classify these works, though Willson's other output and the programmatic titles suggest they

were likely musically romantic in nature.


233 The National Archives of the United Kingdom, Victoria Cross Recipients:
lip \ \ \ .nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/details-
result.asp?EdocId=7500237&queryType=l&resultcount=l, Accessed 12th May, 2007.


















f


Figure 4-1. Willson conducting, c. 1938. This photo was autographed for Dixie, with whom
Meredith still maintained good relations (Courtesy Mason City Public Library
Archives).


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CHAPTER 5
SYMPHONY NUMBER ONE IN F MINOR: A DELINEATION OF THE SPIRITUAL
PERSONALITY THAT IS SAN FRANCISCO

Background

Meredith and Peggy Willson moved to San Francisco in late 1929 or early 1930, and

quickly developed a deep and abiding affection for the city. Willson had quickly moved up to

the position of Program Director for NBC's western division, in charge of programming for

NBC radio for the entire west coast. At the same time he continued conducting radio orchestras

and composing songs. In these varied guises affiliated with musicians of all sorts, from dance

bands to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Willson called San Francisco a city with,

"more personality than any other city I've ever been in: big, good, kind, friendly, the golden

gate, the food, the people, their appreciation of music and sculpture and honest art, hills, the

fine musicians, the symphony, and Pierre Monteux.234 From Willson's NBC studio office he

could view the erection of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. This construction, in part,

inspired the composition of his First Symphony:

... it was pretty inspiring to look out of the windows and watch the beginning of
the world's greatest bridge, and it finally gnawed at me to the extent that I started
to write a symphony (appropriately titled Symphony Number One also known
as "The San Francisco Symphony") measure for cable, note for rivet and what
surprised me even more, I finished it neck and neck with the ribbon-cutting
ceremony. The bridge, however, made more money.235

The original scores of both of Willson's symphonies are in the Fleischer Collection of the

Philadelphia Free Library, and copies were recently made for the Mason City Public Library

Archives. Beyond the score itself, though, Willson left little to suggest his musical inspirations

or compositional direction other than his program notes, very brief comments in his memoirs,

and a few newspaper interviews. A full month before the premier the San Francisco Chronicle

234 Willson, There I Stood, 141.
235 Ibid., 140.









newspaper bragged that, "The youngest ever to direct the San Francisco symphony orchestra, 33

year old Meredith Willson will lead the 85 piece organization here Sunday afternoon, April 19,

in his own "Symphony No. 1 in F Minor a Symphony of San Francisco."236 The San Francisco

Chronicle also trumpeted the composer's personal appeal, "Willson, who is handsome and

charming and enormously gifted, will conduct his symphony at a special concert to be given by

the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra next Sunday afternoon at the War Memorial Opera

House."237 The previews were tantalizing, suggesting a great future for Willson's symphony and

encouraging San Franciscans to attend the premier:

Ernest Bloch tried to put all America into a symphony. That was a large order, which is
perhaps why his America Symphony, after being played by many orchestras in its first
year, has not been heard since. Now Meredith Willson has tried to put his city of San
Francisco into a symphony. How well he has succeeded we may judge Sunday
afternoon, when the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra plays 'the San Francisco
Symphony' under the leadership of the composer himself.

A city seems a much more reasonable order for a symphony. And for such an order
where could a better subject be found than San Francisco? The elements of a dramatic
musical piece are all here. The city has color. Its character is individual. Its life has
been dramatic indeed. It has had its idylls and its tragedies. It has felt the force of
suspense and has knows striking contrasts. There have been strong dissonances mingled
with its harmonies. A direct continuity runs through its history and the direction for its
performance has always been con brio.

As a composer, Meredith Willson has paid the greatest compliment in his power to the
city of his home. The city should give him the appreciative return of attendance on and
attention to the compliment he pays it.238

Meredith Willson's First Symphony, in F minor, received its premier at an afternoon

concert on the 19th of April 1936, in the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. The

symphony is composed in the traditional four movements, and takes approximately forty-two


236 'Meredith Willson Will Direct Own Symphony: Former Mason Cityan Will Lead Frisco Orchestra,' San
Francisco Chronicle, March 31, 1936, 1
237 Carolyn Anspacher, 'S.F. 'Lives' in Music: Spirit of Great City Caught by Willson,' San Francisco Chronicle,
Sunday, April 12, 1936, 12.
238 'San Francisco in a Symphony,' San Francisco Chronicle, April 17, 1936, 12.









minutes to perform. This was a special performance of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, a

concert to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the great earthquake and subsequent fires, which had

nearly leveled the city on April 18th, 1906. On the score Willson subtitled the work 'A

Delineation of the Spiritual Personality that is San Francisco,' though for its premier Willson

shortened the subtitle to A Symphony of San Francisco. Willson expanded on the subtitle in the

program notes:

The Symphony in F minor, which is specifically dedicated to Frederick Winfield Pabst
and Lewis Scott Frost, was inspired by the incomparable traditions of San Francisco. It is
not an attempt at specific or program writing but rather a delineation of the spiritual
239
personality that is San Francisco.39

The score includes a dedication page, which reads, "Dedicated to Frederick Winfield

Pabst and Lewis Scott Frost." The two subjects of the dedication are not known to have been

significant public figures, and their identities remain elusive. It is possible that Pabst was a

descendant of the Pabst brewery family; the name 'Frederick' was common in the Pabst family.

Lewis Scott Frost has yet to be identified. Willson had significant corporate contacts through his

radio work, as his shows received substantial sponsorship from major corporations. The Pabst

name seems to suggest that the dedications were to business connections.

Willson's composition was the second item on a program of standard orchestral fare.

The concert opened with Glinka's Overture to Russlan andLudmilla, and Willson's symphony

followed, to complete the first part of the concert. A footnote in the program notes informed the

audience that this was the 'World Premiere' of the symphony. After the intermission, Mozart's

Eine Kleine Nachtmusic was presented, and the concert concluded with Rimsky-Korsakov's

Capriccio Espagnole. Willson conducted the concert and, at age thirty-three, became the

youngest person to conduct the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.


239 Bruno David Usher, Program notes, premier performances, April 4th and 5t, 1940, 158.









First Movement, Andante--Allegro, Ma Molto Moderato--Allegro Moderato--Vivace

Willson himself penned the program notes for the premier, providing little in the way of

substantive musical ties to the programmatic title or musical themes. Willson gave his First

Symphony a programmatic title and went so far as to tie musical themes to certain elements of a

loose program. His programmatic ties, however, were distant.

The first movement begins with a brief Andante introducing the fundamental
accompaniment motive. This motive is developed slightly in an Allegro Ma
Molto Moderato which leads into a further short development, Allegro molto,
which in turn leads directly to the first theme which is definitely of masculine
character. The second theme in contrast, is a simple melody that sounds almost
like an old hymn tune. Generally speaking, the first movement is intended to
convey pioneer courage, loyalty, strength of purpose and freedom.240

In an interview published one week before the premier, Wilson illuminated some of the

programmatic intent of the music, noting, "In the first movement I have tried to catch the virility

of San Francisco's past.... There are sweeping plains and galloping herds."241 He even played

certain themes for the interviewer, loosely tying them to his program. Unfortunately, little

remains to suggest what themes were tied to which ideas. About the first movement he said

only, "Listen-here's a feminine theme. It's a little hymn. It's simple and foursquare."242 We

are left to guess to which of the many themes he was referring.

Meredith Willson's First Symphony begins with an introductory section in F minor, an

Andante with a 4/4 time signature. There is a rumble of introductory material in the basses.

Willson referred to this as "the fundamental accompaniment motive."243 While it seems

transitory and insignificant, this material is found in several places in the score, in one instance,

augmented. It is characterized by an upwards arpeggio and downwards jumps ((Example 5-1).


240 Ibid.
241 Anspacher, 'S.F. 'Lives' in Music...' 11.
242 Ibid.
243 Usher, Program notes, 158.












Cello


. 1r-7 I ,


'Bass I I 1

Example 5-1. Introductory musical materials which, on first appearance, seem to be transitory,
mm. 1-4.

In measure 9 the tempo shifts to Allegro -ma molto moderato, and new material is

introduced in the string section. This is not clearly defined enough to be labeled as Theme 1, but

has strong characteristics of the introductory material (Example 5-2). The triplet motion helps to

characterize this material, and reappears later in the piece. The same material is presented in

measure 13 by a bassoon and the clarinet section. In the program notes Willson referred to this

as the slight development of the introductory materials.


Allegro ma molto Moderato
In Ir r


Violin I



Violin 11



Viola



Cello


-- i


-tr ------------------ LL J-j
3
poco cresc.







33 3 3
h_, 7WF_ -- I I IT A i 2V
-o rj m i i r. M -91M i J i J i i 1 i J J i i^ i -


poco crcsc.

Example 5-2. Introductory material development, mm. 9-12.

The introductory section ends at measure 17 with a shift to 6/8 meter with an Allegro

Moderato tempo. The key remains in F minor, and the first truly identifiable theme of the

movement is stated. This is Theme 1, presented in the piccolo, flutes, and first violin (Example


U F F---- ---fl-- W- \- W--


.I. ___-. ^ .I II I --


Cello


k









5-3). Theme 1 is the one Willson defines as, "...definitely of masculine character."244 Willson's

flute background is apparent, as he places the most virtuosic 'busy' notes in the flute and piccolo

parts. Theme 1 is characterized by ascending jumps of thirds, and moves from triplet eighth

notes into sixteenth notes. These characteristics provide the theme with a forward momentum,

part of the "... strength of purpose and freedom," Willson referred to in the program notes.245



i--I + -Ff


Flute



Violin


'i J .. I,- i r r i i i i
, 1 I F I


Fl



vi. n I1 IIF


Example 5-3. Initial Theme 1 statement, mm. 17-22.

After a remarkably short passage of the first statement of the Theme 1 and some general

chordal material, a second theme, Theme 2, is presented in measure 27 (Example 5-4). It has

been only ten measures since Theme 1 was introduced, and in this we see one of the defining

characteristics of Willson's symphonic writing; he does not wait to develop his themes, but

presents theme immediately after theme. The second theme is more lyric and slower moving

than the first theme. The key remains F minor, and Theme 2 is stated in the saxophones, horns,

trumpets, trombones, and tubas, a presentation which makes it loud and dramatic. This is most



244 Ibid.
245 Ibid.










likely the theme Willson referred to as 'hymn-like' in the program notes, defining the music as,

"... a simple melody that sounds almost like an old hymn tune."246

sostenuto
I I :


Alto Sax



Horn in F



umpet in B,




A. Sx.



Hn.


S' I I I I











..,: ;: : "









If I- I I I i I I z r -I
i;l p I .


;>


B Tpt. 1,, | 1- I. 3 \ |


Example 5-4. Introduction of Theme 2, mm. 27-41.

Of significance in this Theme 2 statement is the scoring for four saxophones, two E flat

altos, a tenor, and a baritone saxophone. This is quite unusual in symphonic writing, and

particularly striking for Willson. Willson was not an advocate of the saxophone, and generally

did not write for the instrument, even in his popular compositions. His creation of what he called

'Chiffon Swing' was jazz and swing music actually rearranged with the saxophone parts

replaced by woodwinds and violins. In this period of time, the 1930s, the saxophone was

popular in only a few musical genres, and generally not particularly well appreciated by the

general listening public. Willson's 'Chiffon Swing,' jazz sans saxophones, actually made the

genre more palatable for public consumption. These factors give significant weight to Willson's


246 Ibid.









heavy use of the instrument in its various sizes in this symphony. It is likely the saxophone

represented modernity, and Willson used the instrument heavily in a musical effort to represent

the modern nature of the city of San Francisco.

At measure 44 the meter changes to 9/8, with a presentation of a derivation of Theme 1

(Example 5-5). The section which follows features the same theme sequenced in different keys

and meters, evidently Willson's version of thematic development. It is noteworthy that the

Theme 5aries little, is only restated in a different key or varied rhythm. Throughout this section,

which lasts for several pages, the basses and tympani play a driving rhythm on a single note, C.


oin 6 1 1 7 !


Double Bass




VIn.


6:77 :


D.B. [p 3. 1 1 1 1 1 1 M

Example 5-5. Theme 1 derivative, with key and meter modulations, mm. 44-49.

Willson uses this sort of development throughout the symphony, occasionally ending in

an unsuitable key which necessitates having to move by half steps to find a more functional key.

This is the case at measure 51, where he spends several measures modulating back to F minor.

The material here is transitional, serving essentially as filler material. In measure 55 the original

Theme 1 is restated in its original key, this time at afortissimo dynamic level. At measure 62,

Theme 1 is restated, this time in the key of C minor. The theme is preceded by a brief flourish in

the saxophone section, another unconventional presentation by the saxophone (Example 5-6).












Alto Sax


Tenor Sax.



Violin I


L'9


Violin 11 FL ._

Example 5-6. Presentation of Theme I in C minor, mm. 62-65.

This statement is followed by a section of development of Theme 1 in C minor. At

measure 72, page twenty, the development of Theme 1 continues, this time in D minor. The

modulation is almost an exact imitation of the earlier development in C minor; the only

significant change is the key. Willson uses D minor as a developing point for both themes,

reintroducing the second theme in measure 79. This time Theme 2 is varied, and very

fragmented. The composer apparently has a preference for use of the fully diminished 7th chord

at the same time. He utilizes it here and throughout the piece. This is too deliberate to be

accidental and suggests Willson is paying homage, giving a musical 'hats off,' to another

composer, perhaps Beethoven.

In measure 83, again after only a brief section of development, Theme 1 returns and is

developed in the key of A minor. The developmental technique is classic, for Willson takes the

theme through an extended circle of 5ths sequence, one which continues for several pages. Once

again the key changes are rapid, every two to four measures. The harmonic progressions begin in

D major in measure 77, move to D minor in measure 79, G major in measure 84, then to G minor










two measures later. In measure 99 the key is C major, and only one measure later shifts to C

minor, where it settles for two pages.

One of the high points of the movement is found on page twenty-five, at measure 109

(Example 5-7). Here Willson combines derived versions of both Theme 1 and Theme 2 in a

Bravura section. This thematic conglomeration is presaged by the movement's Theme 1 derived

material augmented in the bass lines bassoon, baritone saxophone, tuba, and string bass. This is

the culmination of the Theme 1 in the work. Theme 2, expanded, is presented in upper voices in

clarinets, all the saxophones, and violins. The key remains, technically, F minor, as there are no

cadences to truly establish another key. This is well written, perhaps the best-written section of

the entire symphony.

S Bravura


Clarinet in B,



Tuba


f f
Example 5-9. Theme 1 derived material augmented and presented in the bass lines, mm. 109-
115.

The presentation of these themes continues until measure 137, a point which represents

the B section of the movement. Here the thematic material is reminiscent of the Theme 1, thus is

another derivative, and the work remains in F minor. The pace of the work increases

considerably with a new L 'istesso note and a move to 4/2 time. Here, too, solo timpani establish

a rhythmic pedal point on the 5th scale degree while other instruments move chromatically in

series of long chords. The timpani line is significant, for solo triplet patterns in the timpani

appear several times in the work. Though not particularly important material, the chordal


b
f~lf










material and its descending motion has just enough character that is might be called, weakly,

Theme 3 (Example 5-10).


A A a -----


Fl, ob, cl


poco crcsc. lmf sostenulo '
3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3


Timpani I

pp mf
Example 5-10. Chordal movement in the woodwind parts, accompanied by driving tympani
triplets, mm. 137-138. The material loosely resembles Theme 1, but is separate
enough to be labeled Theme 3.

The pedal point in the tympani continues on the 5th scale degree for the next twenty or so

measures, while other instruments, generally the woodwinds and French horns, move

chromatically. This is reminiscent of Wagner, as are other elements in the symphony. Two

pages later, on page thirty-three, is a strange jump of measures to 209; quite a number of

measures have been removed, or the composer has forgotten what measure number he was

writing. The sostenuto section, which began at measure 137, is thirty-three measures long,

followed by a four measure tympani solo, and suddenly a new measure marking of 209. It seems

reasonable to suggest that a number of pages were removed from this handwritten score, and the

work rescored on page thirty-three. The four measure tympani solo which leads into measure 209

is a continuation of the rhythmic pattern that has been played since measure 137, only now on an

F. Four measures before 209, measure 205 or 164 depending on from whence one is counting,

the meter settles in 6/8. The tympani solo suggests, and even cadences into what appears to be an

F key, but actually resolves into B-flat minor (Example 5-11).

solo
Timpani W

cresc. f
Example 5-11. Measure 205 or 164, tympani solo leading to B-flat minor.









This effectively helps introduce the sostenuto at 209, where Theme 2 is presented in B-

flat minor by, oddly, the saxophones, and paralleled in part by the trombones. The presentation

is unusual, and the chromatic movement adds tension to the saxophones (Example 5-12):



Alto Sax. i i i


Tenor Sax.


Baritone Sax. I -- -- -- I I I I
.f
Example 5-12. Theme 2 in saxophones, mm. 209-217.

In measure 223 the Theme 1 derived development material is presented, this time in B-

flat minor. Five measures into the presentation the chords loosely associated with a Theme 3

appear. Between measures 223 and 231 the work modulates to C minor. In measure 231 Theme

1 returns in the clarinets and violins, this time in C minor, and goes through some development.

In measure 239 the first movement reaches a climactic fortissimo G minor chord. Here a

fragmented Theme 2 is worked out in G minor. Other fragments, which previously appeared as

developmental materials, begin to return and this reappearance provides these materials with an

almost independent character; these could almost be themes in their own right. In measure 243

the key is still G minor when a Theme 1 derivative is restated in the violins. Its length here is

extended, compared to its presentation in measure 231. The theme drifts away and by measure

247 the piece grows quiet except for Theme 1 material in the basses, somewhat reminiscent of

the opening of the movement.

The quiet bass movement plays an almost introductory role, for measure 249 holds the

surprise of a baritone saxophone solo (Example 5-13). While the use of the instrument here is


---

sostenuto f










striking, the music is not. The material has been presented before, usually in basses as general

movement under thematic presentation. This section is not harmonically well supported. The

key could be G minor or B-flat major, but is never truly determined. Aurally it sounds like the

minor due to the previously established tonality.

Solo
Baritone Sax.



Example 5-13. Baritone saxophone solo, mm. 249-253.

The baritone saxophone solo introduces a section of chordal developmental material

which continues until measure 279. Here Theme 4 is presented, in the key of E-flat major, the

key traditionally associated with works labeled 'triumphant' or 'happy' (Example 5-14). Again,

the possibility of homage to Beethoven is suggested, as most of the Beethoven works generally

considered to be 'happy', are set in E-flat major. This theme is hyper-expressive and even

somewhat reminiscent of popular piano parlor music of the previous century.

L'osttesso
ObM I Ia M- I I M M I II
xlns.
va.. vc.
pp dolce ma espress. dun. poco cresc.




Example 5-14. Theme 4 as introduced in mm. 279-287. The thick chordal figures and
chromaticism combine to make this a hyper-expressive thematic presentation.

Theme 4 continues through measure 308, and this is another area of missing measures.

The measure numbers in this symphony are handwritten, and Willson, or whoever inserted the

measure numbers, has seriously miscounted this section. On one page of the score, page forty-

two, there are three different measure number markings, 274, 279, and 295. The markings for

measures 274 and 279 are actually seven measures apart. Score note 279 lies only three or so










inches above score note 295, yet only eight measures separate these marked numbers. Between

measure 274, on page forty-two, and measure marking 309, on page forty-three, lie only twenty-

two measures, not the indicated thirty-five.

Two measures before score marking 309, during the final two measures of Theme 4, the

Theme 1 derivative reappears, first in the cellos and basses, and begins to be developed

(Example 5-15).


Vc.,Bs P ^ | l


Example 5-15. Entrance of Theme 1 development, mm. 307-311, page forty-three.


In the same measure the meter shifts back to 6/8. Two measures later, in measure 311, a solo

clarinet and bassoon interject a brief variant of Theme 4 (Example 5-16).


solo
Clarinet in B, .. J.


I dolce
Bassoon

Example 5-16. Theme 4 materials, mm. 311-315.

As the clarinet and bassoon solos cadence into measure 315, the Theme 1 derivative

enters again, with more insistence, this time statedforte, in bassoons, baritone, and cello. As the

statement cadences into measure 319 a fanfare-like flourish is stated in the French horns and

trumpets (Example 5-17).247 The flourish may be derived from Theme 4 materials.







247 Willson has sometimes not transposed the horn parts in this score, and sometimes forgotten to write in a key
signature for them, so the horns consistently appear in C major. The figures which follow have all been transposed
in order to better display the correct tonalities.











, r I


Horn in F

Scresc.

Trumpet in Bk

f
Example 5-17. Fanfare-like interjection, mm. 319-323.

As with the interjection of Theme 2 materials in measure 311, this flourish anticipates,

and then coincides with, yet another entrance of the introductory thematic materials (Example 5-

18). This time the presentation is in low woodwinds and low strings, and similar to that seen in

measure 249, example 5-15.


Bssn., Baritone, Vc., Bs


Example 5-18. Introductory thematic materials restated at measure 321.

Almost predictably the flourish recurs in measure 323, and the key modulates to E-flat
minor.


Trumpet in Bb


Example 5-19. More flourishes, mm. 323-326.

From the modulation to E-flat minor in measure 323 the work enters a section of

transitional material, a transition towards the first section, in measure 328. Not truly thematic,

this material seems to facilitate another key change, this time to F major, the parallel major, in

measure 332. Here occurs an a tempo and the first statement of the Theme 1 in a major key.

This is a new Theme 1 derivative at triple fortissimo, and one of the high points of the first

movement. The theme is stated in the bassoons, baritones, and low strings, and the remainder of

the orchestra plays a chordal outline (Example 5-20).


I -.


I -









a tempo


FI Ob., CI Sax.



Bssn., Bari Sax., Vc., Bs.


Example 5-20. Return to Theme 1 derivative materials, mm. 332-336.

The conclusion of the Theme 1 derivative statement is also the beginning of development

of the introductory material, still augmented. Here, yet again, Willson writes for the instruments

he seems to prefer for the introductory materials the bassoons, baritone saxophones, trombones,

and low strings. This section begins at measure 340 and is marked Bravura (Example 5-21).


Bssn, Banri Sax Vc., Bs ) | |^~
ff Bravura
;*'b l 't F r I \ 1. \I I p II I


Example 5-21. Development of augmented introductory material, mm. 340-347.

The development of the introductory material continues for several pages, moving around

harmonically. In measure 356 the work arrives at a first ending, with a return to Theme 1 in F

minor in the clarinets. The work repeats to the B section, and goes to the second ending on its

return to measure 366. Transitional materials appear at measure 367 in the form of sustained

chords. These seem developmental but are short lived. Instead Willson introduces a new theme,

Theme 4, which is rather loosely based on Theme 1. Like Theme 1 it is an arpeggio, and the

upwards melodic direction, along with downwards jumps, parallels that of Theme 1. The first

presentation of Theme 4 in measure 374 is in F minor (Example 5-22). Immediately upon

completion of the initial statement Willson begins to restate Theme 4, always in the flute, in

different keys. There is no variation of the theme, but direct repetition in a procession of

different keys.










Solo poco menllo

Flute _

P espresso.
Solo

Clarinetin B, ___ W _J
pp












restatement of the theme begins in the last measure of this example.

In measure 382 Theme 4 is presented in D minor, in measure 390 in appears in B-flat

minor, and in measure 400 the motive is reduced to its sixteenth-note runs as transitional

materials. Here the key shifts to D major, a key related to the F minor in which the theme was

first presented. As this plays, at measure 402, the tympani and low strings play a flourish-like

heraldic figure, similar to those previously presented (Example 5-23). This is very much like the

figure stated in measure 319, and previously presented in Example 5-17.


Timpani



Violoncello



Double Bass I



Example 5-23. Flourish, mm. 402-403.

The flourish leads to measure 404, where Theme 2 returns in B minor (Example 5-24).

This Tempo commodo section marks development of Theme 2.










Tempo commodo
Fl., Ob, Cl., .


Eb Alto Sax. T Sax I


Bssn., Bari Sax,
Vln,Va.,Vc Sing -












Example 5-23. Hyper-expressive development of Theme 2 material in the key of B minor, in
which Theme 1 forms the basis for the accompaniment, mm. 404-411.

In this presentation of Theme 2, the accompaniment material is reminiscent of Theme 1

in its scale-like movement. Willson does little in the way of development beyond restating

Theme 2 in different keys. This passage is hyper-expressive, decidedly influenced by the late

romantics, and especially reminiscent of the works of Tchaikovsky. The Theme 2 statement

ends in measure 418, and the next few measures are transitional materials. The frequently used

flourish reappears in measure 424, and announces the onset of a recapitulation of sorts (Example

5-24). This time the flourish sounds in the low strings, tuba, and bassoons.

Ritenuto
Bssn., Tuba, Vc., Bs.


Example 5-24. Return of the flourish, mm. 424-425.

Measure 426 marks a recapitulation of sorts. This is an unusual recapitulation in that it

features Theme 2, making it almost a replacement of Theme 1, which is scarcely in evidence.

The only change is a key change; this statement of Theme 2 is in C minor. Theme 2 is

recapitulated in a verbatim repeat of measure twenty-seven. This recapitulation continues until


Smg!
4










measure 466, where variants of the introductory materials reappear, much like the previous

restatements in measures 240 and 349. Here the entrances are stretto, in C major, and like the

introduction at the beginning of the symphony, move towards a marcato presentation of a Theme

1 derivative in measure 470 (Example 5-25).

I L


Bassoon



Tuba



Viola



Vc


f marcato


I- ... I~ I ~^ ... ^^ ^ ^ ^^ ^ ,,^^~'
PJ 1. I 4 I d I II I I
AFL r


I ,,^^ i: ^=. ^ ^J J) ^'


marcato
Example 5-25. Marcato Theme 1, mm. 470-474.

These entrances are moving towards E-flat major, which arrives in measure 474. Here

Theme 1 concludes its stretto entrances and is stated in a unison sostenutofortissimo by the

violins. The statement comes to a quiet cadence on a sustained A-flat in measure 481.

In measure 482 Theme 3, after making only a single previous appearance in measure 137,

is reintroduced as a derived Theme 3 in A-flat major. In its initial statement the timpani solo

provided both a rhythmic intensity and a pedal point. In this current statement of Theme 3 there

is no timpani and no driving rhythmic pattern, but a bassoon which serves to provide a pedal

point. The melodic progression is characterized by its descending motion in the upper

instruments, which move chromatically in series of long chords. As in the first presentation the

thematic material is not particularly striking (Example 5-26).












appassionato


Flute





Oboe





Clarinet in B,





Bassoon


Fl.





Ob





Bs CI





Bsn


SA I


Solo
A


dolce ma Csprcss.















dolce ma espresso.


-I -- I


p espress.

T--


~. ,~.


~


poco crec.


poco cre




poco crc


7**


espresso -
Example 5-26. Theme 3, mm. 482-489.


At measure 510 the introductory material returns again, this time in A-flat major


(Example 5-27). At last this seemingly insignificant motif has emerged as being more important


than its brief statement at the beginning would indicate. This statement is marcato, and stated in


the low instruments, bassoon, baritone saxophone, viola, cello, and bass.



Ob., C] 9 -l


Bssn., Bari Sax., 11! i I
Va., Vc., Bass 7
mf inarcato

Example 5-27. Development of introductory motif,


fff




f


' I Ul

t"


mm. 510-516.


I I I


- jj-d- __









In measure 514 the introductory theme joins with the 'flourish' in a series of stretto

entrances. The flourish ends on a cluster of notes that do not truly form a chord, a presentation

which heralds a section of tonal ambiguity. The introductory theme is stated again, starting on a

D sharp, and the flourish is presented several times in an ascending pattern. The theme has an

apex in measure 522, with a fortissimo statement of the flourish and woodwinds and violins and,

one measure later, the entrance of a derived Theme 1 in trumpets and tenor saxophone (Example

5-28).

f i, h s ffs I I : t


Fl, Ob, CI



Alto Sax.



Trumpet in B,


iff

r r l I I- I I


I hi 7 I :d


9t \ ) fl

Example 5-28. Theme 1 derivative development and 'flourish' in stretto, mm. 522-526.

The trumpet statement of the Theme 1 derivative is doubled in the tenor saxophone. This

is a technique Willson uses frequently in this symphony, doubling standard orchestral

instruments with one of the four saxophones. In measure 531 he makes the Theme 1 derivative

even more important, moving to an a tempo A-flat major, the relative major of the original

theme, and stating the theme in a high pitched fortissimo in nearly every instrument. Only four

measures later, in measure 535, the movement lands on a five chord in A-flat major, and

progresses using diminished sonorities.

In measure 539 the introductory theme returns, now in A-flat major. In measure 545 the

work enters another transition, again using diminished sonorities. Here Willson is beginning to

move towards F major; the melodic material is largely drawn from the introductory motif. The










piece arrives in measure 555 with a statement of the Theme 1 and a written key change to F

major. Also at measure 555 occurs the first appearance of a set of chords which constitute a

coda theme. This section makes a crescendo towards measure 563, the first push towards the end

of the first movement. Here the key changes to A major; the coda theme is stated in an

augmentedpoco largo at a quadruple fortissimo dynamic level. In measure 568 the flourish

reappears as a brassy fanfare in a prolongated form. The coda begins in measure 579. It is in the

key of A major and utilizes both Themes 1 and II (Example 5-29).



Flute .


Oboe


Bassoon, | -- I | l -- I | I
Vc Bs, -

Example 5-29. Beginning of coda, mm. 579-584.

As the work moves towards measure 589, theme fragments begin to appear in different

keys, though without ever making a cadence in a particular key. This sort of chromatic

manipulations without ever establishing a key was a technique used by nineteenth-century

composers. The motion eventually resolves in F major, in measure 595, with a sudden vivace.

This is also the beginning of an eight measure repeated passage. Willson has added a

handwritten note to the score, "2 X only." Theme 1 is brought back in its original instruments -

bassoon, baritone saxophone, and low strings. The melodic material of this section is

unremarkable, consisting of fragments from various themes.

In the second ending of the passage, measure 610, the piece goes to the key of A major,

again moving through chromatic manipulation. As in the previous section of chromatic


- As I SE
B --------------- -
^u ^-^^: f0"









movement, the resolution is in F major, with the Theme 1. This occurs in measure 631, the

beginning of the last small section of the first movement, a codetta making use of Theme 1

material in F major. At only fourteen measures this small section is not big enough to constitute

a full coda. The final six measures consist of a sustained three measure antecedent chord,

answered by a subsequent chord in a rhythmic pattern, and the first movement ends with a

'bump', reminiscent of show tunes (Example 5-30).


Pcc, ,I O ~ i" Fin-
Picc, Fl, Ob. K-


C1., Trpt., in Bb



Baritone Sax.



Bassoon



Violin



Vc., Bc.


-. s l ,. g: iJ J J .J J r,, ., ,
Af* ^> ->


v > > > > > >
iff
Asfi
.^:, rir 1^!J J j j J ,,



U>> > > > > 1 _
ff -- > > > > > > >
1> c > >


Example 5-30. Conclusion of first movement, mm. 639-543.

Second Movement, Andante

Willson called the second movement of his Symphony of San Francisco a passacaglia.

Programmatically the movement is meant to reflect the desolation in the city as a result of the

great earthquake of 1906. The variations are presented in a gradually ascending order, which

Willson intended to represent a "civic renaissance." About this movement the composer wrote:


~)I~F~F~#










The second movement is an Andante in Passacaglia form, and here I have tried to
express in music the rebirth of a great city from smouldering ruins and ashes. The
theme of this movement begins in a scarcely audible thread of sound from muted
violi, celli and harp, and with each subsequent variation on the theme hope rises
higher and higher.248

The piccolo plays a major melodic role here, buoying the more somber instrumentation in

the lower instruments. "The second movement," he said, "shows desolation. It shows ashes and

destruction and trailing wisps of smoke. San Francisco in April of 1906. Hope is dead. People

are lost, destitute. You hear their complete despondency. But not for long." 249

The actual form of this movement is somewhat problematic. There is virtually no fixed

or consistent bass pattern and the work is in 4/8 with a sort of overall triple feel, rather than a

triple meter. In a more historically typical aspect of apassacaglia the character of the movement

does remain essentially grave, in minor keys. Analysis reveals a formal character which better

fits a concept of a mix of passacaglia with Theme and variation structure. The movement begins

with a statement of the passacaglia theme, a chromatic descending melody presented in the

viola, cello, and harp, in A minor (Example 5-31).

Andantc
Ai i +b* ,, i h- 0


Harp





Viola



Cello


con sordiino



con sordino
LI-


pp (on the fingerboard)
Example 5-31. Statement ofpassacaglia theme, mm. 1-8 of second movement.


248 Program notes from first performance, War Memorial Opera House, April 19, 1936.
249 Anspacher, 'S.F. 'Lives' in Music...', 11.


-1. 4 F- ---- I R--1J1i J


I










The first variation is presented in measure 25. The work is still in the key of A minor

(Example 5-32).


Clarinet in B,


I, 4 I I I I I I q IOF OF OF F II
t t Srr


47217


Example 5-32. First variation, mm. 25-30.

The second variation occurs at measure 41, in D minor. This presentation is dominated

by the double reed instruments, with flute added on top (Example 5-33).


Quasi 8/16
SAa
S N I V P


Loco

.-- 'r < r F ? r b-


.9


Bassoon I --ti

Example 5-33. Second variation, D minor, mm. 41-46.

The theme and filler material continue until measure 49 where the musical materials

become transitional. The third variation is found in measure 57, a variation more diverse than

the others (Example 5-34). It is so removed from the original thematic idea that it almost

appears as a second theme.


~PP : dolce


X 9 V V rJ 4 I ,


Et 5-4 T h ir' v t7i 1-2
PP :::=-

Example 5-34. Third variation, mm. 57-62.


Fl., Ob.


Clarinet in B,



Horn in F









Beginning at measure 81 a fourth variation seems to begin emerging, in D minor. This is

not a true statement, but rather introductory or transitional. This continues until the fourth

variation fully emerges in measure 89, in D minor (Example 5-35).

t- >- 4


Example 5-35. Fourth variation, mm. 89-97.

The orchestration of the fourth variation is surprising. The theme is played fortissimo by

the first and second horns, but they must project over a host of instruments playing a

simultaneousforte. The full saxophone quartet is playing, along with the first and second

trumpets, all the trombones and tuba. At measure 97 there is a large restatement of the first

variation in all the winds. The string section renters in measure 104 and presents general

transitional material until measure 111. Here the movement begins modulating towards its home

key.

Measure 114 represents the apex of the second movement. The movement has undergone

a gradual crescendo to this point, about which Willson wrote, "San Franciscans don't stay lost,

they find their way back always. Listen to them rebuilding their city."250 The person

interviewing Willson for an article on the symphony in the San Francisco Chronicle related a

trumpet call to, "...the song of San Francisco's reclamation," which, "... went on and up."251

That statement is not known to have come from Willson and cannot directly be tied to the work.

At measure 114 the original theme restated sostenuto in the violins, in the original key of

A minor. This statement is declamatory, played by most of the instruments. At measure 130 is a

restatement of the original thematic material, but in a very slight variation, not distinct enough to

be called a separate variation. This seems to reset the listener's ear to the original theme,

250 Ibid.
251 Ibid.









perhaps to provide more marked contrast for the next presentation of a new variation. Only eight

measures later comes the statement of a true new variation, the fifth. This variant is stated in A

major, though subtly, as a lot of E minor tonality is suggested (Example 5-36).






in

Example 5-36. Fifth variation, mm. 138-144.

At measure 138 the original theme is restated in the flutes in A minor, and at measure 146

the theme is outlined by the horns in D minor. From here the work modulates to A minor in

measure 149, then back to D minor in measure 153, in which key the movement concludes.

Third Movement, Presto

The next movement of the symphony, the third movement, begins in A major. This

movement is apresto, a tribute to the city's diverse population. In the program notes for the

premier performance Willson described the movement as:

... a happy little piece picturing the almost childish delight of a people who have a
continental love for artistic pursuits; a music loving sincerity that thronged the streets on
Christmas eve to hear Tetrazzini's Caro Nome at Lotta's Fountain. The two themes in this
Scherzo are introductory to the fourth movement, which follows without pause.252


In this statement Willson is referring to soprano Luisa Tetrazzini (1871-1941), famed for

her vocal technique. Tetrazzini had been scheduled to sing in San Francisco, but was blocked by

legal issues about who owned her contract. Attempts were made to secure an injunction from

singing in any theater until the issue could be legally resolved. On her trip to San Francisco she

was queried about the injunction and responded, "I will sing in San Francisco if I have to sing


252 Usher, Program notes, 158.









there in the streets, for I know the streets of San Francisco are free." This statement has become

almost legendary among opera aficionados. Though an injunction was never issued and

Tetrazzini was free to sing in the theaters, she announced through her agent that she would still

sing in the streets of San Francisco. On Christmas Eve, 1910, at the corner of Market and

Kearney, near the city landmark, Lotta's Fountain, Tetrazzini climbed a stage platform. She

serenaded a crowd of an estimated two- to three-hundred thousand San Franciscans.

Willson was moved by the Tetrazzini incident, referring to it again in a newspaper

interview just after the premier. The reporter noted that Willson specified themes for various

images, and that the composer called the movement, "... a delineation of the spirit of the people,

their laughter, their naivete." The interviewer went on to relate Willson's musings, describing

that, "Willson's fingers played laughter. They played the song of the beloved Tetrazzini as she

sang at the base of Lotta's Fountain and the song of the thousands who thronged to hear her.

They played the continental charm of the city and of the fusion of its peoples."253

Willson begins this presto movement by stating functional thematic materials right away.

It would be a valid position to argue that these are not a true theme, but transitory materials. In

this movement, though, the materials are used frequently enough that they will be referred to as

the Theme 1 for the purposes of this analysis. Almost certainly Willson was thinking of

Tetrazzini and Italian opera when he composed this theme, for it is opera music, the sort

frequently used in Italian opera. The Theme 1 could even be used to introduce an aria, perhaps

the scene Willson intends to set here. It is set in A major, played exclusively and lightly by the

woodwinds. This movement calls for clarinet in A, while the first movement used a B-flat

clarinet, and the second movement used no clarinets at all. Because of its nod to opera, the entire

scoring is worth reproducing in its entirety (Example 5-37).

253 Anspacher, 'S.F. 'Lives' in Music...', 11.












PRESTO -7 m7


Flute




Oboe




Clarinet in B,


Bassoon


Fl.




Ob.




B& C].


A u


, A1


LC13* Mw MB^ = ^ P: =1 =j E r im
'J ~ ~~~~ ~~ i 'rIII' .



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~4 "0 -" M. M L. '


III.


j i-, -i -i





.... oI ]I. .
LM,, 1 "T


.. 1, m


Bsn : I. 0 !

Example 5-37. Theme 1 of movement 3, mm. 1-8. The rapid sixteenth-note runs and busy
accompaniment parts are reminiscent of Italian opera music.

Just as the bassoon completes the downwards run, Theme 1 is restated in a modal fashion


(Example 5-38). This mode is not exactly Phrygian, but similar enough to present and sound like


the Phrygian mode. As a composer Willson seems to have a fondness for this pseudo Phrygian


tonality. In addition to its use here, the composer makes frequent use of the device in his Second


Symphony. He generally makes use of the Phrygian-like tonality when making musical reference


to something historical. It is also noteworthy that the Phrygian mode is commonly found in his


symphonies at the same time a double reed instruments are being utilized, in this case the


bassoon.


5













Flute




Oboe




Clarinet in A



Bassoon


Ob. Jr.



A C1.




Bsn


Example 5-38. Theme 1 restated in a modal fashion, mm. 9-16.

Immediately at the end of this modular echo of Theme 1, a new theme is introduced in


measure 17 (Example 5-39). Theme 2 is lyrical, with a touch of ethnicity to it, perhaps a gypsy-

like flare. While not a quote from the Caro Nome which Tetrazzini sang at the fountain, this

melodic theme is certainly meant to evoke the spirit of an Italian aria. It is also reminiscent of

the motive played by clarinets in the third movement of Mahler's First Symphony.


Clarinet in ALyri. 17-2


Example 5-39. Lyrical Theme 2, mm. 17-24.


q--




- 1A Z











Theme 2 is repeated four times, with small variants the third time. This pattern is


intriguing for its modernity, as it is the standard blues form. Willson may or may not have been


aware of his utilization of this modem form, but it is an influence, bidden or unbidden, of the


twentieth-century. In measure 48 the work enters a transitional section (Example 5-40):


Oboe




Violin I




Violin 11




Cello


A L 4


mf

RI,

p

i lL$


,, i __- ,IS- --__


-Y Si (5sC 1-.L- II I -


mf PP
Example 5-40. Transitional materials, mm. 48-53.

A solo oboe sustains the root of A major, while the strings play upwards patterns below


it. From the transition the work goes to the materials stated at the beginning, theme A. At the


end of the two Theme 1 statements is material based on Theme 2 which, at measure 71, marks


the beginning of a codetta (Example 5-41). Theme 2 fragments are interrupted by a brief horn


solo, the pattern of three notes which Willson favors throughout the symphony.


Horn in F




Violin I


Cello


A p 1


solo


tutti

ta

- ." dll LI~l.,[, Ii mlI I -:7 1 F=-- 1 77IL Ili -i 1 _ii


Example 5-41. Transitional materials with Theme 2 fragments, mm. 71-75.


I


L i-" j' 10'












The transition leads into a first ending at measure 78. The triplet rhythmic motif just


played by the horns is taken up by the flutes, and the work returns to its beginning at measure 85.


The second ending is found on page 133, and uses simple transitional material to introduce the


next section, as well as a modulation to F-sharp minor. Here the triplet motif is in the violas. The


second section of this quick-moving presto begins in measure 95. A new theme is introduced at


the onset of this section, Theme 3, in F-sharp minor (Example 5-42).


FI, VI
C1.I



Clarinet in A




Bassoon




Viola




Cello

A\


Fl.




A C1.




Bsn.


S nmeno
Su t csrcfss.


~bw.


mf


inf


C~F


a: r


SY F


,* $* 4


VC. L .


Example 5-42. Theme 3, with a significant 'nod' to Italian opera, mm. 95-102.



181


-


-tL-i


- Z










Theme 3 is expressive and lyrical. Like the other themes thus far introduced, this theme

is quite reminiscent of opera. Here the flutes, violins, and clarinets play the melody. In a sense

they are taking over the role of a vocalist, while the rest of the orchestra provides an

accompaniment. The tunefulness, lyricism, accompaniment movement, and bassoon outlines all

indicate a nod to Tettrazini and Italian opera. Just a few measures later, in measure 110, the

theme continues with a short flirt in A-flat major. Beginning in measure 115 a Theme 3

derivative is stated again, up a third, but still in F-sharp minor (Example 5-43).


lielto cspr~e~ ~ ~' ;f ~ ~
Fl, VI.
Cc.l
mf






Bassoon



Viola



Cello


Example 5-43. Modulation of Theme 3 fragment, mm. 115-119.

At the end of this Theme 3 fragment, on page 136, in measure 122, another theme

appears (Example 5-44). This is a dolce lyric theme presented in D minor and distantly related

to Theme 3. Once again the salient features of the theme center around an upwards arpeggio.

While it is possible that this theme could be considered a Theme 3 derivative, it is different

enough that it will be labeled Theme 4 for purposes of this analysis. This similarity of themes, a

technique frequently adopted by Willson, serves to tie the work together.












Violin



Viola



Cello



Double Bass


SO- --C P


dolce



dolce



dolce
mf

^:U1EI 21i Zrrzz rtfrrr .= ..^=


dolce Pi/Z
Example 5-44. Theme 4, loosely derived from Theme 3, mm. 122-128.

At this point Theme 3 and Theme 4 begin to be applied quickly. In measure 134 Theme 3

returns in G-sharp minor and in measure 138 is a short presentation of Theme 4, this time as a

derivative. This plays out for several measures, until Theme 4 begins a restatement in measure

150, and in measure 154 Theme 3 returns in D-sharp minor. The section ends with a restatement

of Theme 4 in measure 162, and a ritardando into measure 167.

Measure 168 is an a tempo and restatement of the beginning of Theme 1 in A major.

This opera-like sixteenth-note passage begins and presents like a recapitulation, but ends in a

tympani roll which crescendos and segues to the fourth movement of the symphony. This makes

the final seven-measure Theme 1 statement a tag, codetta, or possibly a false recapitulation. The

two main themes in this Scherzo movement are introductory to the fourth movement, which

follows without pause.

Fourth Movement, Allegro

The fourth movement begins with an orgy of thematic material found in multiple

instruments -saxophones, bassoons, horns, trombones, and tuba. Theme 1 is stated in F major in

the first measure, in low instruments and saxophones. (Example 5-45)


, A 1u


L -0 An












Bsn., Alto Sax.,
T Sax., Ban Sax.


Hn., Tpt.,
Trb., Tuba


F 1I I







Example 5-45. Theme 1 introduction in F major, mm. 1-7 of the Fourth Movement.

As the first theme cadences, materials which seem to be transitional are introduced. The

most striking feature is a triplet pattern which begins in measure 11 (Example 5-46). The

materials are more substantive than they initially appear to be, as they reappear as closing

material for the section. The instrumentation is unique, for the triplet figures are presented by

cellos and three baritone saxophones, with a slight boost from the bassoons. The heavy scoring

of the baritone saxophones is noteworthy, for they can easily overwhelm other instruments.



Baritone Sax.,
Cello >


Bassoon F9 .| ..
I I I I. I I >

Example 5-46. Seemingly transitory triplet figures, mm. 11-15.

Derived Theme 1 is presented immediately after the first statement of Theme 1. This

variant is in a somewhat ambiguous key (Example 5-47). The basses play a pedal point on a C,

which serves as the fifth of the chord, and helps to establish the key as F major. The theme is

also somewhat transitional, neither extended nor developed.


. ..):.L ,











FI, Ob, CI.,
Vln., VVa ---:FT --,7:-,





Example 5-47. Theme 1 with transitional material, mm. 17-23.

During this presentation of Theme 1 there is a brief flirt with F minor in measure 20, with

a return to the ambiguous F major in measure 21. In measure 25 yet another variant of Theme 1

appears, this time fully transitional and moving downwards by half steps. This Theme 1

derivative is somewhat sequential and becomes more so as the section progresses. This

statement also hints at D major, the V/V chord of C major. At measure 29 Theme 1 fragments

begin a crescendo poco apoco, a notation Willson has written in capital underlined letters spread

across two measures. This begins a long section where there is frequent fragmented chromatic

movement of a Theme 1 derivative. In measure 36 the pace of the chromatic changes speeds up,

with the key modulating every two beats. In measure 46 the fragmented Theme 1 derivative

begins again, and lands in C major in measure 54, fulfilling the tonality suggested in measure 25.

It is here, in measure 54, that Theme 2 is first stated (Example 5-48). The fact that only a

single theme has been used for fifty-four measures is significant, as Willson typically states both

the first and second themes early in every other movement of both of his symphonies. Theme 2

is a grandiose statement in C major, noteworthy for its ascending half notes. Immediately

following the initial completed statement, Theme 2 begins to undergo a brief development,

which begins in measure 62. As with the development of Theme 1, this development is

characterized by the introduction of brief fragments of the theme and ambiguous tonality. In the

development of Theme 2 Willson also uses many stretto entrances of the dotted-eighth to

sixteenth-note followed by a sustained chord pattern.













Lo I C.3. Ia


Ten. Sax



Bari. Sax.




Bassoon



Horn in F
(and tpts.)



Trombone


El T' L I 7 7















J I 3-- -,
a. ,,. J rJ ',,, 1 3=


'- \ I \V I 1 1' I i I11 1 ii i I I I i


Example 5-48. Presentation of fourth movement Theme 2, mm. 54-62.

Of note here is an indicated fast instrument switch between alto and baritone sax. In cut

time, the two alto saxophone players are given the instruction to (Change to Baritone saxophone)

and less than a complete measure to complete the required instrument switch. Four measures

later, in measure 66, the players are instructed to Change to Alto, and this time given two

measures to complete the change. The likelihood was that Willson was unfamiliar with how

much time it would take to change instruments. It is unreasonable to expect the players to make

the change in the limited amount of time provided. The heavy use of saxophones also has a

tendency to overwhelm the orchestration. In the sole recording of the work only a single alto

saxophone usually plays in place of three scored instruments, the two altos and one tenor

saxophone. Fragments of Theme 2 continue to be developed through measure 78, at which point

transitional material enters in C minor (Example 5-49). This material is characterized by its

triplet pattern, and is similar to the transitional material found in measure 11 (Example 5-46).


I'- '5 #t -- ;


A I+/T. Ir Q












,rO- ~P'-G


Flute




Oboe




Bassoon


' 3-,


-,


.;.4- 7r


3 I '


S dolce

Example 5-49. Transitional material, mm.78-83.

The transitional material continues in measure 86, and at that point shifts to a downward


sequence withplaning in the strings. This sequence reappears and is distinct enough to be called


Theme 3 (Example 5-50). The key modulates to an indeterminate flat key, centering on E-flat


major, with aplaning progression of dominant 7th chords. Since the sequence never truly


cadences, a key center is never established.


English Horn




Bassoon


Violin




Viola




Cello




Bass


,in.


pp > >-




p




P> -


..t ,. f


>. i-


-3-


> >- > >- > >- I
p
Example 5-50. Transitional material presented as aplaning progression of dominant 7th chords,
mm.86-90.


S p I "'--
a










The chordal movement continues for several pages, centering most frequently on B-flat

and E-flat major. In measure 118 are found a set of features similar to those found in measure

86. The thematic material is defined enough to be called Theme 4, though it does not reappear

and is not an important theme. At the same time the musical materials are transitional and

marked by chromatic sequences and frequent modulations, creating an ambiguous tonality.

Again, triplet figures are significant features in the theme, and occur in both ascending and

descending patterns (Example 5-51).

TEMPO 1 -3 t

Flute,Ob., J I
Alto Sax., Vln. ) I I


Viola



Cello



Double Bass


): 3 o t- 3-,


-P



----_ _


p


Example 5-51. Theme 4, mm. 118-121.

The pace of the theme increases in measure 124. This quicker pace is not achieved

through a tempo change, but through rhythmic diminution. Here the thematic material stays in

the flutes and violins, with the other instruments playing sustained chords. Once again the

movement is chromatic. This continues through measure 127, where the score notes a crescendo

poco apoco. The first section of the fourth movement begins to push towards its end in measure

132, where the key lands in C minor (Example 5-52). Here is another presentation of the triplet

figure similar to the A transitional material which first appeared in measure 25, this time at a

fortissimo dynamic level.












Flute



Clarinet in B,


ggl^--^1 j g.g : 1 i 1 -

(J 6 I I --- 3 --- '
fff- 3-- I-


Affi5 C! P 0

fff--- --- ,---------i: -- ---- --------


Cello I I

Example 5-52. Closing theme in C minor, mm. 132-135.

At measure 139 the first section ends with a diminuendo in a series of V7/B9 chords.

There is a repeat to the beginning of the movement in measure 143, and the B section of the

movement begins in measure 144 (Example 5-53). The B section is in F major and is clearly the

developmental section. It begins with a statement of Theme 2 variant.



Flute
.9
47 to
J I lnarcato______




Example 5-53. Theme 1 development, mm. 144-148.

A few measures later, in measure 150, a transition begins and the triplet closing materials

from the first section return. Here the key is E-flat minor, and the triplet motif is largely used in

the role of transitional material. The same materials reappear in measure 165. This small triplet

theme also appears later in the movement. At measure 171 there is apoco ritardano, and a new

theme, Theme 5, is stated at measure 172. Theme 5 is characterized by sequences of triplet

figures in a meno presentation marked 'in 4' and meant to be played slowly and broadly. The

theme makes a crescendo throughout its presentation (Example 5-54).










meno (in 4)
3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3
Clarinet in Bb I I I




Ob, Bsn.
crcsc



3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3
Bb Cl. M A R



Bsn !

Example 5-54. Theme 5, mm. 172-175.

Like Theme 3 and Theme 4 this new theme is transitional and highly chromatic in nature.

Theme 5 is stated largely in the oboe and tenor saxophone. It is more a texture than a motif.

Triplet figures are the most identifying feature of this theme, and continue throughout the

section. At measure 180 the tonality settles in B-flat minor, and Theme 5 is stated again in an

abundance of developmental materials. Here, too, the materials begin a gradual crescendo. By

measure 183 the score notes a molto crescendo, and the tonality briefly focuses around a V/B-flat

minor, then lands in B-flat minor in the next measure, 184. Measure 187 closes with a double

bar, and measure 188 initiates a new section of the movement.

A the beginning of this new section, measure 188, Theme 1 is restated in D minor at a

triple fortissimo marcato, with a tempo 1 marking. This Theme 1 presentation is significant for

its inclusion of the Alto, Tenor, and Baritone saxophones, which present the theme along with

the flute and oboe (Example 5-55). While this statement begins in the key of D minor, it quickly

becomes highly chromatic.












Fl.. Ob



Alto Sax



Tenor Sax



Baritone Sax



Trumpet in B,



Trombone



Tuba. cello



Vln.. Va.


TEMPOJ
r r t" f-


rfh r F r r r


N i I I i i i1
marcato



ff marcato



Smarcato



fff -> > > > > j>



'if
TEMPO I






jff


( I J J J o J J _
ff > > > > > > >

TEMPO I
(I I I


-- -"--i~

Example 5-55. Tempolmarcato statement of Theme 1 derivation, mm. 188-191.

This continues through measure 196, where fragments of the theme evolve into

transitional material. The sequence ends abruptly in measure 204, where all instruments drop out

to highlight a tympani solo (Example 5-56). The solo on the same note, C, as the tympani solo in

the first movement, and is reminiscent of that solo. Willson is either referencing that movement

or using the same musical device.

Solo
Timpani (


Example 5-56. Tympani solo, reference to first movement, mm. 204-209.











As the tympani strikes the first of the tied whole notes in measure 208, a Theme 1


derivative is stated by the rest of the orchestra, this time in F major (Example 5-57).


Bassoon -J'. J i, ... i .


Alto, Ten.,
Bari Sax.


ff

..~~ ~~ O J. 'P .

ff

-6 --------- ---- i---- k-- --- Hr f --- I~r.3 --


Horns 3rS J A l I U I I 1 k
Trb., Tuba
ff
Example 5-57. Restatement of Theme 1 in F major, mm. 208-210.

The statement of the Theme 1 initiates a repeat, nearly direct, from the beginning of the

piece. The first part of the movement is repeated until measure 251, where Willson labels a

coda. What Willson calls a coda is not truly a coda, as he changes the key from the exposition,


and transposes the material up a fourth. In measure 253 a Theme 1 derivative appears again, this

time in the cellos, and also transposed (Example 5-58).


SA L meno 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3


Cis., Bsn 1,
Vln 2.


Bsn 2,3, Ban. Sax.,
IFl -. l l, Vii PI, -


Bs Cl



Bsn.


Cello. 10 1 Q I C o
Bass. cresc poco a poco


S 3 3 33 3 3



') \, ^r'J ^


I


Example 5-58. Theme 5, presented in E minor, mm. 273-276.

The material which follows continues to be unremarkable, and is a simple restatement of


much of the material at the beginning of the movement. In measure 261 Theme 2 is restated in F


sc poopoco
pxOO ai POCO0


om s viI I,









major, and in measure 269 undergoes some development. In measure 273 a Theme 5 derivative

is presented in E minor. As in its first statement the theme is more textural than melodic, defined

by its triplet figures. The Theme 5 sequence continues until measure 280, when it begins to

repeat in E minor. This statement features more layered instruments and a notated crescendo

molto in measure 282. The pace begins to push towards the finale. In measure 284 the tempo is

marked 'in 2', suggesting the conductor should push the tempo. Another herald of the finale is

the return of the closing material previously seen earlier in the movement (Example 5-52). The

closing material enters in C major as a slight variant of the original, in measure 288. Four

measures later the closing theme converts to transitional material, at a tripleforte, in measure

292. This builds to an enormous climactic two-measure chord in measure 298. Like

compositions of the romantic composers whom his music frequently emulates, Willson's work

does not end here. A codetta begins in measure 300, in F major, and based on the same triplet-

based closing material. The final few measures delineate a plagal cadence, rather than the

authentic cadence usually expected at symphonic conclusions in traditional symphonic writing.

The fourth movement of Willson's First Symphony ends with a sustained large F chord in

measure 306.

General Analytic Summary

Willson's Symphony of San Francisco displays challenges that might be expected in a first

symphony. The most obvious of these is with the orchestration. In his role as a composer for

radio he was composing and scoring on a weekly basis. He was experienced with orchestration,

though his experience was in scoring for studio orchestras. Still, he scored the First Symphony

himself. In a studio environment he no doubt had far more rehearsal opportunities, and could

easily have instruments drop out if they covered other parts. This was not an option with a

symphony Willson likely heard for the first time at the dress rehearsal. The saxophone quartet is









somewhat novel, but is used frequently and scored so heavily that the saxophones easily

overwhelm other instruments. As previously noted, in the sole professional recording made of

this symphony, conducted by William Stromberg the saxophone quartet is replaced by a single

alto saxophone.

The saxophone quartet is unique, though, and its inclusion provides some insight into

possible sources of influence. George Gershwin utilized a similar orchestration in his Rhapsody

in Blue, first played by piano in 1924. Rhapsody in Blue was orchestrated by composer Ferde

Grofe in 1924. Grofe was orchestrating for a specific performing group, the Paul Whiteman

band, and included five saxophones; sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone. A

reorchestration done in 1926, again by Grofe, reduced the number of saxophones to three, two

altos and a tenor. Whiteman's band, however, was a small jazz band, not a major symphony

orchestra with full instrumentation. Whiteman's musicians also doubled instruments, and there

were seldom more than two saxophones playing at a single time.

There are other aspects of Willson's orchestration which lack practicality. In several

places the melodies played by solo woodwinds are covered by brass parts scored at a forte

dynamic level. The second movement provides a similar example, in the fourth variation. The

theme is played fortissimo in two horns, but they must project over a host of instruments playing

a simultaneousforte. The full saxophone quartet is playing, along with the entire brass section.

The French horns are easily buried in the mix.

The Symphony of San Francisco is marked by quick transitions, expressive melodies

presented in episodic fashions, and narrow development sections. There is a certain lack of

depth, not necessarily a surprise to find in a composer's first attempt at composing a major

symphony. The application of musical elements prompt thoughts of a film score, and that is how









the work presents to an audience. The Symphony of San Francisco seemed a good fit for the

anniversary remembrance of the great earthquake. The work was well enough received that

Willson conducted the work again the following year, with the same orchestra, on 20 April 1937.










CHAPTER 6
SYMPHONY NUMBER II, THE 'MISSIONS OF CALIFORNIA'

Background

Willson began work on his Second Symphony soon after the premier of his First,

probably sometime in 1936. Despite the critical comments which followed his First Symphony

and advised that he dispense with symphonic programs, the composer included a programmatic

slant from the inception of the Second Symphony. Willson was always a composer who imitated

his own success, thus the programmatic direction of the Second Symphony emulated the First,

centering on a CaliforniTheme 1. Rather than representing a single modem city, this symphony

presents multiple small communities, the early mission settlements of California.

The work was well underway when the composer showed the score to conductor Albert

Coates (1882-1957), conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Coates was an Englishman,

born in Russia, who had a propensity for interpreting romantic scores. He was also a prolific

composer who had had varied success in getting his own works performed. Perhaps these factors

influenced his conducting decisions, for he was generous in helping new works gain

performance, and displayed a preference towards programmatic works. Coates suggested that if

Willson were to complete the work, Coates would have the Los Angeles Philharmonic premier it.

One article states that it took Willson four years of effort to write his Second Symphony.254

The completed symphony was titled Symphony No. II in E Minor, and included the

programmatic subtitle, The Missions of California. For unknown reasons Willson chose to write

this work on oversize score paper. Each sheet measures 20 inches high and nearly 13 inches

wide, making the score quite large, bulky, and difficult to handle. The second page is titled Part

One and followed by the subtitle of the first movement, Junipero Serra. The bottom of the page

254 'Meredith Willson's Work on Sunday KGLO Concert,' Mason City Globe Gazette, August 9"t, 1941.









displays Willson's gratitude to Coates with the proclamation, "Dedicated to Albert Coates and

the Philharmonic Orchestra of Los Angeles."

True to form, Willson related his own highly entertaining version of how he came to

write the Second Symphony, this one a tale about meeting Coates at a luncheon:

I got up the nerve to ask him if he would care to play my First Symphony at
any time in the near future, and he said, 'I'd rather play your Second
Symphony,' and I said, 'I haven't written any Second Symphony,' and he said,
'Exactly.'

However, I preferred to take the kindlier interpretation of his remark, so I
immediately started writing a Second Symphony. It was about the missions of
California, and when I finished it Mr. Coates said, 'Bully, I'll play it.'255

Despite the dubiousness of the proper English conductor using an exclamation such as

"Bully," and regardless of which account most authentically relates the actual circumstances of

the composition, Coates conducted the premier of Willson's Second Symphony with the Los

Angeles Philharmonic on April 4th, 1940. The program notes for the premier included

descriptions of each of the California Missions on which Willson based the movements.

Part One: Junipero Serra

The first movement of the Missions Symphony, which Willson curiously called 'Part One,'

rather than 'movement one', is based not on a mission settlement, but on Father Junipero Serra, a

priest who lived from 1713-1784. Serra is remembered as an icon of California's colonial era.256

A member of the Franciscan order, the priest became a driving force in the Spanish conquest and

colonization of the Pacific coast. Serra remains a well-known figure in California. Statues of him

255 There I Stood..., 165.
256 Padre Junipero Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987, the first step in the process towards sainthood
which, thus far, has not continued. The beatification was condemned by Indians and civil rights groups who
particularly objected to Serra's hard-handed treatment of the natives, a treatment which included frequent beatings.
In 1780 Serra wrote, "...spiritual fathers should punish their sons, the Indians, with blows appears to be as old as the
conquest of [the Americas]." Defenders of Serra cite exonerating factors such as the context of his times, his
enormous personal sacrifices and religious zeal, and his opposition to military expeditions against the Indians. Serra
continues to be a pivotal figure in California history, most currently as a flashpoint for controversy over European
treatment of Indians.










can be found in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and in the U.S. Capital.257 Willson declared

that Serra had been the inspiration for the entire symphony, praising the priest as a "padre-

pioneer a true philanthropist and an earnest soul without peer among the disciples of his

order."258 Willson seized upon a description of Serra written by an unknown 'Protestant

biographer' and published in one of the works of pioneer-activist Helen Hunt Jackson. "So far as

can be made out, he (Serra) thought little of himself, even of his own soul to be saved, all his life.

The trouble had been on his mind how sufficiently to work for God and to help men."259

The first movement opens with a four-measure declarative motif which recurs throughout

the symphony, a motif which Willson described as the "Serra" theme. This is the Theme 1,

played by clarinets, bassoon and double bassoon, horns, chimes, piano, harp, violas, cellos, and

bass, and characterized by an upwards motion:

Lento = 84
>_ > > > > >



Example 6-1. 'Serra' theme, mm. 1-4.

In the program notes for his Second Symphony, Willson wrote that this first Lento-Allegro

movement was a musical effort to "convey the strength of this steadfast soul [Serra], who so

completely conquered physical hardships, ignorance and pagan superstition against

overwhelming odds."260 This is achieved through the declamatory nature of the 'Serra' theme;

the ascending accented progression provides the listener with a musical impression of strength

and mounting anticipation.



257 James A. Sandos, "Junipero Serra's Canonization and the Historical Record," American
Historical Review 93, (1988), 1253-1269.
258 Bruno David Usher, Program notes, premier performances, April 4t and 5', 1940, 158.
259Helen Hunt Jackson, Glimpses of California and the Missions, (Boston, Little, Brown, & Company, 1902), 4.
260 Bruno David Usher, Program notes, premier performances, April 4t and 5', 1940, 158.









A brief seven measures into the movement, the 'Serra' theme is interrupted by an Allegro

motif, Theme 2, about which Willson wrote "in its development is at once Spanish, yet pagan in

character."261



Violin I 1 7















dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth note, then followed by eighth-note triplets. As Theme

2 reappears throughout the movement, the musical elements are found in many variants, each of
V io lin II M I 1 ","^ 1 ] [


Example 6-2. Theme 2, which Willson calls both 'Spanish' and 'Pagan', mm. 7-11.

Theme 2 is not easily defined, as it lacks notable melodic elements and is presented more

as a rhythmic, than melodic motif. This rhythmic focus may represent a compositional

illumination ofWillson's definition of 'pagan.' The outstanding characteristic of Theme 2 is a

dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth note, then followed by eighth-note triplets. As Theme

2 rpeppears throughout the movement, the musical elements are found in many variants, each of

which is usually repeated several times.

A mere seventeen measures into the first movement the 'Serra' theme is restated. This

quick statements of themes, Theme 1 in measure 1, Theme 2 in measure 7, Theme 1 again in

measure 17, is continued throughout the symphony and indicative of rapidity of change, a

distinctive feature of the work. Transitions come quickly, sometimes with a frequency of every

two measures. It is possible that Willson meant this to be a musical representation of Father

Junipero Serra encountering and subjugating the natives, whom the composer sometimes referred

to as 'the pagans.' The themes might serve as a musical dialogue between the old world and the

new, one vibrant and pagan, the other emphatic and ascending.



261 Ibid.











The theme reappears in measure 23, this time the first of many variants, so it is designated

Theme 2. As previously indicated, Theme 2 is largely characterized by triplets. While Theme 2

seems altered from its first appearance, it contains many of the elements of its first statement and

does not have enough dissimilarity to be considered a different theme. This presentation is in the

piano and first violins:


Allegro a= 100
3 -3- 3 3 3 3 3 3


Piano


3 '- 3 3 3 3 3 3
3
Example 6-3. Triplet-dominated theme 2, mm. 23-26

With no transition whatsoever, the Theme 1 is stated immediately upon the conclusion of

Theme 2. This statement is particularly intriguing aurally due to its statement by a solo oboe

part, and is accompanied by a trombone solo played entirely on a single tone:

Lento J 120
A C ,


Tr


Oboe



ombone


P I
(Poco ad libitum)

3 3 3 3 3 3'> ;~m g^ '"^^


3 3 3 3 3 3
mf
Example 6-4. Solo oboe presentation of Theme 1 derivative and solo trombone with rhythmically
driving triplet pattern, mm. 27-31.

The trombone solo is driving and rhythmic, heavy with triplets, and reminiscent of Theme

2. In the only commercial recording made of the Second Symphony, the program notes suggest

that Willson considered this sort of rhythmic passage to be reminiscent of Latin chant one

assumes Gregorian.262 These solos seem to exemplify Willson's programmatic intent for the



262 Ibid.









Junipero Serra movement. The 'Serra' theme soars and rises elegantly above the 'pagan' theme

- the former characterized by smooth, rising melodic elements; the latter by driving rhythmic

figures. The key is a firm B minor, outlined in the 'Serra' theme and emphasized by the second

theme presented at the fifth. Willson has the 'Serra' theme musically dominate the Pagan theme,

almost certainly a deliberate musical direction. Perhaps his intent was to musically emulate

Father Serra leading the Spanish missionaries in subduing the native population. It is also

notable that only twenty-seven measures into the work Willson has completed the statements of

his two main themes and even combined them.

The rapidity of change continues when, rather suddenly, the symphony takes a turn

towards tonal ambiguity. Measure 32 marks the presentation of a clarinet cadenza. Instead of

the traditional 6/4 cadenza presentation on the root chord, Willson's approach is a German 6/5 in

B minor, including a pedal tone on 5, sustained in the string section.

32 (clarinet cadenza)



Example 6-5. Clarinet cadenza at measure 32.

From measure 32, a series of simple key changes takes place. Essentially, Willson uses

these rapid modulations as a developmental device. The modus is a statement of a theme, then it

is varied, a quick key change, exact statement of themes in the new key, then a rapid move to yet

another new key. In the allegro at measure 33, for example, Theme 2 is stated in F-sharp minor

by clarinets, bassoon, horns, violins, and violas, while a variant of the 'Serra' theme is played by

flutes and oboes. In measure 36 there is a sudden lento and Theme 1 is also stated in F-sharp

minor, this time similar to that found in measure 27, with the 'Serra' theme played by solo flute

and oboe, and with rhythmic elements in the trombone, so that both themes sound together:










Lento = 120
4r
Flute
dolce
3 3 3 3 3 3
Trombone
sonore
Loco ad lib.

Example 6-6. Lento Theme 1 derivative flute and oboe solos in F-sharp minor, with rhythmic
passage as a trombone solo, mm. 36-40.

Measure 40 marks a second cadenza, this one played by Willson's own instrument, the

flute (Example 6-7). It is notable that this cadenza occurs only eight measures after the clarinet

cadenza, for there is scarcely time to develop any musical materials in eight measures. It is

stylistically unusual in symphonic writing to find two cadenzas so close to one another, in this

case separated by only eight measures. This is yet another example of Willson's rapidity of

musical development and change. The flute cadenza uses the same tonal approach as in the

previous, clarinet cadenza, a German 6th chord with a pedal tone on the fifth of the chord, this

time in F-sharp minor:


40 (lutehtenz-)--- --------- -------------
(Flute Cadenz-a)- >> Loco

F 3 I 3 I I 3 Li ---






Example 6-7. Measure 40, flute cadenza.

The two cadenzas are strikingly similar; the principal difference is the presentation of the

flute solo up an interval of a fifth from the clarinet cadenza. The flute cadenza is also slightly

longer than the preceding oboe cadenza. In the measure following the cadenza, measure 41, the

work jumps to an indeterminate sharp key, most likely C-sharp minor, which includes a short










and quick, two measure statement of Theme 2, markedfurioso (Example 6-8).

Furioso 3 3

Piano



Example 6-8. Furioso Theme 2 in clarinets, bassoons, horns, tympani, and strings, mm. 41-43.

Here Willson is employing the use of Phrygian modes. At the time he composed his

Second Symphony this was a cliched, though stylistically inaccurate, approach used to make a

piece sound Spanish and/or exotic to a listener. The Phrygian application was primarily used in

popular music and show tunes, and Willson's familiarity with the world of popular music

suggests he borrowed this approach from the world. In 1932, only eight years before Willson

premiered his Second Symphony, George Gershwin also used Phrygian modes to create an exotic

or Spanish sound in his Cuban Overture, a work Willson almost certainly knew.

At measure 44, Willson introduces material which serves as Theme 3. This is not a

melodic theme, but rather rhythmic and tonal material which serves to direct the listener's ear

away from the two main themes, thus providing them with stronger emphasis when they are

reintroduced. Theme 3 is defined by its triplet patterns:

Tornado in tempo -
Horn in F


Violin


SL3 3J -




-- --- -0-, 3, 3 -.'


Viola I1 I


Example 6-9. Triplet pattern which loosely represents Theme 3, mm. 44-49.

Throughout the movement Theme 3 derivatives are found in slow sections, generally

before a significant statement of the Theme 1 or Theme 2. On page eighteen, at measure 64,










Willson presents a massive pedal point. This is a huge fifth chord, with no stirring of the tonal

pot. The fifth of G major, this massive statement creates a smooth transition to the development

section by way of a shift to the key of E minor in measure 68. Measure 72 marks the first real

departure from conservative composition, as Willson writes an E flat in the bass lines, while

staying firmly in A minor in the treble. This approach suggests bitonality or, since the passage is

not truly bitonal, what may be termed 'shades' of bitonality. This is a clear indication of the

influence of the so-called 'German school' of composition, and such devices can be found in the

works of Wagner and Strauss.

Immediately following the pedal point section, there is a sudden change to an allegro non

troppo marking at measure 68, and a move to cut time; this is the beginning of the development

section. The development section is marked by chromaticism, as well as by rapidly changing

keys:




Flute P


Violin I


7> >




m


Violin 11 Cw-4 :

Example 6-10. Beginning of chromatic motion, mm. 73-74.

Both Themes I and II are stated in E minor at measure 70. Measure 72 presents a variant

of Theme 1, first in A minor, then E-flat major. Measure 73 features downward chromatic runs

in the flute, piccolo, and violin parts, the beginning of several measures of chromatic material:

Several pages of key shifts and chromatic statements of the two main themes follow this

chromatic run, and it is chromatic movement which characterizes this section. Measure 77 is in









F-sharp minor, and measure 78 in B minor. Here Themes I and II are stated in their original

forms. Several pages of filler material follow, and measure 96 begins transitional material

towards a restatement of both themes at measure 100. The theme goes immediately to another

key, for only two bars later, in measure 102; there is a dominant prolongation in A. Measure 106

shifts to A major via chromatic materials and these continue in the subsequent transitional

section through measure 112. At this point a variant of Theme 1 appears in B minor, an

excellent example of the way in which Willson uses the same theme in various keys.

Pages thirty-three through thirty-six are representative of Willson's developmental

approach. Here he uses the one theme, stating it in various keys and interspersing the second

theme after every two presentations of the first. Here, too, is a hint of the modem era in the way

in which the overall form falls in this section, into an AAB(A) presentation. This is a standard

blues and jazz approach, one with which Willson was certainly familiar, given his record of

writing successful popular songs which utilized jazz elements. Shades ofbitonality also continue

to appear, with both B and G-sharp major appearing in measures 137 through 144. The tonal

center is unclear, leaning somewhat more towards C sharp. Yet another variant of Theme 1 is

stated in measure 148 by a solo English horn, and this statement resolves the key into D-flat

minor. While related to F-flat major, the key signature is two sharps:

quasi ad libitum J 120
S solo 3 3
English Horn
p sonore

Example 6-11. Solo English horn stating a rhythmic variant of Theme 1, mm. 148-150.

The tonality quickly shifts to D-flat major in measure 151. The tempo moves from

Andante quasi ad libitum in measure 148 to an allegro, this time with a note in parenthesis which

instructs, "gaily." Here, Theme 2 is stated by the in D major by the violins (Example 6-12).










Allegro (gaily)
3 3 3
3 3
Violin I

f espr


Violin 11
D. f 4 .1 1 I H1

espr.
Example 6-12. 'Gaily' played B theme, mm. 151-155.

This rapid passing of the theme among different instruments, and through various keys, is

the mark of musical development, Willson style. Another tempo and key shift occur at measure

168, in this instance to apiano dynamic, cut time tempo marked meno, and Theme 2 in the

violins moves to an indeterminate sharp key, perhaps F-sharp major, perhaps C-sharp major:

3
Violin 1 o1pO b d
3 3 I I
3 3 3 3


3 3 3
Example 6-13. Theme sequences, mm. 168-174.




example which illustrates Willson's quick changes:

3 3 3

Violin


Example 6-14. Modulated Theme 2, mm. 170-171.

These restatements of Theme 2 culminate in measure 176, page 41, in a full declamatory

statement of Theme 2 in all the string instruments. The violins double the melody at octaves,

giving it added volume, while the basic chord structure is outlined by accented longer notes in

the lower strings. This tutti statement is in F- sharp major, again a transposition of a third from

the previous statement:















Violin I





Violin IT





Viola





Cello


Vln t





Vln II





Via





Vc.


3


3 3 3


Example 6-15. Theme 2 in F-sharp major, mm. 176-179.


At this point Theme 2 has been presented and modulated multiple times as a manner of


developing it. The presentation and development of Theme 2 is briefly interrupted in measure


180 with the reappearance of the material which loosely serves as a Theme 3.



S3 3 3 3


Violin





Viola


Example 6-16. Reappearance of Theme 3 materials, mm. 180-182.



207


3 3




( 3 3 3 3


42 ;

eF


4 W .


3 33


I -
3

gA 3 3



~ rI,


3 3 3 3

Iii iM


,3


I


SA 1u









These repeated triplet patterns which indicate the Theme 3 materials continue through the

next several pages, and correspond with an episode of tonal ambiguity. In measure 184 a Meno

in 6/8 appears in two keys, C-sharp major and D-sharp minor; another presentation of bitonality.

By measure 188 the key shifts to what might be considered G-sharp minor, but is more

accurately a section of tonal ambiguity. To achieve these effects, Willson uses pedal points

which begin in one key and extend into another key in order to establish the new tonality. The

overall effect is to aurally destabilize the tonality of the original key, while establishing the key

towards which he is moving. This phenomenon continues through measure 192, where a second

short clarinet cadenza lands the piece in a solid A major for a single measure.



Clarinet in B,


Example 6-17. Measure 192, second clarinet cadenza.

This single measure chord on page forty-four is the apex of the movement. It is the high

point, both in pitch and volume. In the very next measure there is a flute cadenza, the second of

the movement, which sounds virtually identical to its first incarnation. Its close placement to the

clarinet cadenza suggests a certain franticness of musical devices, almost an arc form; the high

point of the movement bordered by cadenzas. The only substantial difference between the

second flute cadenza and the first, in measure forty, is the lack of triplet notations for the figures

of three sixteenth notes. One wonders if this was just an oversight and the figures were intended

to be triplets, but at the tempo the cadenza would be played there would be virtually no

discernible difference to the listener. Willson, as an exceptionally fine flute player, may have

had a particular leaning towards providing virtuosic cadenzas for the woodwind players who










would perform his symphony. It is notable that there are no brass cadenzas in either of his two

symphonies.


--------------------_----*~ ^------ ------------------____
FF
do ,



Pi 1, J -----^^--- --- ^
Example 6-18. Second flute cadenza, measure 194.

From this point, the pace of key changes slows down, and the movement rests for a while

in C-sharp minor. In this key Theme 2 is stated in a cut time allegro in measurel95, and the

Theme 1 in a 2/2 lento in measure 197. Theme 1 is drawn out through measure 204 where the

piece begins apoco accelerando using Theme 3 material. In measure 209 the movement shifts

back to F-sharp major. The use of the major key seems to herald the conclusion of the

movement, and also begins a series of several false recapitulations. Measure 214 begins a

surprisingly short retransition, which abruptly shifts to a full recapitulation in measure 220. Here

Theme 1 is stated in E major. The only item of significance is Willson's treatment of the

accompaniment as the strings begin a series of leaps using the triplet motif.

From the recapitulation, the piece drives towards its conclusion. In measure 232 there is

a restatement of a Deliberamente Theme 1 derivation in E minor, and a cresc. Poco a Poco

marking which begins a final series of crescendi. The original Theme 2 is restated in B major,

the fifth of E, in measure 136. Here, too, the piece shifts to cut time and moves to an allegro

tempo. To fully make his point, the composer has indicated a triple fortissimo in the brass and

woodwinds. The strings re-enter in a three measure lento passage in measure 238, and the piece

moves largely and broadly towards a 4/4 allegro in measure 241. On page 56 the first movement

ends with an E minor coda in 6/4 time. The harmonic treatment and the length, only four









measures, define this as more of a Codetta. Interestingly, Willson ends this movement with a

final representation of show music, as the codetta sounds like a musical tag. In an amazing feat

of compositional directness, Willson has written the entire first movement of his Second

Symphony in only fifty-five pages. Even given the large size of the score, the completion of a

symphonic movement in 300 measures is an indication of the composer's compositional brevity.

Part Two: San Juan Bautista

The second movement, an Andante Willson titled 'San Juan Bautista,' which translates as

'Saint John the Baptist', begins on page fifty-eight of the score. For this movement Willson used

as inspiration the San Juan Bautista mission. While Willson apparently never gave a reason for

including this particular mission, a brief study of its history reveals one possible reason for the

addition of this mission, for at one time it was known as the 'Mission of Music'. The program

notes from the symphony's premier provide a romantic history of the Mission and its region:

A most beautiful and fertile valley surrounds this peaceful mission, where
hung the sweetest-toned bells in all California. They were cast in Peru by an
old master skilled in the art of music, who had so contrived the relation and
intermingling of tones that they resulted in composing a chime of
incomparable sweetness. Subsequently some of the bells were recast, but the
secret of the relations of metals, temper tones was lost and this charm was
broken. The bells have disappeared and the ruins only remain.263

The actual mission records wax less lyrically, recording only that one Father Rubio

became pastor in 1865 and built a bell tower, and that the bell tower was remodeled in 1923.264

The mission was established in 1797 by Father Fermin de Lasuen, president of the California

missions and successor to Junipero Serra, who was the inspiration for the first movement of

Willson's Second Symphony. Sometime in the nineteenth century, Padre Esteban Tapis,

President of the Missions, retired to San Juan Bautista and applied his musical talents to the

263 Usher, Bruno David, Program notes, premier performances, April 4th and 5h, 1940, 157.
264 The bell tower was removed in 1949 and a new one built in 1976, though these events occurred subsequent to
Willson's composition.









establishment. Two of his handwritten choir books survive in the current mission's museum,265

and it is from Tapis's tenure that the mission gained it musical moniker. The legend of the

Peruvian bell maker appears to be just that, especially when taking into consideration the late

date of the Mission's founding.266

Overall, 'San Juan Bautista' comes across as the best movement of the symphony. This

second movement of the Missions Symphony begins in A-flat major and features four identifiable

themes. In true Willson fashion, there is little by way of introduction. The first theme is stated in

the opening measure by the woodwinds, though it actually serves as Theme 2 in analysis.

Willson provided an outline of the theme in his autobiographical And There IStoodii ith My

Piccolo:267
SFIN

Example 6-19. The lyric theme of 'San Juan Bautista' as outlined by Willson in his
autobiographical, And There I Stood ii i/t My Piccolo.268

In its first presentation in the symphony itself, however, the theme is more involved. It is

introduced by oboe, clarinet, and French horn, and further outlined by flute and bassoon. It is

notable that Willson refers to this as the main theme while functionally utilizing it as a secondary

theme, thus its designation as Theme 2 in this analysis. The theme is characterized by its slow,

ascending half notes and its expressive dynamic and lyric qualities. Willson establishes this as a

lyric theme from its onset, marking it espressivo and including dynamic markings for crescendo

and diminuendo, as well as writing a crescendo poco apoco in the musical notes (Example 6-

20).


265 Old Mission San Juan Bautista, http://www.oldmissionsjb.org, accessed June 29th, 2007.
266 The Mission maintains its own website, including a general history of the Mission and further information about
its contemporary accessibility: http://www.californiamissions.com/cahistory/sjbautista.html, accessed August 2n,
2006.
267 Willson, There I Stood..., 171.
268 Ibid.










60 crcsc. poco a Poco

Flute r, Ir- I I i K \


I _
mf espr


-A-D-

mf cspr.










cresc. Poco a Poco
I I J I -I J I I I ,


Oboe




Clarinet in B,




Bassoon




Horn in F


mf cspr.

Example 6-20. First theme of San Juan Bautista, which serves as Theme 2, mm. 1-8.

At measure 15 a second theme is stated by the first horn, this one a direct quote from

Beethoven's ninth symphony. The meaning of this 'Ode to Joy' snippet is unclear. Perhaps

Willson meant to imply the idea of universal brotherhood, tying the idea of peace to the Mission

founders, or perhaps as a composer he simply wanted to provide a melodic fragment which

would catch the ears of the listeners. In his First Symphony there is a hint of homage to

Beethoven; perhaps this 'Ode to Joy' quote is meant to represent a more overt tribute. Two

measures later, as part of the same musical figure, the second horn plays a triplet figure. This

triplet figure derives from, and is a reference to the Theme 1 of the first movement. These are

hints of ideas from the first movement, ideas Willson referred to as both 'Gregorian' and

'pagan'. They are definitely meant to convey the programmatic content of the first movement.

Since the California missions and their founders are the subject of the symphony, these triplet

figures serve as a unifying motive among movements (Example 6-21).


If I7- < p 1 I 1 1 II II
I' M I V %- Ii I I i I L I I I q 1 1 1 R I












Horn in F I




Horn in F 2


3 3 3 3

Ai
L Mf ,f ..


HnI 3




Hn. 2 -


Example 6-21. Beethoven quote and musical reference to first movement in the French horns,
mm. 15-22.

It is in measure 21 that the movement begins to move forward. Here the work quickens


with a Piu mosso in triple meter, and modulates to A-flat minor. Two themes are presented


simultaneously, one in the clarinets and the other in the violins (Example 6-22).

Piu mosso J- 72
A i


.Z M I




Si j i I n I I 6 ^ _


Example 6-22. Page 61, mm. 21-24, horn and violin themes. Jump of the 4th is the most
identifiable feature.

The clarinet theme is vague and presents less as a stated theme than a passing one,


perhaps not truly a theme which will be restated. The violin theme is the more declamatory


theme in the passage, reappears frequently throughout the work, and is thus called Theme 1. The


Clarinet in B, 1




Clarinet in B, 2




Violin I




Violin 2










thematic materials in these measures are musically ambiguous; the only remarkable aspect of

these themes is their lack of strikingly identifiable features. The most prominent feature is the

jump of a fourth in the violins.

Throughout the movement, however, the violin theme, Theme 1, develops little. It is

hinted at through a series of sixteenth notes in the strings, and is restated in a variant form in

measure 36. In Example 6-23 Theme 1 is presented as a solo by Willson's preferred instrument,

the flute, along with a solo oboe.


Solo espr r
Flute I __ X______


Oboe






Fl,


S Solo cspr.




8va ---------------------------------------

-ii ] tFc
g' :3


I I I I I i I


(JI 3

Example 6-23. Flute and oboe presentation of Theme 1 variant, page 63, mm. 36-44.

On page sixty-five, measure 45, Willson makes a retransition to the introductory materials

with an a tempo, a single measure in 4/4, followed by a return to 3/4 in the following measure.

Here Willson uses a modern technique as he writes the wind parts in F minor, with a five

measure chromatic transition to E-flat major, and the string parts in the key of A major.

Despite the two keys, there is not quite enough harmonic progression to establish bi-

tonality. Rather, this section is a musical diversion, the intent of which is probably to surprise

the listener. For the next sixteen or so measures Willson uses pedal tones in E-flat major, in a


Ob.


6










passage which presents almost as extended bell-like harmonies. In measure 66 he restates

Theme 2 first heard in the introduction, this time in an augmented fashion (Example 6-24).

con sord dolce
Violin r- i Z


Viola



Cello


Example 6-24. Page 68, mm. 66-73, augmented muted string presentation of B theme in E- flat
maj or.

From measure 66 the work continues in an almost bitonal fashion. The winds play bell-like

chords in F minor over the strings, a presentation which makes the passage seem almost like

extended harmonies. This continues for several pages. In measure 80 Willson begins what might

be called a developmental section. Here he develops Theme 1 in C-sharp minor. This time the

theme is stated by a solo oboe (Example 6-25).

dolce
Solo ,_ ,
Oboe


Example 6-25. Theme 1 derivative as stated in the oboe, mm. 82-90.

Another developmental technique Willson uses at this point is a gradual removal of the

string mutes. The first violins remove their mutes in measure 83, the second violins in measure

87, and the cellos are given a general instruction to 'remove mutes one at a time.' As in the first

movement, much of Willson's technique is to restate themes and portions of themes in different

keys. He makes a chromatic move to D major in measure 90, and restates Theme 1 in the solo

clarinet (Example 6-25).


^ g:--^--^--^- ---^j y-^

con sord dolce



con sord. dolce











Clarinet in Bb


Example 6-25. Clarinet solo, Theme 1 derivative, mm. 90-94.

After more chromatic motion, Willson reestablishes the D major tonality in measure

ninety-seven, probably in order to make the upcoming shift more dramatic. In measure 101 there

is a sudden move to G major, and a shift to an Andantino, 6/8 time. A Theme 2 derivative is

stated in G major (Example 6-26). Again the statement is as an oboe solo, and this time it is

accompanied by bassoon and horn solos stating a secondary theme reminiscent of the cadenzas

in the first movement.

Andantino i=120

Oboe II 1Ii I I If J 1 1- -


Bassoon



Horn in F


--m
- ,\ = Ir L
,,i-- L_ _Z k.67 ,, _
4 1 Ow t t i t t i i i


i 1 It I I .. I 1
3

Example 6-26. Theme 2 derviative in G major, mm. 101-105.

Four measures later, in measure 105, there is yet another dramatic change. The meter

becomes 4/4, the dynamic levelforte, and Willson continues development of Theme 2 by

presenting it in various keys. Through a series of quick chromatic changes, the key shifts first to

G major; then to B major in measure 108; in measure 112, E minor; and in measure 114, a return

to D major, along with another triplet-based reference to the first movement. The dynamic level

gradually decreases through these changes, then, begins a gradual crescendo from measure 111.

This culminates in a quiet English horn solo in measure 114, during which the strings play a soft

descending accompaniment (Example 6-27).











english Horn



Violin I



Violin IT



Viola


mf mf
Portaniento



Po laincnto



H __I I__:



.. ,,----- P ---- --;-- i3 ,,--- ------- ----.


Cello || I i( FIII I

Example 6-27. Triplet reference to movement 1, mm. 114-118.

At measure 119, a Theme 2 derivative appears in the woodwinds in B-flat major, 6/8 time.

The same secondary theme that the bassoons and horns played in measure 101 is now heard in a

solo clarinet. Measure 123 on page 78 marks the introduction of transitional material,

Appassionato, and the use of much chromatic movement. Here, Willson has added a

handwritten note, "NOT TOO FAST." This material resolves into a variant of the Theme 1 in E-

flat major in measure 130, where another handwritten note in the score serves as a reminder to

"fix horns." Willson apparently forgot to transpose the horn parts. At measure 140, presentation

of Theme 1 is presented in an extended manner and continues for several pages.

A coda begins at measure 156 and the work returns to 4/4 time in a firm A-flat major.

There are no other score markings in this section, though of particular interest is Willson's

scrawled handwriting in the score which comments, "Drama! Not too FAST!" There is more

drama to follow, for just four measures later there is a quote from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony,

the second such quote found in this movement. The statement is again from the 'Ode to Joy'


A


3 3










melody, and one is again left to conjecture that Willson intended this as some sort of message of

peace in this programmatic work (Example 6-28).



Violin I _



Violin 11 1 1 _

Example 6-28. Second quote from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, mm. 160-163.

Two measures later, at measure 162, there is another quote from the first movement, this

time by a bassoon and accompanied by quiet extended chords in the strings (Example 6-29). It is

relevant that Willson frequently chooses a double reed instrument to play the triplet figures from

the first movement. The triplet figure is the one he referred to as "pagan", and it seems likely

that the double reed sounds are meant to be an instrumental suggestion of the pagan character.

The final chord is sustained over several measures and brings the movement to a quiet

conclusion in measure 171.

Lento = 120

Bassoon
S 3 3 3 3 3-
mf
Example 6-29. Thematic reference to movement one, mm. 162-168.

Part Three: Scherzo, San Juan Capistrano

This third movement begins on the eighty-seventh page of the score and its subject is the

San Juan Capistrano mission. The musical ideas center around the well-known occurrence of the

yearly return of swallows to the San Capistrano mission, and this movement of the symphony

presents the greatest challenge for a traditional symphonic analysis. The Scherzo lacks melodic

contour identifiable as a true theme until measure twenty-one, and this is the first of the unusual

elements which mark the movement as the least traditional in terms of symphonic form.










The phenomenon of the San Juan Capistrano (Vivace) swallows is well
known how they arrive year after year on St. Joseph's Day (19 March) and
leave on St. John's Day (23 October). Since no one has a scientific
explanation, perhaps there is a spiritual one. The swallow theme pervades the
entire Scherzo. The trio section introduces a chant traditional at the mission,
handed down from the 18th century to Ramon Yorba, last of the Indian
chanters at Mission San Juan Capistrano. My deepest thanks to Sister M.
Agnes and Sister M. Loyola of the mission, who wrote it down for me.

After this theme is introduced by brass and woodwinds it is sung by muted
strings under the swallow theme developed in three-part canon by flute,
clarinet and oboe. The theme recurs later in the horns with the canono in
muted strings. A restatement of the 'Serra' theme leads directly into the final
269
movement.269

The third movement provides the biggest challenge in formal analysis. The musical

material, like the swallows upon which it is based, is flight-filled and transitory, seldom alighting

enough to form a true melody. Simply put, it is difficult to find something identifiable as Theme

1 in this movement. The piece begins with introductory material in A minor, 3/8 meter, vivace

tempo, and pianissimo. Two muted violins play brief runs against each other, no doubt

representing swallows in flight.


Scon srd.
Violin I 'O -


S con sord.


PP
Violin II _




Example 6-30. Initial through seventh measures of the scherzo movement.

In measure twelve a viola is added and in measure thirteen, a cello. The first true theme of

'San Juan Capistrano' begins with the entrance of a piccolo in measure 20. The presentation of





269 Bruno David Usher, Program notes, premier performances, April 4th and 5t, 1940, 158.










this theme illuminates the previous materials as fragments of the intended Theme 1 which

preceded its initial statement.



Piccolo

Example 6-31. First melodic presentation which could be defined as Theme 1, mm. 20-23.

Willson sticks with his compositional habits of quick change and moves to E minor with a

series of woodwinds passing the melody, beginning with an oboe solo in measure 25. This is

picked up by the first clarinet in measure 27:


solo
Oboe

solo

Clarinet in B


Example 6-32. Oboe and clarinet solos, mm. 25-29.

The solo is immediately picked up by the first flute in measure 29. This is a smooth

hand-off of the theme between woodwind instruments, from oboe to clarinet to, finally to

Willson's favored instrument, the flute:




Flute p


Example 6-32. Flute solo, mm. 29-22.

In measure 33 the scherzo shifts to C minor and the melody continues to be passed around

by the flute, oboe, and English horn. This presentation focuses on the upwards movement of the

melody. Interestingly, while the melody moves upwards in direction, it is passed from higher to

lower instruments:











Flute



Oboe



English Horn


C-^7


Fl.



Ob.



E. Hn.


Example 6-33. Theme 1 passed among woodwinds, mm. 35-42.

This also marks a musical retransition, and the original Theme 1 in A minor, as stated by

the piccolo in measure 20, is re-presented in slightly varied form by the violins.



Violin

mf p

Example 6-34. Violin retransition, Theme 1, mm. 43-47.

From here the low strings begin a dominant prolongation in measure 47 as they pass

chromatically ascending materials from lowest to highest. This peaks in measure 54 with a short

flute statement, and then begins to descend in measure 55. This ends in measure 60 with the

introduction of a new section.


A 3 I





Air 3-


cr V r
o a r-'^ '"^ ~~F' ~ > -


, A b* -k.k


tla f F ^ ^ ^ tr f -









Measure 59, on page ninety-two, sees the introduction of a Theme 2. This theme is stated

in the bass clarinet and bassoons, and characterized by jumps, then steps.270 Because of its

chordal nature, Theme 2 could be defined as 'hymn like'.


Clarinet in B I I I ,


Bass Clarinet



Bassoon


Sr I i '
Example 6-35. Initial presentation of Theme 2 in low woodwinds, mm. 59-64.

Also at measure 59, Theme 1 materials are stated by the violas and violins. Here begins a

series of minor key changes, a 5th progression. From A major in measure 59, the piece moves to

G minor in measure 64, and F minor in measure 72. Theme 2 is stated in measure 85, this time

in E major, and by measure 86 the piece is in the five of A major. It does not resolve in A major,

but the theme is presented in B major, though there is never truly a root chord. In measure 95

Theme 2 is restated in A major, a motivic shift. With its chordal implications and lack of

traditional resolutions, this presentation is Wagnerian. What Willson leaves out in tonal clarity

he makes up for in form, for the end of section A is clearly marked by a first ending and repeat

sign at measure 101. The repetition is a literal repeat, the second ending providing only a single

brass pick-up note to differentiate it from the first ending. Here Willson has drawn eyeglasses

into the score, standard notational shorthand for 'watch out!' and written in large letters

"BRASS!" This is surely a conductors' note to remind himself to cue the brasses in the second

ending, as they do not play in this piece until measure 105.

270 In the only known recording of this symphony, the bass clarinets are too loud in this section and overwhelm the
chordal nature of this theme.


r~ r r~




rr ~rrr ~r ~









At measure 105 the work shifts to 4/4 time and one also discovers that Willson's

imitation of Wagner is deliberate. Here he jotted another handwritten note, "Small Wagner!"

Indeed, measure 105 presents a chorale which could definitely be called 'Wagneresque'.


Bassoon fI ,


Bassoon 2



Horn in F



Trumpet in Bb



Trombone


1 J FF r r a Ar
If I I I^ ^_ I i


Tuba p i

Example 6-36. Brief chorale in the style of Wagner, p. 96, mm. 105-108.

At the end of the Wagnerian presentation, the scherzo makes a sudden transition back to

Theme 1, and introduces Theme 3 in the strings. This is thematic material Willson obtained

directly from his programmatic source, the San Juan Capistrano mission.

...I went to visit San Capistrano, because this scherzo was to be about the
Capistrano Mission. I asked two very sweet sisters at the mission if there was
any characteristic music that had been handed down from the eighteenth-
century days of Father Junipero Serra, the founder of the missions, a great,
great man whose life should be taught in all the public schools. They said
there was one typical chant handed down from those times, and they gave it to
me. In fact, Sister Agnes wrote it out right then.271




271 Willson, There I Stood..., 171.











SI i .. I- r I i P r
rI I I I I I I I
IMII I I



C I '' i I

Example 6-37. The 'chant' which Willson obtained from the nuns and included in And There I
Stood i iih my Piccolo. 272

As Theme 3 in D major, the melody provided by the nuns appears somewhat differently in

the San Juan Capistrano movement. It is played in the string section while Theme 1 is once

again passed among the woodwinds.

2
Violin

cantabile
S2 2 2 2



23 2 2
I I II I I I III



Example 6-38. Application of the San Juan Capistrano melody as Theme 3, mm. 113-145.

The two themes are presented together until measure 149. At that point there is a

retransition which moves to the introductory materials. The retransition begins in D minor, then,

in measure 153, moves to A minor and, finally transitions into the coda in measure 165. In

measure 164 is a Del Signo which takes the work back to measure 21, where Theme 1 was first

stated. The coda, measure 165, is significant for an alto flute solo which uses materials

reminiscent of Theme 1.


272 Ibid.


224












Alto Flute

x __ __ _lJl II I I I



Example 6-39. Alto flute solo, mm. 167-174.

In measure 175, Theme 2 returns in A major, along with variants of the Theme 2 and 3

derivatives. The themes sound together for several pages. At measure 211, Theme 1 returns in a

flute solo in A minor, the first two measures of which are played by the first violin. As in the

introduction, single measure solo snippets of the melody are then passed among the woodwinds

in an ascending order from measure 215 first the bassoons, then clarinets, then oboes, and,

finally, flutes. The violins play portions of Theme 1 throughout this section. The scherzo

concludes with a codetta in A minor, and a surprising statement in the bass, Theme 1 from

movement one.

sonore 2
Solo Bass
-I I I I I I I I I I PI I *i If- IF I If-

Example 6-40. Chorale, mm. 215-226, Theme 1 and transition back to the beginning.

The final measure of the scherzo holds three handwritten diagonal slashes and a simple

conducting note Willson penned to remind him to conduct the measure 'in 3.' The fourth

movement begins on the same page. Overall, this movement presents more like a classic scherzo

with more literal repeats. There is a more literal 2-5 circle of fifths progression, not diatonic.

This derives from what, in the era, was called jazz. It was not true jazz, but a popular application

found in music of the time, meant to evoke a jazz-like feeling.









Part Four: El Camino Real


'El Camino Real,' or 'The King's Highway,' is the name of a series of roads, running

along the California coast, which linked together twenty-one Spanish missions. Two of these

were the San Juan Bautista Mission and the San Capistrano Mission, upon which the second and

third movements of this symphony were based. Beginning in the late nineteenth century a series

of around 150 bells were erected at various sites alongside the road as markers commemorating

the road's historic past.273

It is notable as the site of some of the first cultivated orange groves in the New World.

"The trails made by the padres leading from mission to mission one day's journey apart were

linked together to form El Camino Real (Allegro, a la Marcia), the Royal Road, now one of the

great highways of California. The marching rhythm that ops this movement is a memory of the

patient tread of those tireless Franciscan Crusaders who were bringing civilization, courage and

Christianity to California for the first time. This theme is a variation of the chant introduced in

the Scherzo. The second subject is of the Mission bells. A fugue for brass follows in which the

'Serra' theme is again heard. After a brief recapitulation, the 'Serra' theme once more

transcends the other subjects to lead into the closing moments in which all themes are heard

together (Naxos)

This movement "pictures the broad and sweeping valley around the mission, where hung

the sweetest-toned bells in all California. Here the Gregorian influence is felt and in the

religious motif which pervades this portion, the rhythm of a Latin chant is heard."274 It is likely

that Willson intended the lower of these lines to represent what he termed 'Gregorian':


273 California Highways, Trips and Trails, 'El Camino Real', lhp "\ \ .cahighways.org/elcamino.html, accessed
December 12h, 2007.
274 'Meredith Willson's Work on Sunday KGLO Concert,' Mason City Globe Gazette, August 9t, 1941.












A









5






,i i i Ii i i i r



Example 6-41. Willson's melody set with the Capistrano melody.275

The fourth movement begins with low-pitched beat-oriented pattern in E major. These


musical materials, Example 6-41, are reminiscent of the "I pini della Via Appia" movement of


Ottorini Resphigi's Pines ofRome. Willson is almost certainly providing listeners with the


musical image of travelers walking on a road.


"El Camino Real"
Alla Marcia


Timpani







Piano


pppp


< iEE

6v 1)~


Example 6-42. 'Traveling'


pattern, mm. 1-4.


275 Willson, There I Stood..., 156.









The steady beat played by the tympani is doubled in the cellos and basses, and the syncopation

played in the right hand of the piano is doubled in the double bassoon and bass clarinet. In the

one publicly available recording of the work, the volume of the bass clarinet overshadows the

other parts. This includes the first statement of Theme 1, which occurs in the cellos in measure

five.


Violoncello












The traveling pattern continues through the first statement of Theme 1. At measure 19

the clarinets and bassoon begin Theme 1, the same measure the statement by the cello concludes.

Only two measures into their statement of the theme they sustain four measures on the note B,

while the violins play Theme 1 materials. The clarinets pick up the theme in measure 25. They

continue to play Theme 1, though every whole note is now sustained for several measures, and

every time the sustained notes are played the violins play Theme 1 materials through the

sustained pitch. This, along with a gradual increase in dynamics, builds musical momentum and

anticipation. In measure thirty the flutes enter and complete Theme 1 with the clarinets. This

build up culminates with a declamatory statement in measure 39, played in all the woodwinds

and French horns (Example 6-45).











-. 1I I


Flute


Hor in F I




Horn in F 2


SI --I I I


Example 6-45. Declamatory statement, mm. 39-44.

This material is dramatic, and a highlight of 'El Camino Real' thus far. While it would

seem likely the material would recur and, perhaps, undergo some development, this is its sole

statement in the work. Concurrent with the declamatory statement, another theme is introduced

in the cellos and basses. In its first presentation this material is virtually inaudible due to the

volume of the concurrently played declamatory materials. It might be considered part of the

other materials, a sort of supportive outline. Since it later recurs as an independent theme,

however, in this analysis this new theme will be considered as independent and, therefore, called

Theme 2:


Cello




Double Bass


44r t 4 -Elf


a l ,, I, ,, = --i --I :-l- -
.41l~ 41,.^l lE- ^ i


-I--


AI > > > > > -_










Example 6-46. Introduction of Theme 2, mm. 39-46.

The D pitch at the end of Theme 2 is sustained for several measures, establishing a pedal

point. At measure 46 is one of the compositional highlights of the piece, a true polytonal section,

in F major and C major. This is reminiscent of Stravinsky's Petroushka, which premiered in

1910. Here, too, Theme 2 is presented by solo flute, oboe, bass clarinet, and bassoon. In

measure 49 thematic materials are presented which seem to be based loosely on Theme 3. This

material, like Theme 2 which immediately precedes it, is presented by solo flute, oboe, bass

clarinet, and bassoon and sits squarely in C major (Example 6-47):


Flute


Example 6-47. Thematic material loosely based on Theme 3, mm. 49-53.

The establishment of C major continues several measures later with Theme 1 derived

materials in the string sections. Here too, at measure 54, the tympani and cello establish a pedal

point on the pitch A, the fifth of D, in anticipation of a key change to D major which will occur

in several measures:



.0."



cellos -:J a Li I I, aI







.,. _______ _____


wIf L I-- I I I I I I


Example 6-48. Pedal points, mm. 52-59.


4J


L-










The key change to D major occurs in measure 59, and it is here that one of the outstanding

features of the movement is found, an alto flute solo. The alto flute plays a fragment of Theme 2

(Example 6-49). In order to highlight the solo, all the wind instruments are at rest and the strings

sustain long pitches at apiano dynamic level. This is an example of planing, another twentieth-

century compositional technique Willson includes in this movement:


Q ..j------_!,--_.--- .-- --,_.,-.
Alto Flute F I
rtA~~: F- IJ I I I I


C


!a a a3


Example 6-49. Alto flute solo, derived from Theme 2, mm. 59-66.

The alto flute solo serves as an antecedent phrase to a clarinet solo in measure 6 and provides the

subsequent phrase, also using Theme 2 derivatives (Example 6-50).


tJ -----J.---solo ---------------------- ^ --.*













n >z -z__z--______ z __
I I I.m I ,, WI ,,


Example 6-50. Clarinet solo derived from Theme 2 materials, mm. 67-74.
Example 6-50. Clarinet solo derived from Theme 2 materials, mm. 67-74.


English Horn




Clarinet in B,




Bassoon




Horn in F




E. Hn




B C.l


f* I










The clarinet solo plays a role in establishing a bitonal section of the "El Camino Real," for

the solo is in B major and the accompanying materials in F major. This is a device, almost a

'trick', used in jazz; the tritone substitution. Willson certainly borrowed this device from his

popular works. He uses the same device only three measures later, in measure 70, as the work

sits in E major with a tritone dominant substitution. Most instruments drop out, and the work

undergoes a diminuendo from measure 70 to measure 76, and in measure 77 enters a new section

in 4/4 time. This new section is in E minor, and features a new, Theme 3:

Q t espr. -- -- .
Violin I I I E1 1I
n f crcsc.
mf f 7c




Example 6-51. Introduction of Theme 3, mm. 77-88.

In the second such presentation in 'El Camino Real,' Willson concurrently introduces a

second theme. As in measure 39, the second theme is more declamatory and identifiable, yet

does not undergo any development. This motive, meant to sound like chimes, is not thematically

strong (Example 6-52), but is aurally striking. The chime motive is stated by the horns, chimes,

piano, and harp. The syncopated entrances serve to accentuate the motive and also to provide a

resonance to the pitches:



Horn in F i T (IfS I I i I I i


Horn in F 2



Chimes


1 > > I > > >
>'



> >

.F WG


>-










Example 6-52. 'Chime' motive, mm. 79 and 80.

This section, which began in measure 77, is notable for its rapid key changes. From its

onset in the key of E minor, there is a shift to C-sharp minor only four measures later. Here the

'chime' motive is played, again in the horns, a half step below its first statement. The motive

concludes in measure 84, and a slight variant of the 'chime' motive moves to the woodwinds in

measure 85. It is outlined by half notes in the French horns and string section, yet another

example of planing. In this instance the planing is harmonically ambiguous and brief. Just two

measures later, measure 85, the key shifts to G major, another key that lasts for only two

measures. From that point there is a distinct lack of key as elements of Theme 1 undergo a

chromatic ascendancy in measure 90 (Example 6-53):


Clarinet in B' l ." $ tlI I I r l I, I II iiL


Bassoon




Violin




Viola


Poco crcsc.




SSol
Solo


Poco crcsc.
SoI


IL'- I tfZjfl!t j -

Example 6-53. Chromatic motion, mm. 90-94.

The chromatic section lands the piece in D major in measure 93, where the first violin

and first viola play a solo. This melody is hyper-expressive, reminiscent of a film score, and is

notable for its brief triplet figure, one in an upwards direction, and the other in a downwards. In

all, the theme ascends to land on a high B. This is the presentation of another new theme, Theme










4. Willson intends the dramatic nature of the theme, for he marks the passage, doce ma

espressivo (Example 6-54).


--
Solo


S dolce ma espressivo
Solo
Viola

dolce ma espressivo
Example 6-54. Expressive string solos, Theme 4, mm. 93-96.

From here the keys continue changing rapidly. At measure 97 is another section of

transitional chromaticism, the same materials used at measure 90. This appearance is in the

flutes, oboes, and English horns, beginning on a B pitch. Willson seems to use this as a device to

move from one key to another. In measure 101 the 'chime' motive and Theme 4 are stated

together, the 'chime' motive in the chimes and piano, and Theme 4 appassionato in the violins.

Continuing the pattern of rapid change 'El Camino Real' shifts to 3/4 meter in measure 106, then

back to 4/4 in measure 100. The four measures of 3/4 feature the 'chime' theme materials in a

transitional movement towards a retransition and allegro moderato which occur in measure 110.

Measure 100 is the beginning of a new section of the movement. The frequent

modulations, meter changes, and statements of Theme 5ariants in this section indicate that this is

Willson's development section. The materials here are fragments of Theme 1 in B-flat major,

and the meter shifts frequently between cut time and 4/4. A Theme 1 derivative is begun in the

French horns and trumpets in measure 114 (Example 6-55), trombones are added in measure

116, and tubas in measure 119.












Horn inF F L- | r r L




Trumpet inB, L


Example 6-55. Retransition utilizing both Themes I and II, mm. 114-116.

The Theme 1 derivative continues in measure 119, Theme 2 moves to a variant, and the

key shifts to E-flat major. The work shifts to an allegro in measure 124, with a new Theme 1

derivation in the strings. This is more development of the theme, and here Willson adds a snare

drum to help build tension. The work shifts again, to B-flat major with shades of E-flat major in

measure 127, to G-flat major in measure 129, and to E-flat major with Theme 2 fragments in

measure 131. In measure 133 the work makes a sudden shift to A-flat minor, and there are

numerous imitative entrances based on Theme 1 (Example 6-56).

... 1 ., h.r


Flute




Oboe




Clarinet in B,




Violin




Viola


~B--.------.i,-----,---. ----,-,--r-----------rp











^(? "I" *




lt e I I
Mier
iTJ _


Example 6-56. Theme 1 derivative stated in imitative entrances, mm. 133-137.









Immediately following the imitative entrances of Theme 1, the horns enter in measure 136,

playing a reference to the 'Serra' theme from the first movement (Example 6-57).

I I II 3 I 1 i 1
Horn in F

Example 6-57. Reference of the 'Serra' theme from movement one, mm. 136-143.

At this point all instruments are now playing materials derived from the two main

themes. At measure 149 the movement quiets and resolves to A-flat major with a Theme 2

entrance in the flutes, and 4 measures later, in measure 152, the entrance of Theme 2 derivatives

in the oboes. Imitative entrances continue in the woodwinds through the next few measures, and

at measure 168 the work shifts to a Molto marcato with restatement of the declamatory material

from measure 39. This is an area of build-up, and in measure 175 Theme 2 is played fortissimo

and declamatory by the trumpets while all the other instruments play a D minor chord, also

fortissimo. The work continues to crescendo to measure 181 where, still in D minor, a Theme 1

derivative appears in the bassoons and low strings. The key shifts to D major in measure 188,

and here is found the second alto flute solo, an exact repetition of the alto flute solo in measure

59. In measure 169 the clarinet makes an imitative entrance and plays another variant of Theme

2. This is another polytonal area; the clarinet Theme 2 solo is in B major, the flute solo in D

major, and the accompanying materials in F major.

In measure 194 the tonalities begin to resolve at the same time as the horns begin an

introduction. This is another area of the score where measure numbers do not match the

composition; seven measures are missing between measures markings 190 and 210. The new

section of the score could be either measure 199 or measure 204, depending on whether one is

counting forward from the previous marked measure number, or backwards from the next. The

area from measure 194 is a transition which clarifies in measure 199, as the key lands in A minor










and Theme 2 derivatives returns in solo flute and clarinet. Theme 3 also returns, in the string

section, with a note to the players to 'sing!'

In measure 210 Theme 4 returns in the flutes and clarinets, as the chime motive continues

to sound sporadically in the French horns and piano. In measure 118 the chromatic transition

previously seen in measure ninety, returns. The work lands in G major with aTheme 4 statement

in measure 222, and a Meno marking. The chromatic transition returns in an A tempo in measure

226, and moves the work to anotherMeno in E major in measure 230. This time a variant of

Theme 4 appears in the strings and 'El Camino Real' begins to both crescendo and Poco

ritardando.

This movement culminates in measure 237 with a retransition section in 12/8 time. The

score note here is 'Broad (in 12)'. Willson has handwritten his own note, 'Slow,' and sketched

out slashes which represent subdivisions as four sets of three. There is a dramatic restatement of

the 'Serra' theme from the first movement, unison in all the strings. Above the Serra theme all

the woodwinds play a rhythmically challenging fragment that may be new material, or derived

from one of the other themes; its origin is not clear (Example 6-58).

Broad (in 12)

wws
WW 4 4 -I-I'
Free bows

Strings

J \\ilh fervor

Example 6-58. Beginning of retransition, mm. 237-238.

This restransition makes a Poco accelerando towards an Allegro non troppo in cut time at

measure 241. This is the restatement of a Theme 1 derivative stated in the bassoons and low

strings. Theme 2 is also stated here, in the flutes, and the key is C-sharp minor. This is another









section of rapid key change. In only three measures F-sharp major is added, for four measures of

bitonality. In measure 249 a Theme 2 derivative appears in a single measure of F-sharp major,

and the work moves to E major by measure 250.

The final push towards conclusion begins in measure 254 with an Allegro molto also

marked stretto, in E major. The stretto note probably alerts the instrumentalists to upcoming

entrances based on Theme 1. In measure 254 the woodwinds and strings make a declamatory

Theme 1 statement, while the brasses play separated quarter notes which relate to the chime

motive (Example 6-59).

Allegro molto (stretto)
>u


Fl., picc., vln.


1 i i C ) 6

a?'
I f tf . I I ",


Brass, vc., bass [ li T I 1 ] "J

Example 6-59. Allegro molto in Theme 1 fragments, mm. 253-254.

Two measures later there is an imitative entry in the clarinets and second violins. Again

Willson rapidly changes keys. In measure 260 there is another Theme 1 derivative entry in

French horns and strings, and only one measure later a shift to Bb major and Theme 1 derivative

entries again in the French horns. The modulations reach a near frenzy; measure 261 is in G

major, measure 262 in F-sharp major, and measure 263 in E major. Each key change is

delineated by both a chordal shift and an entrance of a Theme 1 fragment.

The work reaches a slower Poco meno in measure 267. This is the first of a measure by

measure bitonal progression; in measure 267 both C and F major, in measure 268 both G and C

major, and in measure 267 both D and G major. As in the previous section the keys are

delineated by chord shifts and stretto entrances of Theme 1 fragment. In measure 270 the










entrance is in the single key of A major, and an accelerando into an A Tempo in measure 271.

The Theme 1 derivative entrances continue, and here Willson moves to chromatic planing, using

half notes in the brasses, English horn, and clarinet.

In measure 277 the work gets larger and broader with a Poco Largo note, continued

stretto entrances of Theme 1 fragment, and a final reference to the first movement. This

reference, the 'Serra' theme, is stated in the trombones and tubas (Example 6-60).

Poco Largo > > > >
Trombone : 'I III (| |

0-
7> > > >" >
Tuba < <
_> >

Example 6-60. Final reference to first movement theme, mm. 277-282.

Willson begins a coda in measure 283 with a compositional move to augmented note

values, all half and whole notes, and the conducting note Slower (in 4). Given his established

preference for short forms it is not surprising that 'El Camino Real' ends only nine measures

later. The section, then is more accurately a codetta, and stays firmly in E major until the end of

the piece. There is no new material here, only large chords and descending half and quarter

notes in the chimes, piano and harp. The piece ends with a single showy 'bump', whole notes

followed by an accented downbeat quarter note played by the entire orchestra, a grand E major

chord.

General Analytical Summary

Several general conclusions can be drawn about Willson's compositional style in this

work, The Missions of California. The first issue is whether or not the work is truly a symphony.

Willson calls it such, but it lacks the true sonata form generally found in classical symphonic

writing. The overall structure, though, is loosely based on sonata form. The work is large









enough, and follows traditional symphonic form closely enough that it can rightly be called a

symphony. Throughout the work Willson shows a preference for small forms which he then

combines or stacks, a binary plus binary approach. Overall the work is presented as a form of

verse, chorus, verse, chorus, etc..., plus bridges, an almost song-like pure binary form

(ABABAB). This binary song-like approach is significant when taken in consideration with

Willson's long and successful career as a songwriter, for it suggests his basic compositional

style, especially structural form, was established long before he composed his First Symphony.

Aurally, the constant re-entry of the same theme, usually Theme 1, causes the work to sound like

a rondo, though it is not.

From a perspective of tonality the symphony is unabashedly melodic and tonal, rather

remarkably so for its date. While Willson touts this as a symphony based on Spanish themes,

there is a notable lack of Spanish music or musical derivation to the symphony. Willson instead

relies on devices such as the use of Phrygian progressions, a popular compositional device which

implies, though inaccurately, a Spanish character. Even the supposedly Spanish melody Willson

obtained from the nuns shows no striking musical characteristics, but is simply a general melody.

Willson achieves tonal development almost entirely through a rapid speed of key changes,

frequently every two measures. While this approach creates a certain aural excitement for the

listener, it also results in a lack of focus on what might otherwise evolve as important and well-

developed melodies. Overall, Willson treats melodies as 'hooks', presenting them in a manner

which engages the interest of the listener, but doing little to develop melodic materials.

One of Willson's great limitations as a symphonic composer is the lack of formal

development in his work. Willson takes two common approaches to development. The first is to

state a theme, then to restate it in different keys. This simple modulation provides little alteration









to the musical materials. Willson's second developmental approach is rhythmic variation of

tonal material, frequently involving triplets. It is inaccurate to define these approaches as

developmental as pertains to the classical definition of the word, as the thematic material is not

truly developed. With this approach the melodic materials take on characteristics more rhythmic

than melodic. Still, the Missions Symphony has more depth than Willson's Symphony of San

Francisco, and is the more mature of the two works.

Also ambiguous is Willson's use of transitional material. These materials are usually

brief, sometimes thematically originating from stated themes, sometimes seemingly randomly

chosen notes and rhythms. His consistency with transitional material is in his preference for

triplet patterns; these are found throughout his two symphonies. In formal analysis it can be a

challenge to figure out Willson's thematic intent. In some instances melodic material which

initially seems to be introductory actually turns out to be a main theme. In other cases material

which is tonally ephemeral, hardly worthy of being labeled a true theme, is restated several times

to establish it as thematically important. In his scoring Willson sometimes writes confusing

enharmonic spellings which result in harmonically misspelled chords. This does not impact the

delivery of the piece, but rather suggests a certain lack of formal training.

In his orchestration Willson calls for an expanded orchestra, or extended orchestra, since

he includes saxophones. Given the sheer numbers of instruments and musicians, a casual look at

the work suggests a complexity reminiscent of the huge Germanic orchestras of the late romantic

age. There is even an alto flute part in the fourth movement. Willson's score layout is

misleading, however, for many of the instruments double parts. There is little division between

the first and second violins, for example. Another composer would have combined parts for ease

of use, notating part divisions. The percussion section appears particularly impressive, utilizing









four tympani, harp and even celeste. But while he scores for four tympani, Willson utilizes only

two at a time, and these always tuned to the tonic and dominant. While he uses some novel

devices such as planning and implied bitonality, Willson's orchestration is adequate, though not

remarkable.

Overall, The Missions of California falls short in its evolution. It is almost a partially

finished symphony, one which could easily be expanded and further developed to a more

classically symphonic conclusion. What the work lacks in profundity it attempts to make up for

in excitement. Willson gravitates towards the musically dramatic. His preference is for sudden

changes in tempo, key, or instrument, almost certainly designed to catch the ear of the listener.

On the other hand, the work is unusual for its date. It is blatantly tonal in an era when composers

were moving away from traditional forms of tonal composition. The Missions of California

Symphony does demonstrate that Willson is musically aware of many contemporary musical

devices. He uses, for example, Phrygian modes in an early twentieth-century popular application

meant to imply a Spanish musical character. He also presents certain chords in theirjazz

spellings, and uses blues forms. He also delves into bitonality and polytonality, albeit cautiously,

though is always careful not to sacrifice tonal appeal for a casual listener in order to try a new

compositional device.

The Missions of California Symphony is not one of the striking works of its era. It is not

explorative, nor does it present new musical ideas. Instead, the work is important for its homage

to older styles; a classic approach in the midst of a musical age during which many composers

deliberately moved away from their musical roots. The work is also notable for its romantically

programmatic approach. Willson hinted several times that he was intending and/or working on









further symphonies. This was probably typical Willson bluster, for no sketches or materials for

other symphonies have been found.

Reaction to Symphony

In addition to its premier performance, The Missions of California Symphony was

broadcast over KGLO on its regular Sunday concert, directed by Howard Barlow, in August of

1941. Also included in this broadcast were Les Preludes by Liszt, and an unnumbered Mozart

Symphonies in G-minor (likely number forty, as that is the better known). Its inclusion in a

program of heavily classical works suggests that this is the direction intended by the composer,

who was also a studio director and, thus, familiar with programming implications.

An incident happened just after this which illustrates the increasing divide between music

styles. Dr. Albert Coates, the distinguished British orchestra conductor who encouraged Willson

to compose his Missions of California Symphony, asked to attend a radio broadcast, and Willson

arranged for the conductor to attend the Maxwell House show in the week following the premier

of The Missions of California. Willson later joked about Coates' reaction to radio revelry,

recounting that Coates felt it to be his "...jewty (sic) to keep up with all the modem Ameddican

(sic) activities." He had heard about Willson's "wireless" work, and asked when he might attend

a broadcast. Willson excitedly invited Coates to attend the Maxwell House .\lN, i' broadcast in

the following week. According to Willson, Coates's reaction was one of quiet shock:

He stayed just long enough to see me put down the baton, walk to the
microphone with a piece of celery in each hand and an old light bulb between
my teeth, and engage in a bit of stooge dialogue with Frank Morgan, which
ended, as usual, with Mr. Morgan saying, 'Get out of my sight, you bucolic
nincompoop, you country bumpkin, you-you-you peasant!

Mr. Coates rose to his feet and quietly left the studio, and I have never laid
eyes on him since.276


276 Ibid, 165-166.









Another version of the incident includes Coates' comments on Willson's antics:

I played your 'Missions of California' symphony in concert because I considered you one
of the most promising of the young American composers, Dr. Coates told Willson
afterward.

But when I saw you doing that. that slapstick ., it was just too much. I was
horrified.

Versatile, Affable Willson... laughed.

I try to enjoy everything I do. It is fun to do comedy lines. And I don't believe this
outlet has in any manner injured my reputation in the field of music.277





































277 AP Special advanced for AMS of Sunday, Nov 22, 1942.










CHAPTER 7
SUMMARY

This study included historical, analytical, and critical examination of Willson's available

orchestral works. Since their premier performances, most of Willson's orchestral works have not

been given professional performances. This examination of his orchestral works, along with Bill

Oates' illuminating study of Willson's radio career, provides a basis for further investigation of

Willson and his music making process. Positive response to the recordings of Willson's

symphonies, issued in 1999, suggests an interest in Willson's orchestral works. The lack of

score availability, though, continues to present significant challenges to the dissemination of the

bulk of Willson's orchestral works.

Although not as extensive as his popular vocal output, Willson's orchestral works warrant

study. As outlined in Chapters 3 and 4, the 1930s and 1940s were decades of musical change in

the United States. Significant developments in radio, film, and recording, are clearly reflected in

the scope of Willson's varied musical careers and compositional output. Studies of his popular

and radio contributions have been made, and the current examination of Willson's contributions

considerably augments a growing body of literature. A comprehensive examination of these and

other works of the period would contribute to a greater understanding of Willson's popular and

orchestral music as a mirror of the increasingly diverse musical foci of the age.

Throughout his career, Willson was a central figure for the fusion of popular and classical

music, as well as being a pioneer in the important medium of radio music. He mixed styles only

slightly, unlike contemporaries Gershwin and Copland, in whose works symphonic jazz became

a significant idiom. Rather, Willson used his radio shows to expose and promote various styles,

and his fusion of styles was of popular idioms. In his orchestral compositions there is enough

variety of writing to indicate he possessed the compositional skill to fuse styles, but he made









compositional decisions to keep his symphonies largely traditional and programmatic. The

limited recordings available of other orchestral works suggests that he was somewhat bolder in

fusing jazz and popular film idioms with traditional orchestral forms in these works, but too little

exists to draw a firm conclusion.

Willson's orchestral works were mostly written at the beginning of his career, and it is

significant that none were written after his huge successes in musical theater. Though hard

figures are not available, it is known that Willson made a considerable amount of money with his

popular music. He was quite a successful songwriter during the time he wrote his symphonies

and symphonic poems, and wealthy long before The Music Man brought him millions more. A

single letter written to Dixie during their arguments over the provenance of The Music Man

indicates that Willson also held sizable investments, including filling stations, several of which

he gave to his sister in exchange for her silence; his holdings were in the tens of millions.

Willson was appreciably more financially successful than his art music contemporaries,

Gershwin, Copland, and perhaps even Bernstein.

This financial success illuminates two salient points. First, Willson did not compose

orchestral music for financial gain or necessity. Rather, his art music compositions were written

for his own self-gratification. These works were a self-challenge, one from which he likely

hoped to gain increased public acclaim. Second, though his writings were fairly well accepted

and certainly well crafted, Willson did not receive from them the glowing acclaim that he did for

his popular works. The audience of hundreds of thousands of radio listeners for his popular

works was vast, where his orchestral reached a much smaller, more critical, audience. After the

second symphony there must have seemed little reason to continue composing art music.

Willson had proved that he could write in the forms, and write well. His popular output received









more enthusiasm and was far more financially lucrative. While he had a talent for orchestral

composition, Willson almost certainly saw little reason to continue.

The distance of several decades has not helped his orchestral reputation, for The Music

Man damaged Willson's eventual reputation as a composer. Posterity remembers Willson

almost solely for this musical, with no heed paid to his significant output prior to the The Music

Man. A general statement is frequently made about Willson in reference to The Music Man, that,

"Meredith Willson had one masterpiece in him, and it will live as long as there is anything like

musical theater."278 This opinion neglects not only the orchestral works, but the dozens of top

selling songs written by Willson. In part, Willson's very talent is responsible for his current lack

of recognition, for his diversity presents a challenge in categorizing him. Instead of being

recognized as a significant talent in American music, Willson is remembered as a minor talent in

several genres of American music.

Another point of obfuscation is Willson's perceived association with marching bands.

Willson wrote only a few band works, all for specific school bands, and these were not widely

published. Rather, his frequent appearances as a guest band conductor and the wide distribution

and success of the band favorite "Seventy-Six Trombones" from The Music Man, has assured

Willson's legacy in the marching and concert band arenas. Subsequent to the success of The

Music Man Willson was increasingly asked to make guest appearances at band events, where his

roles ranged from conducting to serving as event Grand Marshall. The plot of the musical, based

around the establishment of a town band, combined with the piece Seventy-six Trombones,

frequently arranged for and played by bands, gives Meredith Willson a certain status among

band aficionados.


278 National Review, June 5, 2000, 53.









A versatile and accomplished performer first, in both popular and classical idioms, Willson

borrowed from his performance experiences when he began composing. Willson was a talented

and capable composer. His output was vast, more significant than will ever be realized, for in

addition to his recognized published compositions Willson daily arranged works for his studio

orchestras for approximately thirty years. He utilized diverse musical models, from popular song

to American dance music and classical forms. The present document has made a significant

attempt to clarify Willson's factual accomplishments.

The primary reason Willson's orchestral works are not better known or more often

performed is their lack of availability. Scores are not known to exist for several of the works,

and are found in reduced or piano transcriptions for other works, formats not accessible for

performance purposes. But the works are musically accessible to both audiences and musicians,

with few technical difficulties, and compositionally worthy of more attention.

In conclusion, Willson's orchestral works, especially the two symphonies, add an

important dimension to the repertoire of music of the United States. Though not as well known

as similar works by such contemporaries as Bernstein and Copland, they nonetheless warrant the

attention of both audiences of academics and the more general public.










APPENDIX A
JOHN WILLSON LETTERS TO ROSEMARY, DIVORCE PAPERS










Exhibit A
Feb. 5 1920
indistinctj

Rose:
For the past twentyfive [sic] years it has been plain to me, and probably to you, that we
are a mismated couple. Our view of life is so diametrically opposite [sic] that no harmony has
been, or can be possible, except by keeping away from one another. In view of the fact that we
have three children, whose future has been a claim upon us, I have stayed with you and done
the best I could to help rear them to manhood and womanhood. This being now accomplished
there is nothing now to hold us together except the bonds of a sinful union. I regret that the
children have had to listen too [sic], disagreeable and inharmonious conversations, and have
naturally acquired a querulous demeanor that will handicap them in life. I hope and believe tho
[sic] that they have, in the same time acquired some practical common sense, otherwise our
sacrifice will have been worse than in vain.
In the past you have accused me openly and insinuated that I was every thing mean and
crooked. You have misjudged and twisted in crime every act of mine, therein I sought my own
kind of companionship. You have never liked the same kind of people or entertainment that I
enjoy. Your attitude has been one of biggotry [sic] and a determined obstinacy to make me go
your way or destroy me. The children have been put up to doing things contrary to my desires.,
You have searched my pockets, stolen, destroyed or concealed property some of it belonging to
neither you or me. You have at all times refused to go with me to live any place except your
own choice. You have always refused to sign any papers, thereby humiliating me, before
business men, and injuring my standing and business ability and credit. I don't [sic] know
whether it was jealousy that caused your action or not, but this kind of treatment has caused me
to despise you and your ideas. You have always ignored my desire for personal contact and
companionship, and your every word and act grates on my nerves, until they have become raw
and unstrung and are a menace to my health and usefulness [sicj in life. Life to me in your
company has become simply a hell, and not to be endured. I have become cross and boorish,
and try as I may, I cannot be myself. I have no heart to work, as my mind is in a constant
turmoil: If I force myself, while alone, into a tranquil [sic] state of mind, one insulting word or
insinuation, or some inane remark from you, will make me ugly and miserable. No one else in
the world affects me this way. To me jou are inane and ignorant. You embody all that I
despise. You are a good woman according to your lights, and if you lived in this world, instead of
on some visionary and impractical plane, it would not be so impossible. As you are, you are to
me as a red rag to a bull, and it is nothing short of a crime for me to continue to ruin your life and
for you to ruin mine as we have been doing for th9 past years. Better a thousand times that we
go our separate ways, as you have told me so often to do, in the past when I could not leave the
children, and give each other a chance to get out of the remaining years of life whatever
happiness we can.
You are hampered by me in a thousand ways. If I were out of your way, you would be
free to pursue your own ideas of life, and no doubt would feel a great burden lifted from your
mind, even tho [sic] the [indistinct exaggerated notions, at the first glance. A quiet analysis of
the situation, will, undoubtedly, tend to confirm you in the same conclusion to which I came long
ago, that we will only have a fair chance to enjoy life when we are apart.
If we take the other hom of the dilemma, and you insist on keeping me to the marriage
vow, I would, if I remained in your company, continue to grow more disagreeable than I have
been, unsatisfied with life, unhappy, unsociable, as far as you are concerned, because as I see
the helplessness of the struggle, I naturally see less to live fore, and at the end I would probably
choose to go out of my life before my natural time, seeking oblivion rather than hell on earth. It
certainly would be no great comfort to you knowing how I feel.









I ask you therefore to let us separate as all decent and well meaning persons ought to
do, who find that they are absolutely unsuited to each other. Let us at least be kind to each other
and sensible, in this.
In my opinion, there is but one life to live, and that is the one here on earth. I am
entitled to my opinion as much as you to yours. Thinking as I do, I believe I am entitled to get at
least something out of this life, if possible. I have an honest effort to so change my nature as to
comply with the environment that I have found myself [indistinct] by our union, and I have found
that it cannot be done. To try is simply to destroy all that is good in me and all that is good in
you. The greatest crime that can be committed by two people, is to ruin their own lives and all
those who come in contact with them, by forcing themselves to live together when every instinct
of their better natures tells them that they should be apart. I further believe it is the worst kind of
adultery to cohabit with a person whom you dislike and with whom you have no friendly feeling,
even tho [sic] married to that person.
Your live has been so far, a failure to you. I know you so admit and I agree with you.
Mine has been the same. Due to our marriage and living together. Both will continue to be so
unless we do what we should do, get away from each other and give each the chance to repair
the damage that that has been done so far as possible in the years remaining, there is nothing
to be gained by the continuation of the farce. In fact I have made up my mind that I will not
continue thus. If I did I would go crazy and I don't believe I am required to go that far. I should in
time come to hate you so that I do not know what I might not do.
When you came to me you had nothing of this worlds [sic] goods. I do not propose to .
leave you in this condition. I propose to endow you with $25000.00 worth of property, which will
yield you a good substantial living, and a chance to sell and reinvest in someother place or with a
good prospect of advance here. As far as the children are concerned, they will be assisted by
me to the limit of my ability as in the past. Their status will in no wise be changed. We cannot
live their lives, we can only guide them, and will be far better able to do so if we are apart, than
in the turmoil of a disrupted home.
You will be able to pursue the course you see fit without the hampering of my ideas.
Your property will be unencumbered and you will have the chance to show how much better you
can do with the pay envelope than I can. You will have a $25000.00 start which I did not have,
and no mill stone around your mental apparatus, which I have always had. We owe, that I know
of ( I don't [sic] know your debts) about $25000.00 and I will take over that burden leaving you
clear.
My expenses in taxes, interest'and paying this $25000.00 debt will take about all of the
income of the property I keep, the same as it always has, but I can earn my living, I think and
give you yours, when I get free of the strain of the past years.
If you will agree to it, I will go to some distant point in Iowa, there take up my residence,
and procure a divorce quietly by default and without any publicity or annoyance to you, deeding
you the property proposed beforehand. If you will not agree, then I will go somewhere and try to
get it anyway, because I think that when we separate, for the rest of our lives, we should not be
subjected to embarrassment as to our future movements, There can be no restitution to
happiness and contentment if a shadow still hangs over us.
I will go away to live, and you can do as seems best to you. Please consider this kindly,
in the christian spirit that you so conscientiously profess, and with the full knowledge that it is the
only possible way to treat each other fairly and right. There can be no compromise, as I have
reached the end as far as this way of living is concerned. There has got to be a change an end
of this, and the time has come to be sensible.
It is my [indistinct] to get this matter settled at once, so that I may seek some business
which will be satisfactory and remunerative, so that I may be able to help Ced lth'ro[sicl his
education, and Meredith if he*shall need my help. I am not young and the days of labor for me
are short, and the time is ripe for new fields. I wish to get at it now. There is nothing to wait for
except to get at a fair division of property, and get what we have into such shape that it will not
be endangered by extraneous circumstances. I do not wish to have more than I can give you.
The only way I can engender a kindly feeling for you, is for you to show me this once that you









wish to have some respect for my feelings, in this matter. You are set and stubborn, biggotted
[sic], vain, and have an insatiable desire to ape after people that are in better circumstances than
we, you travel alone in your chosen sphere and I wish to get out of the way so that you may
follow those inclinations unhindered. You will not go my way, you sneer at my friends and
associates, and I want to get you out of my way so that I can, without fear of insinuation or insult,
associate with the class of people that I find to be most honest and kind hearted, and less
hypocritical than the ones to whom you wish to attach me and yourself. You have never given
an inch. In your heart you still believe your ways are superior. You are a "Reiniger." I am not
and cannot become one. When I think of the times you have humiliated me before business
men, even until your grown children have been ashamed of your actions & begged for me, I grow
to hate. It makes me rage inwardly now to think of the times without number that you have told
me to pack up and go.
I don't think it best to tell the children, as it would simply upset their work and their minds
and do no good. We are farther apart then Lucile and Ben ever were, and even you would say
they are better as they are. I will get a petition on the Jan. or Feb. term of some court and we
will get it over and start on a new life unhindered by the divorce, because I take it that you would
not do so on account of what people will say. If you will I am more than willing. I will only
include such matters in my petition as will be sufficient, and it will never be read by any one but
yourself, and your brother who can and will act as your attomey to see that your property is
secure. Please do this for me and yourself and let me go away thinking kindly of you at last.





Rose: --
Will you be kind enough to tell me what you have decided to do in the matter of a settlement of
property, and who you intend to get to represent you and when. If you have not gotten Olin yet, I will
write to him right away, as I expect to have the papers filed by a week from today, and the case will come
up in the Feb. term of court, which begins on the second of that month.
What I had in mind to deed to you as your share of the property was the home and its furniture,
the house and lot at 611 N. Monroe, the lots in the Parker Add. four in number, and the sale contract of
the corer lot, for $1500.00, which is payable at the rate of $200 per annum, with interest amounting to
$[indistinct] this year and 7% on the deferred payments thereafter, making an income of about
$[indistinct] per month from that source. Of course, I want to get this part of the matter settled before the
court sets, so that the papers can be made. Another thing is to have [indistinct] before the [indistinct] case
come up here in this court so that there will be no lien on the property. I shall be glad to talk it over with
you, if you will have your seamstress out of the way, long enough. I had enough of discussing my affairs
before her when I was trying to get those [indistinct-- mortgages?] signed. I will write Olin myself now
and see if he can come here at this time.
This property is worth $25,000 and is fully a third of what I have and has no incumbrance [sic],
which [indistinct] will be encumbered, to about that amount and the income will put the interest
[indistinct], if nothing happens. What is left when I [indistinct] to the children.












Ill TIE DISTRICT COUri:T OF TIlE STATE OF IOWA

IN AND FOR CEHiO GOHRDO COUNTY



ROSALIE R. WILLSON, PLAINTIFF,
:AMENDED AND SUBSTITUTED
VS. P PETITION IN EQU]'Y.
JOIU D. WILLSON, DIEEIIDANT.
-*-- ...



The plaintiff, for cauoo of action against the defendant.
states:

Paragraph 1
ThAt the plaintiff, ioaali.e R. Willson, was born at Charles

City, Iowa, and has been a resident of the state of Iowa nearly

all of her life; that she has resided. Continuously in thi ntate of

Iowa sinoe the year 1889, and has resided uontinuouuly li tieo city

of Mason City, Iowa, in Corro Cordo County, since May 30Lh, 1094.


ParEagraph 2
That plaintiff and defendant were married at Brighton, In the

state of Illinois, on the 28th day of August, 1009, and coattnuod

to live together as husband and wife until the 10th day of January,

1920.

Puartgr.il' 3
That this action for divorce is brgun in good faith rand for
the purposes eat forth herein; that the plaintiff'o ruuidlJd.m; in

the state of Iowa has been in good faith, aii not for tlih jIuri'uuu

of obtaining a divorce only, or the purposes of this actlon; and

that the plaintiff has at all tilos conducted horoelf LIwvrdl her

Said husband as a dutiful and lovin wife.


rarr2ph 4
That there wero burn of said marrlugo six children, three of
whom died in infancy and throe are now living. two of whuo a:'











'-2

minors; one daughter, Dixie Lucile Willson, was born Auguut 6th,

1890; John Cedrick Willeon was born October 26th, 1900, e.nd Rob-

ert Meredith Willson was born in Hay, 1902, and that both of said

minors are now attending school, but have made their home contin-

uously with the plaintiff.

Paragraph 5
That the defendant has been guilty of such cruol and inhu:,an

treatment toward the plaintiff as to endanger her life, and has.

for the purpose of harassing and annoying the plaintiff, bLen

guilty of such orunl and inhuman treatment up to endanger the life

of the plaintiff; thit for many years laut pant the dcftjiilutit has

taunted the plaintiff with the fact that oho was not a fit com-

panion for a man of ouch mental attainmouten and superior tomper-

ament as that of the defendant, and that therefore the defendant
was oompellod to seak proper society and proper assooiutoo outside

of his own home, and would absent himself from home for months at

a time.

Parnrraph 6

That on or about the 11th day of Janluary, 19J0, the defendant

delivered to the plaintiff a letter in which ho tallo Lho plaintiff

that for twenty-five years it has beon plain to the doundaint that

he and the plaintiff were a iiu-muLod couple and that Lncy must

keep away from each other; that thrir union has boen u;irS;fl, ind

that the home lifo of their children has been nuch as vill. hlundi-

oap them through life; .that the attitude of the plaintiff hau boon

one of obstinacy aind bigotry; that the troatmont the defciJdlnt
has received has caused him to despite the plaintiff and her

ideas; that every word and act of the plaintiff hue grated upon

the defendant's nerves, and that such conduct iu a mionuc to tho

defendant's health and his usefulness in lifo. The defendant
further tells the plaintiff in said letter that she is inano and

ignorant; that she embodies all that the defendant despises; that














the plaintiff is to the defendant as a red raG to a bull, and that
it io a orime for the defendant to ruin his life as he hoi boon

doing in the past.

The defendant further states in said letter:

"If we take the other horn of the dilouiim. and you in.ii.a on
keeping me to the marriage vow, I would, if I remained in your
company, continue to grow more disaeroeoblo than ] huve been, un-

satisfied with life, unhappy, unsociable, so for as you are con-

cerned, because as I see the hopolensneas of the struC!lo, I nut-

urally see less to live for, and at the end I would probably choose

to go out of my life before iny natural timo, cooking oblivion rath-

er than Hell on earth".

"I further believe it ia'the worst kind of adultery to cohabit

with a person whom you dislike an(d with whom you hve tno friendly

feeling, even though married to that pornon. Your llfe hau boon,

so far, a failure *. In fact I have made up my nind that I

will not continue thus. If I did, I would go crazy, and I don't

believe I am required to go that far, and I do not believe you

would like to take the rooponsibility for ouch a crime. I should

in time come to hate you uo that I do not know whut I nrdift not do".

"If you.will not agroo, then I will go somewhere andr try to got

it anyway, because I thilk that Nwhn we aeparnto for thle reut of

our lives we should not be subjected to omborranoironL tu to out

future movomonts, there can be no reutitution to hIlpl. iill;,: anrd con-

tentment if a shadow till hnngi; over uu".
"Please consider this kindly, in the Christian spiriL that you
so conscientiously profess, and with the full knowledge that it

is the only possible way to treat oech other fairly anrd rLght.

There can be no compromise, us I have reached the end, ao fur as

this way of living is concerned".














"You are stubborn, bigoted, vain, and have an inuatoible de-

sire to ape after people that are in better circuiinitarnccU than we,

you travel alone in your chosen sphere, and I wish to got out of

the way so that you may follow these inclination unhindered".

"I will get a petition in the January or February term of some
court, and we will got it over and start on a nowv lfe, unhindered

by each other, at once. No use procrauatnating. I will only in-

clude such matters in my petition as will be sufficient, and it

will never be read by anyone but yourself, and your brother, who

can and will act as your attorney to see that your property 1i se-

cure. Please do this for me and yourself, and lot nm go away

thinking kindly of you at last".


aIragrnph 7
That the defendant hao at all Limoe, as this plaintiff verily

believes, planned and intended to abandon the plruintiff and to sith-

er get a divorce from the plaintif.' or forco her to 6gt a divorce

from him.

Porrarnh 8

That the defendant is a man of considerable .means, and is the

owner of a large amount of real estate in :u'.on City, Iowa, and

is the sole owner of all of the utock of the Alcn:.o Willron Company,

a corporation organized and existing; u:.der the laws of the etate of

lowa, said corporation being the holder of a lar;:e rii.ouIn of real

estate and other property, and that thia plaintiff has boon inform-

ed by the defendant that h( i:; worth it leant the Lumi of .*'Il.0,000.00,

and that the defendant has an income of about the sum of t700.00 per
month.

Paragraph 9
That this plaintiff has always kept a clean and comfortable

home for the defendant, and has always tried in very wy to make

the home as pleasant and attractive as possible for the derondanit,


256


5m-r-----~~~n'~vr: ryrg~r~l












but that whatever this plaintiff has done for the d-cofInlnt, ho
has boon dissatisfied with iame, and han found fault inutl cotiijilain-
ed, and for months at a time would not speal to nor have Liiything
to do with the plointiff.
1uaraprnph 10
That at Christmas time in 1919 the plaintiff preaurod Christ-

mas gifts for the defendant and placed the oame at thi( dfl'itndait'n

place at the table, and that when he came to the meal and diccov-

ored the Christmas remembrances and gifts from the plaintiff he

pushed the same aside and would not speak to the pliAntiff nor give

her a kind look or'word, but refused absolutely to accept her Christ-
man remembrances or good cheer at that time, and that the conduct

of the defendant caused the plaintiff to become sick.und inrvo;'s.
That the plaintiff is a member of the Congtrcegational Church

of Mason City and has been an active worker therein, auid that the

defendant has scoffed at the plaintiff's religion, and to others

in the presence of the plaintiff has made derogatory remarks in re-

gard to the plaintiff and her religion, and that said nct: were
done for the purpose of thrassing and annoying the plaintiff and
of making her unhappy and forcing her owny from homo, .'nd LthaL toh

defendant has at various timns written the plaintir:f critici:;.in
her at-titude toward the church and toward religion ene-rally, all
of which acts have caused the plaintiff gtrcat mental uufforing, un-

til the same has affected her health.


Paragraph 11
That the defendant, by his conduct toward theo laintftlf, has
caused her to become sick, and in an extremely ncrvour condition

of henaLh, and that it is absolutely impossible for the plaintiff

and defendant to live together as husband and wife without endanger-

ing the life of the plaintiff.

IWHEREFOIIE, plaintiff prays that she may be granted a decree











of absolute divorce from the defendant, and that she be awarded

alimony in the sum of $26,000.00; and that the title to the home-

stead, which now stands in plaintiff's name, and the personal prop-

erty therein, and other personal property of the plaintiff, be con-

firmed and established in her; and for such other and further re-

lief as may-be just and equitable, including the coats of thi ac-

tion.A


Plaintiff's Attorneys



State of Iowa,
Corro Gordo County, es.

I, Rosalie R. Willson, beini: first duly sworn, on oath depose
and say that I am plaintiff in the above entitled action; that I
have read the above and foregoing petition, know its contents, and
the statements therein made are true, he I verily believe.


Subscribed and sworn to before wno t)is January *6th, 1920.


Itary, public in'and for
Corro Gordo County, Iowa


.1 ...










APPENDIX B
DIXIE WILLSON LETTERS ASSERTING AUTHORSHIP ROLE IN THE MUSIC MAN

Included in this appendix are photos of eight pages of a letter typed in 1954 by Dixie

Willson, addressed to an unknown party. She asks the addressee to forward the letter to Earl

Hall, then editor of the Mason City Globe-Gazette and long time family friend of the Willsons.

Hall's widow and son donated his papers to the University of Iowa libraries. These are currently

Papers of Early Hall, a 6 linear foot collection, in the Special Collections Department at the

University of Iowa. Copies of the letters are also in the possession of the Mason City Public

Library Archives.

In Dixie's letter she details her role in the creation of The Silver Triangle as a play and

asserts Meredith's use of the manuscript as the basis for The Music Man, as well as his

subsequent refusal to acknowledge her contribution. The final page is Earl Hall's response to

Dixie's claims. It is most noteworthy for Earl's basic acknowledgement of Dixie's position, and

his subsequent plea for her not to pursue the matter.











-3".-v'iyrt C- C-r- '
1
Here's the story I want to tell you; read it and then mail it to Earl. Iui
a story. I cant believe it even as I tell you but it has happened just the

For 20 yearsI did business with a zrand guy naned "ake Wilk who bought
opctu-es for .'arners. About 2 years ago he gave up pictures and took over
people to manage in whose talent he had confidence. Luckily I was one of t

Among his best friends were zrnie3 martin and Cy Feur a couple of Broadway
producers with an uncanny sense of picking things out. If they said a shoi;
was roin to be a hit..it was. So they had become 3road-ay's top :roduce-
and Jake asked then what th=ey wanted in t.e waia of some plays.

They said one thing wa-a show for which Meredith would do the music. Jake
said that was a hot idea because he was managing Dixie who would write a
gre-t book. Why not make a brother and sister playwrighting team since
Dixie had a lot of other very unusual play ideas; plays by Dixie music by
Meredith. The boys said that was a great idea and to have me come in.

So Jake took me and we discussed possibilities. I said M. was a fine actc
and I'd like to make our play one which would star him in the lead. They
said fine if he could do it; I could write it that way anyhow and if he
couldn't play it somebody else could.

So I went to work, thinking in terms of the special kind of role he could
play.

Nobody realizes how tough it is to think. Week after week, just thinking,
* thinking, studying notes made in little books over a period of years.
Taking all the thoughts and accumulated ideas you have gotten together,
balancing and weighing possibilities and values and details and fiaoing
out personalities and what they would say and do qnd how they would behave
under certain conditions which would make a tigsh story. With men there are
a thousand kinds and types and professions. You have to weigh and measure
and sift and balance, take one kind of man along with you for days before
you find out that he wpul be the right one. Then try another. And the sa:
with your other characters and possible situations until they jell. 'My met
for a play is to start :iti an ending because that last punch nust be the
terrific one. \

But jurmlinz all these values I finally wot the right leading personality,
a small town professor of music who leads the church choir, the band, the
parades, teaches kids for nothing and organizes a cuartet of men who like
to sing; perfect for Meredith, so I went ahead with supporting characters.
My theme and purpose..tne power of music. n
I first decided on a town stinker, an Art Sale miserable old skin flint
/who provided my terrific ending by finally breaking down and asking if
there could be such a thing as a quartet with five in it.Meredith and I
together decided the date should be 1913..with the town Mason City of cour
I reported to the producers who loved it; said they'd pay me a thousand
-dollars advance when I was ready with a one page outline. It was fully
understood by all of us t.:at Meredith and I were collaborating though we
made no black and white deal. It didn't occur to me I should protect myself
against Meredithi

Every bit of progress I made I reported to him and we got more and more
excited, foremost in my mind that thousand dollars,which would enable me
Sto finish so many other tFinTs like my last very fine book. Meredith kept
urging me to hurry and I wanted to hurry myself but I had to make current
expenses by stopping for other things so he became very impatient.














I mas astonished when I went to the coast at Christmas, to have him outline
tthe Professr whom I had built so carefully into the theme I had built so
carefully.11l of which was my thinking and my play property for some other
play if not this one for Meredith ..aa a man who was just a phoney instead
the real thing. "

of course a man can not be a phoney musical inspiration to a community, beca
if he inspires them to muaic..he does...nather he is an Academy graduate or
not* But since my whole idea was to eulogize the small town musical leader,
I didn't like making him a phoney, but that took second place as compared to
the fact that Mere" ith felt free to take my character and my play idea and
use it as he wanted toJ!! My impulse was 3 --m y to say,,"But this is my
character and ax ideal I want it for a play of my own! I have sweat over it
for months..to write my own play!"

After all it want up to me to-defend myself, but up to Meredith to ask if he
could use it, if such was his intention, and under what terms. Even then,,he
X had no right to put me on the defensive and make me feel like a heel and a
trouble maker to have to speak Up and say.."But you're stealing.' Also he
had me under the very great disadvantage of being a guest in his house after
a trip which he was giving me. That was a spot where it was pretty rough for
me to have to remind him that be was just taking my material without asking
if I cared. Also of course since our ony thought had been collaboration,
this appeared to still be collaboration at least he said nothing to the oon-
trary.

After all if you just pick up someone else's property,..it is up to you to
say "Do you mind if I take this?" It isnt up to the owner to say.."Wait a
minute that's mine."
It certainly had me on funny spot..I had worked 0 hard on the basic though
that he was w e .TW i Thinking is hard. So hard that he oantt do it. He
can't even understand that it has to be done. He -as the idea that you can
just go ahead and write something down and it will assume its own strength.
This isnt true. You-oant make a book or a play with depth and strength until 5
first of all create a purpose which stands on strength and depth, When that
is done, and characters are worked o-t to carry your purpose on..then the
writing is comparatively easy.

In a play if you have the theme, the purpose, the leading character and other
personalities, you are well on your way. Then comes a sparkling beginning and
an end which will suddenly button up your purpose and hit the audience broads
To get this kind of a craok-the-whipf moment is something a playwright can
sometimes estuggle a life time for and never get{ b t once It is so herd to
met and so i;,L%,::rtant that it can almost make the difference between a hit play
and a flop. I had thought out all these things complete when Meredith
decided to take over because I- was using up too much time.

The reason it took as so long was because at no time did I have enough capital
in the bank to sit down and write the play exclusive of anything else, I didrt
explain this tci him because I didn't want to be hinting for him to give me th
financing it would take. I didn't want to even be indebted to him to the extent
of borrowing it. But the fact that it took me a long time didn't make it any
less Mr property. The fact that it had been long tough thinking just made me
need it and cherish it the more. But I needed that thousand dollars advance
royalty so much that I was willing to let him go ahead his way, if that would
complete the play and bring me a check sooner. I figured I had already done
all the basic work...so that maybe, though he is not good on plots, he could
do the rest.

















The only new thing he had introduced was bringing in a spastic boy. He
aillusarated with heart breaking realism how they walk and talk and stumble
along with distorted bodies and faces and said that people should be told
how cruel it. is to shun these people,

I told him he could not put that into a play and make an audience accept it.
They just would not take it, and I didn't think they should be expected to. I
told him the only way he could bring in a spastic was to have him motionless
in a wheel chair working up to one thrilling movement in the end.

This is exactly what he has done so it is not offensive, although I am sure
I could have done a better play and a stronger finer one without the spastic
and with the professor aa I intended him, though that doesn't matter much,
The first draft he sent me in about April was not good. It was heavy and thick
with long dull speeches, no sparkle in the beginning and no thrill in the end
He had put in a middle aged romance treated lightly which I had Isald we needed
and he had insisted we should not include,.but he had changed my beginning, my
ending and had left out the water-across-the-lake trio which I wanted to put
in so much asn he wanted to leave out.

But he-had my characters, almost all of them, my purpose, my theme, and of
course the Professor as the leading character,
-7 When returned itievidently someone else had read it who had pointed out its
eight and lack of high spots a.nd strength, so he went to work on it, out the
Speeches, put back my beginning, my ending, put in the water-across-the-lake,
and with these changes, all my basic pattern, he had a fine tight play.
I was still astonished and pretty much stunned that he would take ME material
of which I myself was so proud and with which I myself could have so easily
constructed a hitplay, having carried it out so far, and just go ahead and
use it without-one word of question or explanation*,or asking if that was okay
with me, but again-I was at the disadvantage of having accepted trs salary
cheoks,..and I must say it never really occurred to me that he would make use
of this without considering it my play just the same, I was as anxious as he
to get it into the final form and start it rolling. In fact I was more anxious,
than he because I needed that initial check so much. I felt that even though I
could make a better final play of my basic thoughts within the next six months
it was more important to button it up as soon as possible..so wiemwaIf
compr m~is w~,ith his.
And I certainly dent belittle his work. He has done a beautiful job of story
and dialogue, It is a grand job. But he never could haveor would have,been
able to think out the basic values which I spent so many months on and which
enable hia to make it a strong fine piece of work. A house is as good as its
foundation, a chain only as strong as the links which hold it together.
My next astonishment was when he brought it to New York a month ago, finished
and ready to present to the producers. When he handed it to me at the Waldorf..
Wknd I saw "Play by Meredith Willson"...I was as stunned as I11 ever be.,
Weless it was when he told me he expected to have the meeting, without my being
there. Noth these things hit me so hard that I just couldn't think what to say,.
so I said nothing at all. Again he put me at a total disadvantage. I see him
seldom, hadnt seen him for six months, would see him only that one day...so
I hated to make it unpleasant In any way, though of course what I resented waE
the fact that he had maneuverec things around so that I would have to seem the
argumentative one amonrv the two of us.,.if either of us mentioned the fact that
















after all this "Play by Meredith Willson" was at least half mine..much more
than half, actually, because the basic thinking, the beginning and the end,
the theme and the characterizations are more than half of a strong play. *
After allI had started the thing with the producers..it was understood to
be collaboration...ao what right had he to assume the top spot in presenting
and selling it? The meeting with them was as much my business as 4is
But you Just don't expect your brother to steal from youn.. would a-Me
only that one day, I'm not well enough these days to Tet into any heated dis-
cussion about anything.. aredith is very difficult to talk to because he can
never see that anyone else can possibly be right..bhl whole thing was such
an unbelievable situation that I scarcely knew what to say...I kept thinking
and expecting that he would a-y something, rather than leaving it up to me to
either defend myself ..or take it on the chin...I knew that if he was on the
eve of this important meeting he should not be upset in any way.,ns.it seemed
that maybe the sale of the play was more important than even my feelings...
and principally because this was the key to the money I needed so very very
much...which WAS more important than my feelings.,..I Just let it hapoen and
said nothing whatever. I simply couldn't. believe that.."PLAY BY MREDITH WIL]
.*I simply couldn't believe that he would do such a thing..I sfti1 cant believe
it!
He included me in every detail the report of the meeting; dalled me early
next morning to say it was soldirnd they said. it was a smash hit. oaalled me
during the following week whe" he was in or near New York pnd they were in
touch with him about it..acknowledged my connection with it in every way butk
putting my name on it& BUT it seems that he did this only between the two OW
Uael.never in the company of the producers or anyone else. Everywhere else
and with everybody else, it was merely a "play by Meredith Willson ., When
Jake went to see them about it after a few days, to remind them that I had
started it and that it was my idea and themn..they said yes they knew that, at
bad been surprised themselves that Meredith had never once mentioned me in
connection with it,
Its a peculiar thing that success can have spoiled him so much that he now
seems really avaricibus to claim attention, Or maybe its because he heant had
enough of it..for so many of his own things have Just missed, Maybe it is Rin
who after all doesn't want to share the spotlight...Meredith and I are an unusur
pair as far as talent goes.TUMfe had written the play together...I mean to sa:
a brother and sister playwrirhting team...would make us interesting mdaiS&
and team us to ether with the producers and the public, review etc...and thi,
would put Rini in the background somewhat..at least would make me as imports
and more closely connected with Meredith in the thing...and she would hardly
be able to take that...so maybe THAT is the thing behind my having no credit.
I can see how Meredith would bate to share credit with me at the meeting whict
sold the play..or on opening night..or in reviews or interviews which follow a
hit show..He hates to even share the limelight with me at home, Both he end
Rini want this to be Just a total Meredith Willson success and that's that.
That's how they presented it to their friends..and even my friends on the
coast.,I'm sure that's how Sterling has had it reported to him..and I'm sure
that's how Earl Hall heard it,. As far as I can find out, the only one he hay
acknowledged. collaboration to.....is me. When he talks to anyone else it is
strictly a play by Meredith Willson. This is what it is pretty hard for me t
believe. I would be so proud and so thrilled to share credit with him.















4
O..,*,he sold the play as his and went ba k to the coast without saying one
word to me whatever about either money or oredit...Not one word. Leaving it
Up to me to start defending myself, or else letting him just take it as his o0
He told me Ernie and Cy would be out there to start casting during the last
part of July, and that production would start in January. He didn't once
mention a contract, money or credit..or any arrangement whatever with me for
the fact that it was fundamentally my play,! The whole thing is just too fan-
tastio to believe, especially from someone who is usually as direct as Meredt
It was a pretty dirty trick I think, to create a situation where I have to
start whatever talk there naturally has to be about it. For him to just take
my play...sell it...say nothing whatever about it..leave town,,.and let me
have to either speak up or...fold up..seems to me a pretty oruel thins to do,
Bill says he has seen that happen in business many times. Somebody will make a
iy tp do something underhanded which puts somebody else in a tough spot..
and then the guy on top will just keep quiet so that the guy he has stepped on
will have to either Just take it and keep quiet...or start the fight and seem
to. be trouble maker, and usually the guy on the little end of it doesn't dar
fight,,or hates to start an argument so much that he wont, so the big guy ae
just put himself in the place of advantage knowing that he is pr afer
Of course what I resent the most and what really just makes abo tE th
Meredith thus puts me in a place where I have to either aoep nothing at all.
or take whatever he chooses to give me...as charityZli Unde the circumstances
*this is really unthinkable..it is so dirtyJ Nobody should ondesoend t.
Ri4y me any part of this play..either mon*y or credit. Both are mines fairly
worked for and fairly earned. I have given him a basic idea and details for a
play which all his money and prestige couldat buy anywhere else, te' has tried
7 it. Stage stars from all positions of importance have tried it..Ybu just
oant find or buy or get writers who can think in terms of big ideas. ThousandE
of dollars in advances are paid to writers ahead of time on the expectation
of their coming hru and then they cant..and dont...Meredith knows this well
enough. He himself ia tried to get them and they are not to be had*
In this case they eont have to take a chance on advancing me money. I have
already delivered the xoods. And I not only 'avea him the stuff that enabled
him to write dialogue for a play and work out a story..he did it with material
which I myself could have made good use of to the same end. It was as valuable
a foundation for me as it proved to be for him. A olay very definitely as
much by me as by him_ aund he has no right whatever to claim credit or to sell
it on his own terms. This is just a situation txfe which he has created to
his own advantage..and into which he has maneuvered himself because he could
.... af r I gave him the basio material which made it possible.
If he **taLe a whole play by Meredith Willaon, why didn't he work on
Fedalia? That s a sample of his ability to think and create a play base!
Well..so he went back to the coast without any .mention to me at all of either
money or credit.,He only a- Id that he had decided to put my opening soene-back
place of his and would I rewrite it for him.lwhich I did, two weeks ago,
promptly phoned and also wrote and said it wes elegant pote that were
sensational, handled as deftly as I always handle things tec.... discussed
another spot or two with me, but still no mention of money or credit, so I
wrote just one line..I said "What about money for this pl ?"














I
Jake had meanwhile seen Ernie and Cy who said they knew I had worked out
the basic idea for the play, the leading character eto..but they wanted to
keep their association with Meredith friendly and. so they were not going too
stick their necks out to settle any "family quarrel"...

So Meredith had accomplished just what he had tried to do; he had put me in a
spot where to aet just fair credit and money for my work..both the producers
and I would be"stlckina our necks out" to speak of it..and if I did I would t
made to feel that J was starting a "family quarrel"...
They were about to go to London, and said they would continue with the busineE
with Meredith when they returned. They are due back today, the 24th,*and Jake
has a meeting about my position in the thing next Monday. What he expects to t
or what I can do..I'm sure I don't know, I aes me they will go. to the coast
right afterward,

Jake is as baffled as I am. Of course he knows as well as I do how much 6f thi
is mine and he saw the last scene I wrote which Meredith has used word forwe
and which, as I say, is almost the differ-nce between a good play and a bad or

He thinks I should just state my position squarely to Meredith, demand full
credit as a co-author and a full share of the money. And maybe I will, I thin
I might as wellI.I'v.e lost Meredith anyway as a brother so I suppose I might
as well get what I can from the wreck of the relationship. No matter how it
oomes out from here on he can never seem the sane to me.

Jake says that even if I am willing to sit down and keep quiet and take it 6
the chin he is entitled to an azcnts commission after all and he is not sa"
he Jwill at down and ta:e it*. dent yet know what we will doo.I'1l see him
on Monday before he sees Ernie and Cy I hove a hunch they are going to
avoid him and there wont be any meeting at I think that as they said
to- Jake before, they are just g&iog to get bemd their locked doors and learv
me to battle it out with Meredith alone. h'

But now as to his reply to oy question about moneyt-
When'(t- letter first came, I read it quickly and the thing that gave me a shock
was his saying he had "given me" $23,000 in the past and. figured that was enour
Also that he had considered giving me some kind of credit but bad decided not t

.a.....-"--_-----.-----g I didn't have the courage to read the letter
again until yesterday. And re-reading it I Tiund a somewhat different construct
to what he said..which i1nt quit. as bad, though still pretty rotten. The only
difference is that instead of be'_n total zero..this is slightly above zero..
since it will, I hope, enable me to work something out which is a little bit
fair...without getting to a place where I just can never want to see him again
to the end of our lives which would be an awful thing. He'll never seem the
same to me..but it wou}d still be better to be able to see each other, even
with a different feeling toward each other, than to be out off from relations
entirely. I don't know whether anything can work oufoiot..butthis gives me a
little hope at least whereas before I felt that there was none.

What he said was exactly this "I do not expect any remuneration until
the play is produced. If there is any then I will share it with you as I
have shared everything I have ever made with you which, as I look back, adds up
to about $23,000, I also considered giving you some kind of collaboration cred
7 but didn'tgbecause I didnt know what kind you would want since I made the
professor a phoney musiion and put in the spastic boy both of which "ou were
flflnnnca pu +a p

















This makes the situOtion only alilhtly better..,it still does not change the
Sfact that he has crested a spot for himself where he puts me on the defensive
jwhic. is most unfair, and that he has assumed charge of both the money end th'
credit -t-Ich Ic r2o unfltr..prnd Jihone-st. He has no right to either, any
more than I have. It is better only in that he does admit that some of both
is due me..it also -lvws me opportunity to reply to him without openly starting
a fight about the thiig.
on the other band it is still pretty sickenic that he would take such an
almighty attitudesand be able to think himself into a position of such cone
detention sbout it..doling anything out to meeas if it were his to dispense
any money or credit he feels like tosisnr at me I can get down on my hands an
knees to pick up, ^-C

I am sure I Cont know of his "sharing" any money with me that he has made.
The salary he paid me, I worked for in di-ging: up mate'lal. I'm aure he doesn't
speak of sharing' with his arranSer or secretary as though he were a big hear
guy putting thfi on a personal pension, Outeide of the salary I worked for,
he has lent me money three times, $20.C0.*...$150...and $75.00. I never would
ask him for money no matter how much I needed it because he always made it
difficult and embarrassing; n ver with affection or glad that he could do it.
or "You're so welcome"o.he always made me feel small and desperate and this
sent the fi:a s time be ha' thrown hU t. me.

It makes me wish I had never acceotted gift f on him, or even a dinner, or
a trip. He can be sure I never will Raain,
howeverr what he has"given" Me or paid me in the past has nothing whatever to do
with what I have earned by worklnr; out this playS good hard sweat and work,
I am not asking or expecting him to share anythlnr with me aend certainly
never will take a dollar or a favor from him again and I onoy hope they do
not send me any more gifts, although the only thing he ever gave me of value
was a diamonS end ruby ring which I think you remember and which I shell cer-
tainly return-to him as EDoo as this is sett ed bout the play.
As for his not receiving: any remuneration until production, that is ridiculous
and not at all a business procedure. I am sure 4eorze 1ruskin wouldn't permit
it and I doct see how Mc-erdith would himself. The only reason for any such
thing would be thrt hc wints to be the big guy with 'rni and Cy and say he
doesn't need any money now and just never minde.doin- it all on a friendly baci
But he has no ri ht to :-c that under the circumstances, r'ybe he doesn't need
any money an.:1 Joeont vwnt any business arraneamnt but I am half of the play
and I vwant both. -e had no ri-ht to button up a d. el .ithou m asking me if it
met with my approval..or Jake's. If they would pay me a thousand dolsnrs for
a one pagl outline they ioul, pay zooTd -ized check fo-. t finished play. If
he doennt wrnt hi- half..I do want mine. Ernmi did tell Joke there"wasnt
Soinq to be ~ay contract "ie~ha Jhke couldn't un prstnnd an: neibIer oen I.
If these isnt any contract there iLnt any sale.
/ As for credit..if ha Lidnt to what I wouldd vwnt all he had to do was ask me.
ie could have said "Look, Sister how do you feel Gbout this? Do you think
half of the work is yours..or more..or le-8 or what? Do you mind if I use your
brofeaeor and your basic Idea and pe-ple a.-d end and beginning, or do you
prefer to finish the" up yourself in your own way?" No reason why he couldn't
have said that/ Why. leave it to me to defend my right to credit and ask wvst
he means to do about it.



















Jake expects to talk to the producers tomorrow and see what they will doa
They know all about how much of it is mine but they probably will not i
be willing to do anything because as they say, they don't want to be in
a quarrel or Eet Meredith mad at them. They say if he is goin7 to be mad
at anybody it better be me. I just cant believe he would do such a lousey
trick. Maybe its up to me to write him and 5o thru the miserable routine
-7 of asking for the money I have Jarned with work On this thing..and the crE

Or maybe I'll just take the easier way and skip it. The horrible thing is
that he has put me to unfairly in a position to have to take what he choose
to give me rather than to get what I have earned.

Well..Itm still too stunned and amazed by the whole thing to know what to
do. It's an awful ending to such a big hope and so sure a dream because fo;
over a.year they have told me it would be a hit..and all the while I knew :
was mine ... Now, after all the work and hope and waiting...Meredith just
staps in and takes credit for it...I jjst cant believe it..I sure don't
know where we go from here. I suppose that's why I'm writing this letter.

Well....maybe If he can 6 it..I can take it. Right now I don't know whether
I can or not..Anyway that's it to date.

Lots of love

Dixie











nEOCHx THOR. J.E"N
L, H.L-- _.1.. oate CRY
,/

MASON CITY GLOBE-GAZETTE
A LEE GROUP NEWSPAPER
LEE P. LOOMIS, Publi r
MASON CITY, IOWA

Aug. 26, 1954




Dear Dixie:
Your letter about the play

has just caught up with me.
It saddens me.
Two euoh wonderful people

should be able to work out their differences.
And this you MUST remember, Dixie:
The thing is going to rise or fall
on its musio, not the plot. That's my studied
conviction after a couple of hours' exposure
to it.
Don't--Please DON'T-let-the matter
develop into a family brawl. Everybody-.Inoluding
your old home town--would be hurt by that.
Believe me to be
Sincerely yours,


268









APPENDIX C
PAGES OF DIXIE WILLSON'S THE SILVER TRIANGLE

This appendix consists of photographic reproductions of the first four pages of Dixie

Willson's manuscript for The Silver Triangle. It was located in 2002 in boxes containing her

manuscripts and personal papers, currently in the holdings of Music Man Square. The poor

quality of the reproduction is due in large part to the fact that it was made from the third carbon

copy, the only known surviving copy, as the other carbons have since disappeared. It is

suspected that the carbon copies were destroyed in an attempt to keep Dixie's claims about

authorship from becoming public knowledge.
















ACT Owl




river iiy "VA, SchoolB i As5-i2bly liona o ti@ ea'-,mtnre of 'lg y 4tha l t19

About o ntminte sana g batf bfof'e rleuf the o;ri v-n, ts hnoune WItf*tt very
lowly atm, wte te ir ea intvrr!I;t.e. Pa...:.a.a*.S1rF.of fire ao. aokefls
trrestonr ti ti:nln-, aloe to -volumc Thirty a sens of Mthis Is followed by
a epir4E4 tahrda on tho pirro, pro aeing 8a tatrdotn'ttio to aCU3SZXA fl0M
tGEN mTm o w 1Mcic v'fIEquallly ast rtte vo61e0e (ti the vatwl and uaulity of
a IC taOn pattal C.ttrinrg pasted. to sing, the lwrnlo eopreane bein. the
gblh 1tS',o;:ttd ereai of Eaijbly fsepn, with the wtoxt *Wts prominent alttrer
a Male XIuaSs a dra unrio-.tin T1p.:- otiny.

Ot thts "eir-.ti, tA eortAin ;iAeg to di..lo:e atb eyvonimS exercisepi' li
A9set*ly $eo "Zp-Ors to be, 'al fit.fed The rwotrram and soats arte !et at
3/4 ani-e t 4 the nr rc-t.r t:hcte; foot ALh.Ma, the rostrOm AjCs ocxtendtag
catty-feirnesr from Wet se0o9 or hird tiga tzour4 stage cent.? and thie a*ok
4rop at a bwlak board' on hil lr"if letters in coloz:1 choialk read "tJuly 4t1h
I9LO". Above the t a-d? ares teds -11Z. n AIn *D i of PAsa 'tnhour's flan or as. adi
a Head of rvmWc -3ptre.* 0Ala Af'tl2r mp and two ounttn e roettsajt Standrtb
alonnairo th-e b-ar, to P t4ale holC on1 a slo&b' of the t.'orlia ar a big
oanyelopEdct fe and ta unt oa -inr.ao31 .rpjaie:;t ta this to at uprllht pianorl
t:hiClh An als M pr atC fan ple:o and slt whih Yatty .nohburn it pioying
Coldueiia.

Tha rottr e ep .ctr.mu to frtn d i:.if local ai e f-aatu.viR priper&ly ft7ed
oCriEt'i-4 eadl as Rn rty $p% 1i0.cr:, C-xr.el's Livery .ttrblo! wAth fn'cy rtSe
'or hite -a c, : -:-ni' *.a., unable hack and bus service toe and from th-e
depot.















.0 aon. wWt.e A. -3

A rose or tiiteoo-je W oreo:rn lyOI);iL rfcwct'Mit a is Zt Xhto. Tlh ntsflhiUu e
;ro1-Qun< sii a pnM X ,i tIr i rtw .6 dreps .w date f o hWe avi-bly ossw eit


wfit prorer roPnF beh 'er atesn ibtsts c/r xcd r-s fif. *% r O0y t fute trfioh
a-. lattto the jlthst Wawsb of tei setn% tboster so as to e:ntse the V 11uld
of a errlet unditefusi, thiS ffec? itertI m rlly setcite4 by 1I-t-taer -btiA*
tsae0 tt'-ar3 oat c tnir: M.m uto row. to fj, ,r-J ptw2ener In ti thetir- sefl Eso
Ve *uavthr w ys tc no r re 'vim Iar wa m s klte.1w out crvii y no tVAt tbt SeatI
r:p to on 08 r .fver1mv I f! rm#e I etrte thee flret four# s it a rtrn
*1&Sh;Q ..Iffe yup U -. "t? n4 V0 "i lt.diuz 2.1'? r pJ-'yr- ratr

PotsonE in the xi Ust two rov& Of? tw Aeoes1o'; y s Mtn 4ieucae &r -r'Ztly tthee
vswam we wil oAtir know at pentonS sf the plAy, eriat 'a 'iVt7yr A18p,
Js@?i^ SB& *rst fmritmt a*n her so Virn3y hol tn-7 r gs maltteW rifrfles teoa
it 't x CA;o u8 n ta e pretty somew Areuan mrolet-. Ath lue esih. 'ht0e2
to a eprln- Iag of Oh1 Veic-rer. alt ares nr Ito tte e lte lISr" wi- ^ tabser par*s
oCatlUt a of tfte puly av ar"t-A e wh vlU bn oaeoaided l'. tr oir .irtet n etrtg
str .tEat of -yui, r.r-t"thr Asochtsy r=. -" esm e at a*I

1The r-o. ;';r Piewst oCf utslt ItrtcC'aeEc of al El 4ti.e re S tAPt the
t t*.. s coanerl or t4e taOct part r'--L- afes uft mn CoAe 3nal ifWter antr "gf
e' ti$ v lmcoh

t.f r 0o of the L.:. to, 1 Vth 4i6t.tiy at V-h0 plmt=, tw ainaWin Is bina- 1to aWy1
aauter of. whe wue*ruat ahs ray trwer ".;iOr a fiat f naurf- owve G ing ftRBl wuith
a -rj .' -um. ft he' hWAir, or tb eaoestuae an 4a Ala* In the IOtU or..ss a
ab* wll eAd tW satntre c.t.Po T:-'tI;Ut? or port7 wLith her toroht, hutt Vhip-














pirg it it plaCe for the t rPifh*. note fur atioh eshe tetro fa Mgoh osta
Or it may be frtnnUr for h)r to pogodly hold It naoft t1rrn;Ot, l.Rdityr with
her itne haId.

In the roetrun fatlit C; ost o*rnsr it r trrn-: on vttch ye see a large
handatse vhtte ft eted eake con5pcproupry tri-nxuwO with ant lotoin f18. Jt
steaoat agtinet a 'lacaric ea.Anc "^Oopltinate 0of the fany fee Bakefltr

VitM the finish of IaiLU. ;.I.., Vulsly take over to a (aOy whitb etabliahnt
her aun stetakby as iapeeari of the ewnitg and of' the oeomnlty* p't aPg,
as ftr flPanrd oG the rootnias Bs peoatle, sbe asUpg bar aste a t wate tevel
(pattie eown *they torch if she to ca-ntauod with one).



NOw mfy I tO :oa fVew mfeites of th4s lErioun thusrth In ur..eheM. s
(she sstteunc tho keys Iha.I Sr)
...l'lou.: aouFntry, to Monk Oeach and eVeTy one of you patriotSt
:eS-r cityits Ior your preheat here 'o4nl.ht brteing tS the be'on as
It were..
a twitter of la,,:ht*r at her own U14it phrase
.*tfor our hope to tutda new asiohees and taba tin the Clgay Btea
Ialnits raft. As the day QoaMs Its -in:B .
she apoetae A b)A% Ofwtteaio ly naw

4s.8 at :'., steals Awy, and thinMa oriott 4th In lost ia the gsrs
of tors-ttn t'in*6, we WitUlel vof ,
a hasty ,Incet at a Ocd ti the opt4- of her head
*#ewse ill leave our dear posterity a hroiat.g -o f tStteal and beaches
uoaer thoe -prcadin t tlee of the 0say snkas Ev rr fifty cent t'oArt
here to2;1t uill aSd &a bonrd or n no," to a table or a bhnrh whare Oar
ing the y are to ooma, ear chiter n anW our chhilZren's children, witf













fatherer toiher inri the .0Y of it-t hWarted s' n.Ion.
She 1ipes bat r eyesi recovery herself with a Jbt mt e@fot
now Unetle Waoarttha Watintonas Rvee, prso ed y tee tte
tykes ion the send !?rmtd, wXll oetatArt.IB as idth flag arifUl
s I Sgtanoea leot. the wings
Ra40y chIUlrn?
She rteA to fatty at the pian*
mr* Washburn, a.e you macyf
She 1l"-htl taps her lft hand an heo right in tim ts the, meAs as it
be' Ins.,.rrIi litatabl w dieuttta as the thra ehAldrem waroh aO stVage with
ghLe S lsyly herself rnunes, walskln bsoewara intotf the reltMRS ungas

fItty plaps aenw- or eBs patriotic Pritch (hts Ixrovlwea bass heataf
esaeln- htorny iby iuite a nircifi) to brt two boyUe mad a 2itt.le s4L
to the enitor 9t the rostwa stoyo .wewr they faoe tbhe asebWly. "on sa4d0
I ioula v.ry aet lite Partho to be a colored8 chil., They are Graiced tE
howBe.ane e nnstws with .2ry ba, atlightly awry white saotten wugl ipan %Me,
trie-oros petftouely rd*e, They early eamal AarieB Stglase* As they raseh
the riht apf, -the wmete a steps abruptly to the very miadle o? a phase, as
Unole ftm frarsead to the to- arostar atep where, holdlag hiU fa4 at
&too taronth, t. apeksPatt



I plteo allo'i'noe to the flag of the Unitlso-! Stefs aMnd to the
reEsbtle for whtek it esLts e aai nO t os tiott*
e Sallows, head an one o snldr obai df oIa emsphaste to the
effort aa he ftre'lly acasraptisehes the wrst
.rsisaeie. wit thertl y end JUstie foer oll.
Hf boas a .& crtt' aom#a foaaird an(d tklst a ponitnr oan the
second etep,









APPENDIX D
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF WILLSON'S WORKS

Willson's works are here listed by copyright date. In some cases this can be confusing, as the
composer is known to have written several works well before they were copyrighted. Significant
examples of this are the dates of the two symphonies, which herein appear as 1946 and 1948,
The Missions of California symphony listed before the Symphony of San Francisco, which was
Willson's first. If the copyright date is unknown, then the work is listed by the date of its first
appearance. This list should be considered 'fluid', as works continue to be identified from
various sources such as old radio broadcasts.

1927 Two
1928 Parade Fantastique
My Cavalier (with Hugo Riesenfeld)
American Fox Trot
1929 Ayvhne
The Tornado
The Seige
The Phenomena
Aramis March
Defiance
Odalisque
1930 The Jamboree March
1931 One Day ofLove
Woe Is Me
1933 ,.\Nhi Us The Way, Blue Eagle
1934 The Song of Steel
0.0. Mclntyre Suite: Thingamabobs, Thoughts While Strolling, Local Boy Makes Good
1935 Radio City Suite
1936 Smile With Me
contributed music to Republic serial Undersea Kingdom
1937 House of Melody (John Nesbitt lyrics)
Our Destination Is Heaven (music to Edna Fischer's lyrics)
1938 Wings on High
1939 Rhapsody in Green
1940 (The Liberty Bell arrangement of Sousa march)
Rock-a-Bye Your Baby i/ ith a Long Underwear Song (for Maxwell House Coffee Time)
The Great Dictator piano score (ten items)
The Great Dictator cues
The Great Dictator The Incident
Zigeuner (with Charles Chaplin)
1941 Falling Star (with Charles Chaplin and Eddie Delange from The Great Dictator)
Never Feel Too Weary To Pray (from The Little Foxes)
Little Foxes cues
You and I
Two in Love
1942 America Calling









Remember Hawaii
My Ten Ton Baby and Me
And Still the Volga Flows
The Tuscarora
Gangway, You Rats, Gangway
1943 Fire Up -Carry On To Victory
Yankee Doodle Girl
Mind If I Tell You I Love You?
KC-Toky-I-O
The Jervis Bay
1944 Iowa
Hit the Leather
Mail Call March
1945 Whose Dream Are You? (from "0.0. McIntyre Suite" 2nd Movement)
The Same Little Chapel
Happy, Happy, Happy (+8 more) Wedding Day (for Command Performance)
1946 The Missions of California (2nd Symphony)
Pi Phi Si eeithl, t
There Must Be Little Cupids in the Briny
Moon, Moon
Canada Dry .\lhi i cues
Radio Suite: Gracie, George, Postman, Postman Visits the Burns House, Bill
1947 I'd Like a Memory
Canada Dry and I
Ford Summer Series cues
Oh, I Wanna Go
1948 Symphony of San Francisco
Iowa Indian Song
Just Becuz
San Gabriel
Symphonic Variations on an American Theme
Cow Ponies Always Weep Just a Little
All Puckered Up For Love
1949 Gone To Chicago
Every Day (radio show theme)
The Peony Bush
Memories I'll Never Forget
JELLO Pudding Sounds
JELLO .N\linnier
Old JELLO Theme
JELLO Family Round
Willson Tag
Tapioca Polka
1950 An American Anthem
The California Story
May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You









Derry-Up, Derry-Down Dey
Anthem of the Atomic Age (with Pastor Mark Hogue)
The Falstaff Meredith Willson theme song
This Is It
While We Were Young
And There I Stood With My Piccolo
The Big ,\sh/i incidental music
Iowa Fight Song
Till I Met You/Till There Was You (The Music Man*)
1951 I See the Moon
Let Freedom Ring
It's Easter Time
Any Town Is Paris When You're Young
Here Comes the Springtime
It's Beginning To Look Like Christmas (Here's Love*)
Laura Lee (lyrics and waltz adaptation of Aura Lee)
Don't Put Bandanas on Bananas
The Little Hours Music
Hullabaloo (for The Big ,h\ i ,')
How I Love the Music of a Band (for The Big .shr i')
You Can't Have a \shri- Without Durante (with Sammy Cahn for The Big. h, i')
Three Chimes of Silver
Zing Zing, Zoom Zoom
1952 I Take a Dim View
Banners and Bonnets (for The Salvation Army)
Answer the Call (for The Red Cross)
I Got News
The Margarets' Waltz (for The Big Show)
Let's All Do the Festival Waltz
Who Needs What Moonlight?
Hallelujah, It's Tallulahvision at Last (for All Star Revue)
It's Half Past Kissin' Time and Time To Kiss Again
Fedalia
Chords
1953 Practice Makes Perfect
Music Across the Waters
Mother Darling
Piccolo Polka
I Take Just as Much Pride in My Dear Little Bride
Finagle
A Child's Letter
Ignore Dior
I'll Never Say Goodbye to You Again
Cherokee Kid
Thirty-two Bars ofI Love You
Nylons









Politely
The World's Your Oyster
You Will Hear It Soon
My Little Bird
Lawn Mower Waltz
Sneezing Violins
Ike's Golf Game
Annaconda Copper
Arkansas
We're Spending Our Honeymoon in Escrow
A Chuckle a Day
Indian Music
Centennial March
If There Were No Women at All
If There Were No Men in the World
Chestnut Street
I Know It and You Know It
My Grandmother's Grandfather's Clock
Husband
It's Good For You
My Signature
Afraid
Dining Car
Mule Horse Sense
Running Water
The Last Word
Magic Valley
Fan Mail
I Love You
Old Fashioned Waltz
Spindletop
Passengers Will Kindly Step to the Back of the Bus
Callico Square Dance
Fillamaroo
Occupancy of this Building is Limited to 382 Persons by Order of the NY Fire
Department
Three Ways Up
Lift Up Your Voice
I'll Sing No Duei i th You
Baie Verte La
Timbuctoo
Crypto- Vestimenta-Cyclo-Furo-Mania
The World Famous Horseshoe Curve
Rosalie
At the Junction of the Chenango and Susquehana Rivers
Boy Meets Girl









Bluestem Bowl
Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina
Palmy Pinellas Peninsula
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Chuck Wagon Gang
Everybody Knows Everybody
Toot-a-Loor
Gold Rush Towns
Waukegan Was a Thriving and Prosperous Town Before Jack Benny Came Along
Dynamite Blasting
Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina
Timpanogos Glacier
The Doors of the World Swing on New Britain Hinges
Bowbells, North Dakota
Cadenza
Blue Ridge Mountains (Tennessee style)
Florida Oranges
Complexities of Radio
Two Famous Words
To ,h\/i, ien or Not To \/Nhi wen
Twenty-First Century
The City (background music)
A Song Coming On (for All Star Revue)
Mason City, Go
Green Bay, Wisconsin
1954 Alabama Christmas
Blow
Wisconsin Cheese
Jamboree
Gary, Indiana (The Music Man*)
Canada Dry Water
Ford's Out in Front
On The Big Red Letter
God Bless the One I Love
Roving and Dreaming
Hi Lee, Hi Low
We're Going to Schenectady
Wonderful Plan
Eat, Drink and Be Healthy
I Want To Go To Chicago
Kiss the Girls Good Morning
For I For S Forever
Florida Fresh Frozen Concentrate
1955 Freedom Song
1956 .,h/i e the Luck (for the Red Cross)
1957 (The Music Man see also above for additional titles*)









Rock Island
Iowa Stubborn
Ya Got Trouble
Goodnight, My Someone
Seventy-Six Trombones
Sincere
The Sadder But Wiser Girl for Me
Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little/Good Night, Ladies
Marian the Librarian
My White Knight
The Wells Fargo Wagon
It's You
Shipoopi
Lida Rose
Will I Ever Tell You?
1960 (The Unsinkable Molly Brown)
Belly Up to the Bar Boys
IAin't Down Yet
I'll Never Say No
Are You Sure?
Leadville Johnny Brown
My Own Brass Bed
Dolce Far Niente
Chick-a-Pen
Bon Jour
If I Knew
Happy Bit ihl da, Mrs. J.J. Brown
Bea-u-ti-ful People ofDenver
I've A 'Ready Started In
Keep-A-Hoppin'
The Denver Police
1961 My Kansas, My Home (Here's Love*)
Newman High School Fight Song (lyrics to Paul Yoder's "The Band")
1962 (from The Music Man motion picture)
If You Don't Mind My Saying So
Being in Love
1963 (Here's Love)
Parade
The Big Clown Balloons
Arm in Arm
You Don't Know
Adeste Fidelis March (arranged by Meredith Willson)
The Bugle
Here's Love
My Wish
Plastic Alligator









Pine Cone and Holly Berries
Look, Little Girl
Expect Things To Happen
Dear Mister Santa Claus
Love, Come Take Me Again
She Hadda Go Back
That Man Over There
1964 (from The Unsinkable Molly Brown motion picture)
Colorado, My Home
Star Parade cues
He's My Friend
1968 The American Legion March
1969 (1491)
Pretty Girl
Get A Map
The Silken Song
Bit th, / ...
The Siege at Loha 3
I For My Glory Land
Sail On
Woman
Every Woman Is A Queen
But I Will Never Say
Tio Paco
Isabella Catholica
The Trastamara Rose
The Queen and the Sailor
The Wonderful Plan
Genius
With Love
Why Not?
Lady
Lash the Wheel
What Does A Queen Have?
1970 Iowa A Place To Grow
Mass of the Bells
Alma Mater Hanover College (music)
1971 Ask Not (first played on CBS television 1964)
1974 A Suite for Flute
W.N. (Whip Inflation Now)


Works with uncertain or unverifiable copyright dates:

And That Is That
Answer Me









British Grenadiers
Buffalo Fight Song
Cabadaster
Cadence
Christmas Presents
Complaint Fanfare
Country Tune
Do Sol Do
Dosi Dos
Fiddle Iddle Up
For A Song
Fourth, The
G Minor Is My Favorite Key
Gay Friends Are Essential
Gentle and Sentimental
Gentleman Tramp Cues
Goodnight, My Darling
Haffner
Heart Fund Valentine Cues
Here Comes the Queen
Horse Sense
I Know Why
I May Never Fall In Love With You
It Is G It Is Minor It Is Mozart
Josephine
Just Like A Song
Just Like A Woman
Melody Man, The
Mule, The
Now We Sing
Number Four
Oh, Where Can There Be
Oh, Where Oh, Where
Polonaise Militaire
Rakoczy March
Remington Rollamatic March
Riverside Drive
Robert Schumann
Scherzo, The
Sequence
Sing Fiddle Sing
Summer Breeze Song
This Concerto Has It
This Is the Song
Toodelso
Up Where People Are









Up Where The Joke's Going On
Very Giacoso
What A Wonderful Song
Where's The Third One?
Yuma and Fun










LIST OF REFERENCES

"9 Meredith Willson... The Past Nine Weeks." Dayton Ohio Herald, February 1938.

"20 Million Hear Big Air Program." Los Angeles, Cal. Examiner, December 16, 1938.

"5,000,000 Listen in on New HookUp: 1000 From Visible Audience in Waldorf Astoria." The
Boston Daily Globe, November 16, 1926.

"A Flattering Offer." Mason City Globe Gazette, July 1909.

"About Willson." Memphis, TN. PressScimitar March 3, 1938.

"Airlane Chatter." Sacramento, Cal. Bee, June 8, 1939.

"Airlane Chatter." Sacramento, Cal. Bee, January 13, 1939.

"All Artists Engaged For Mason City Summer Band," Mason City Globe Gazette, June 7, 1920.

"All Hollywood Joins in Big Radio Show." Santa Barbara, Cal. Press, December 14, 1938.

"All Star Radio Tribute: Warm Springs Foundation Drive Marked by Program." Los Angeles
Evening Herald Express, January 15, 1939.

"Allan Jones Radio Guest." Enquirer, New York, N.Y., January 16, 1938.

"Allan Jones, Star Tenor of MGM's New Picture 'Everybody Sing,' ... San Diego Sun,
January 2, 1938.

"Amazing Rise of Authoress of Quaint Stories." The New York Times, November 28, 1926. VIII,
7:3.

"An Affair of the Follies." The New York Times, November 28, 1926, 22:2.

Anderson, E. Ruth. compiler, Contemporary American Composers: a Biographical Dictionary,
second edition. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1987.

Anderson, Maureen. "The White Reception of Jazz in America", African American Review
(Spring, 2004): 10.

Anspacher, Carolyn. 'S.F. 'Lives' in Music: Spirit of Great City Caught by Willson,' San
Francisco Chronicle, April 12, 1936.

Atkinson, Brooks. "Music Man Reprise." The New York Times, September 28, 1958: II, 1:1.

Atkinson, Brooks, The New York Times, December 20, 1957, 31.

"Bakery Stock Transferred." Mason City Globe-Gazette, May 14, 1927, 6.









"Bar Association Plans Nationwide Flag Day Broadcast." Atlanta, GA Journal, June 11, 1939.

Baron, Leo. "Meredith Willson Gives Advice to Amateur Sirens; Former Mason Cityan Now
Supplying Melodies for Snappy Love Scenes." Mason City Globe-Gazette, March 29,
1938.

Baron, Leo. "Willson Returns to His Hollywood from Europe." Mason City Globe-Gazette,
August 30, 1938.

Barrere, Georges. Flutists Formulae A Compendium of Daily Studies on 6 Basic Exercises.
New York: G. Schirmer Inc., 1935.

"Because It Indicates A Return To Graceful, Simple Music, The ... Boston, Mass. Post,
January 3, 1939.

Bender, Marylin. "Fashions for a Musical Will Be Sold at Macy's." The New York Times,
August 6, 1963, 24.

"Best Bets Tonight; 5:45p.m." American, Boston, Mass., January 6, 1938.

"'Big Brother' Award to Willson." Mason City Globe-Gazette, April 10, 1962.

Blevins, Wilfred. "Despite Situation in '1491'." Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, September 4,
1969.

Bloom, Ken, American Song: The Complete Companion to Tin Pan Alley Song, Volume 3:
'Songwriters'. NY: Schirmer Books, 2001.

"Bob Montgomery Visits 'Good News' Program." Atlanta, GA. Journal, March 16, 1939.

"Bob Preston Is Oscar Contender for 'Dark at the Top'." Warner Brothers Studio press release,
March, 1961.

"Book Willson Shows in Two Largest Broadway Theatres," Mason City Globe-Gazette, August
30, 1960, 15.

Borgendahl, Adrian. "The Two Illegitimate Children Of The Arts Motion Pictures And The
Radio Long Regarded As Parasites Are Now Turning Into Maecenas ." West
HollywoodIndependent, January 21, 1938.

"Brilliant Opening at New Paramount." The New York Times, November 20, 1926, 3:2.

Buckley, Tom. "Music Man's Music Man at 78." The New York Times Biographical Service,
June 5, 1980.

Buehner, Kristin. "Dixie." Mason City Globe-Gazette, September 11, 1994.

Burke, Kathy. "L.A. Composer Whips up Inflation Fight Song." Los Angeles Times, November
30, 1974: I: 23.









Byrne, Dan. "Meredith Willson Blasts Rock 'n' Roll as 'Garbage'." Mason City Globe-Gazette,
June 14, 1958, 14.

Caen, Herb. "Hello, You Lucky People! The Title of Today's Stone Tablet Is Not Yet Another
Example of Herb's Hubris ." San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, Sunday
Punch, June 18, 1978.

Caen, Herb. "Prying Meredith Willson Apart, Discovering What Makes Him Tick So Fast", San
Francisco Chronicle, August2, 1936.

Cantor, Arthur. "'The Music Man' Makes Clean Sweep of Season's Awards on Broadway."
Press release, April 21, 1958.

Capaldo, Chuck. "Showmanship Came in 2nd." Ottumwa Courier, June 20, 1962, 10.

"Cedric Willson Building $5,000,000 Cement Plant at Corpus Christi, Texas." Mason City
Globe-Gazette, January 4, 1947.

Chapman, John. "'The Music Man,' One of the Best Musical Comedies of Our Time." New York
Daily News, December 20, 1957, 60.

Christensen, Richard. "Lockport's Band Jumps in Triumph." Chicago Daily News, June 20,
1962, 6.

Chwialkowski, Jerzy. The Da Capo Catalog of Classical Music Compositions. Cambridge, MA:
Da Capo Press, 1996.

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Parker Publishing Company, Inc., 1973.

Collison, Jim. "Publicity Drums Beating for River City's 'Music Man'." Mason City Globe-
Gazette, May 1962.

"Connie Boswell Set, Will Return in Fall to Maxwell House Program." NYC Variety, August 9,
1939.

Cook, Louis. "Willson's 'Here's Love' Called A Happy Package." Detroit Free Press, August
10, 1963. Reprinted in the Mason City Globe-Gazette August 11, 1963.

"The Corn Belt's Noel Coward." Sunday News, January 12, 1958.

Crowther, Bosely. "'The Great Dictator' by and With Charlie Chaplin, Tragi-Comic Fable of the
Unhappy Lot of Decent Folk in a Totalitarian Land, at the Astor and Capitol." Review of
'The Great Dictator' by Charles Chaplin. The New York Times, October 16, 1940, 29

Currie, Phil. "No. 1 Band Honor Goes to Illinois." Mason City Globe-Gazette, 20 June 20, 1962,
1.

"Debby Reynolds Biography," host Jack Perkins. Arts & Entertainment, December 3, 1996.


285









De O'Fan, Ray. "Radio Aids Infantile Paralysis Drive--Stars on KFI at 6pm." Los Angeles, Calif.
Examiner, January 15, 1938.

"Dialing With Doyle, 'Good News of 1939' celebrated its return ..." New York Journal and
American, August 21, 1939.

"Directs 126 Programs a Week." Mason City Globe-Gazette, December 20, 1944.

"Dorothy Gordon, Called the Peter Pan of America by Barrie, Accounts For ." Philadelphia,
PA. Eve. Ledger, December 31, 1938.

Doyle, J.E. "Willson Conducts Own Works Here." San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 1936.

E.A.N. "$5,000 a Week." Mason City Globe-Gazette, January 16, 1958, 12.

E.A.N. "A Million Minimum." Mason City Globe-Gazette, January 18, 1958.

"Eddy Duchin and his .." Long Beach California Sun, Jan 11, 1938.

"Electrification of Sound: Audiovisual Collections Between the Wars," Library of Congress
Motion Pictures, BiI ,aI I. i itig. Recorded Sound, An Illustrated Guide. Washington,
2002.

"Elkhart to Celebrate 'Meredith Willson Day'." Indianapolis Star, September 6, 1958, 5.

"Equity Exploits Gov't Red Tape; Actor Sues CLO." Variety, August 26, 1969.

Ewen, David. Ed. Living Musicians. New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1940.

"Eye about Meredith Willson." Mason City Globe-Gazette, November 8, 1938.

Farish, Margaret K. ed. Orchestral Music in Print. Philadelphia: Musicdata, Inc., 1979.

Faulkner, Anne Shaw. 'Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?' Ladies Home Journal, (August,
1921): 16-40.

"Favorite of All Times." News, Milwaukee Wis. February 3, 1938.

"Film Stars on Air in Rededication Fete, Rededication to America." News Post, Baltimore MD,
December 14 1938.

Fitzpatrick, Howard. "Among the Studios." Boston, Mass. Post, January 3, 1939.

"Following a broadcast Thursday night, Mr. and Mrs. Meredith ." Citnews, Hollywood CA,
March 15, 1939.

"For Musicians Only." Trenton Advertiser, January 15, 1939.

Fowler, Gene. The Jervis Bay Goes Down, New York: Random House, 1941.









"Frank Morgan on the 'Good News of 1938"' New York City Daily, January 21, 1938.

Frankenstein, Alfred. "Symphony Introduced by Willson", San Francisco Chronicle, 20 April
20, 1936.

Frankenstein, Alfred. "Willson and Francescatti Share Bows", San Francisco Chronicle.
February 7, 1942.

"Freddie Rich, Veteran CBS Orchestra Director, Has Been Awarded A Contract Renewal ."
Los Angeles Daily News, January 25, 1938.

Freedland, Michael. Music Man: The Story ofFrank Simon. Portland: Vallentine Mitchell, 1994.

"Fun News (special from Hollywood)." Oklahoma City Times, March 6, 1939.

Gaster, Adrian. ed., International Who's Who in Music 9th edition. Cambridge, England:
Melrose Press, 1980.

"Good News of 1939, KFI at 6, Will Present.. ." CitNews, Hollywood CA, March 2, 1939.

"Good News of 1939 Broadcast. ." Napa, Calif. Journal, February 16, 1939.

"Good News Schedules Long Guest List for 8 Tonight." Memphis, Tenn. Com'l Appeal, January
12, 1939.

"Good News Stirs Rumour Typhoon." Birmingham, Ala. News, February 13, 1939.

"'Great Dictator' Will Hear His Own Music at Fair." San Francisco Chronicle, August, 27,
1940.

Grey, Nancy. "Meredith Willson; A Fabulous Career That Started in San Francisco." San
Francisco Examiner, July, 22, 1962.

Hall, Charles J. A Chronicle ofAmerican Music 1700-1995. NY: Schirmer Books, 1996.

Hall, Charles J. compiler, A Tii einieit-Century Musical Chronicle, Events 1900-1988. Part of
the Music Reference Collection Number 20. NY: Greenwood Press, 1989.

Hall, W. Earl. "Another Great Play Coming Up. Once More I Am Climbing Out On The End Of
A Long Limb With A Prediction ." Mason City Globe-Gazette, September 12, 1960.

Harper, James. "Whiteman Heads Cast in First Swing School from West." Los Angeles, Calif.
Daily News, January 15, 1938.

"Here's an Interesting Story." Albert Lea Tribune, Albert Lea, Minnesota, February 21, 1939.

"Herth Wields a Pen." Chicago, Ill. 'DownBeat'." January, 1939.

Hom, David. Literature of American Music Supplement 1. NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1988.









"Hough, Harold and Amon Carter. "TCU, 21-Carnegie, ... New York City Radio Daily,
December 23, 1938.

Howell, David. "Radiograms; Were I Santa Claus! If I Were Santa Claus, And Could Give
Whatever I Chose To Whomever I Wanted..."Studio City, Califf, News, December 30,
1937.

Jackson, Helen Hunt. Glimpses of California and the Missions. Boston: Little, Brown, &
Company, 1902.

"Joe E. Brown Featured on Show Tonight." Greenville, S.C. Piedmont, December 1, 1938.

Kaufman, David B. "Famous Maestro and Wife are Mason City Visitors; Meredith Willson
Predicts Return of Virginia Reel, Square Dance." Mason City Globe-Gazette, August 20,
1938.

Kaufman, David B. "Meredith Willson, Composer of Hit Song, Writes Sequel." Mason City
Globe-Gazette, August 30, 1941.

"Kay Kaiser Band Voted Most Outstanding." Observer, Charlotte NC, March 12, 1939.

Kingston, Pierce, J. Eccentric Seattle, Washington: Washington State University Press, 2003.

Koshgarian, Richard. American Orchestral Music: A Performance Catalog. Metuchen, NJ:
Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1992.

Krummel, D.W. ed., Biographical Handbook ofAmerican Music. Chicago: University of Illinois
Press, 1987.

Krummel, D.W. et al. Resources of American Music History: A Directory of Source Materials
from Colonial Times to World War II. University of Illinois Press, U Chicago, 1981.

"'Lambeth Walk' Is Outstanding Tune of 1938." Milwaukee, Wis. Evening Post, January 28,
1939.

"The 'Last Of the Red Hot Mamas,' Sophie Tucker, Admits To Half A Hundred Years..." San
Francisco News, January 13, 1938.

Layton, Robert, ed. A Guide to the Symphony. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

"Leads Own Symphony." Picture ofM. Willson, San Francisco Chronicle, April 5, 1936.

Leitzel, Honors. "A Special Composition From The Pen Of Meredith Willson, Formerly Of
Mason City And Now In Charge Of.. ." Mason City Globe-Gazette, February 21, 1933.

"The Liberty and Rights of American ." Boston Post, June 11, 1939.

Limbacher, James L, ed. Film Music: From Violins to Video. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow
Press, Inc, 1974.









"Lionel Barrymore Again Visits ... Boston Transcript, June 8, 1939.

"Lionel Barrymore Visits Snooks." Springfiel Journal, June 8, 1939.

"Listenin' in with Chuck Gay. Two new programs premiered Sunday... Dayton News, January
6, 1939.

"Local Boy Contributes to New De Forest Invention; First Music on Films Made by Meredith
Willson." Mason City Globe-Gazette, November 21, 1923.

"Lou Gehrig, Star Firstbaseman Of The New York ... "San Francisco, Calif. News, January
27, 1938.

"Manuscript By Willson Joins State Library." Des Moines Register, January 26, 1960.

"March of Dimes on Air." Kansas City Star, January 22, 1939.

"Mason City's Greatest Booster Coming 'Home' --- Meredith Willson in CBS Show." Mason
City Globe-Gazette, September 30, 1946.

"Maxwell House Good News Airshow Is Expected To Continue ." Variety, May 3, 1939.

McCardle, Dorothy. "Willson's Own Tune Keeps Him Trim." Des Moines Register, October 9,
1961.

McLean, James. "On the Air Waves." Tampa, Fla. News, January 26, 1939.

McMahon, R. 'Unspeakable Jazz Must Go.' Ladies Home Journal, (December, 1921): 34.

"Meliza Korjus, Star of the 'Great Waltz' and Tony Martin will join with the cast of 'Burn 'Em
Up O'Connor'..." Democrat, Waterbury, CT, January 11, 1939.

"Meredith Makes Music." Mason City Globe-Gazette, August 30, 1941.

"Meredith Willson, the Composer-Conductor for N.B.C.'s 'Big Show' ." Musical Express,
August 31, 1951.

"Meredith Willson of'Concert Swing' fame ." Herald, Washington D.C., February 3, 1938.

"Meredith Willson Gains Signal Honor." Los Angeles Daily News, January 15, 1938.

"Meredith Willson; His Fabulous Career Began With Piano Lessons and a Mail Order Flute!"
Flute Forum. Autumn, 1960.

"Meredith Willson Invited to Festival: Asked to Lead Massed Bands. Mason City Globe-
Gazette, Mason City, Iowa, May 18th, 1945.

"Meredith Willson, 'Most Beloved Me .' Times Dispatch, Richmond, Va. February 3, 1938.









"Meredith Willson Product of Sad Family Strains," Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 6, 1970.

"Meredith Willson Resigns." Springfield, Mass. Repub., December 4 1938.

"Meredith Willson Selected to Aid in Chaplin's Movie." Mason City Globe-Gazette, July 2,
1940.

"Meredith Willson Turns His Distinctive Talents For Arranging Towards The Berlin Number,
'Easter Parade' ." S. h Norwalk Sentinel, April 14, 1938.

"Meredith Willson Will Direct Own Symphony: Former Mason Cityan Will Lead Frisco
Orchestra." San Francisco Chronicle, March 31, 1936.

"Meredith Willson Will Present Most Beloved Music On 'Good News' Program." Times,
Indianapolis, Ind., February 3, 1938.

"Meredith Willson's Work on Sunday KGLO Concert," Mason City Globe Gazette, August 9th,
1941.

"Mike Shorts: More Than 15,000 Requests Were Received ." Long Beach, Calif. Sun, January
10, 1938.

"Mike Shorts: They Always Want To Do..." Long Beach, Calif. Sun, January 11, 1938.

"Millions Hear Hollywood's Rededication Broadcast." San Francisco, Cal. Exam., December 15,
1938.

"Modern Dances Prophetic?" Ledger Syndicate, Philadelphia PA, May 28, 1939.

"Morris Office Record." Orchestra World, February, 1939.

"Music Hath Charms to Soothe Milady's Beau." New York City Telegraph, March 29, 1938.

"Music Programs: This Afternoon Concert By The San Francisco Preparatory Orchestra Under
The Direction Of ." San Francisco Chronicle, August 25, 1940.

"Musical Comedy: Dance Cabaret." Sussex Daily News, July 27, 1938.

Musiker, Reuben and Naomi Musiker. Conductors and Composers ofPopular Orchestral Music:
A Biographical andDiscographical Sourcebook. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press,
1998.

Myers, J. Clarence. "Radio; The Crying Need Of Radio In This Town, In This Humble
Reporter's Estimation, Is Another Blue Monday Jamboree Or Happy Go Lucky Hour..."
San Francisco Life, February 1941.

"Myrna Loy on 'Good News' Airshow." Times Dispatch, Richmond, VA. 10(?)/30/37.

"NBC Forming Staff Orchestra on Coast." Motion Picture Daily, February 11, 1938.









Nicholls, David. Ed., The Cambridge History ofAmerican Music. Cambridge University Press,
1998.

"Notes about Programs and People." Arizona Republic, November 13, 1938.

0.0. McIntyre Dead: Columnist Was 54." The New York Times, February 15th, 1938: 25.

Oates, Bill. Meredith Willson, America's Music Man. Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2005.

"On The Subject of Good News ." Buffalo, N. YEveningNews, January 20, 1938.

Opp, George. "People in Radio and Programs." Phila., Pa., Eve. Ledger, December 8, 1988.

"Out of the Air: News and Gossip of Radioland." Courier, Evansville IN, January 22, 1939.

"Patriotic Music Marks Program." Los Angeles Calif. Examiner, December 15, 1938.

"Patriotic Program Tops Radio Tonight." Los Angeles, Cal. News, December 15, 1938.

"People in Radio and Programs: Virginia Bruce and Melvyn Douglas romantically ." Evening
Ledger, Philadelphia, PA, December 8, 1938.

"Pioneer Dead; J.D. Willson, Builder and Lawyer, Dies. Had Varied Career As Realtor, Banker,
and Contractor." Mason City Globe Gazette.

"Preview Scenes From A Forthcoming MGM Picture ." Telegram, Worcester, MA, April 9,
1939.

Randel, Don Michael. ed., Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music. Cambridge, Mass: The
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996.

"Radio Offerings; Allen Jones, Tenor Star Of The Films, Will Return To The Good News Of
1938 Program ." Long Beach, Calif. Sun. January 20, 1938.

"Radio's Effect on Theatre: Monday's Ether Innovation Analyzed," Variety, November 17,
1926.

"Radioland Reflections. Big Doings Along The Line Between Here And Hollywood Tonight .
." Boston, Mass. American, January 15, 1938.

"Rededication Fete will be Broadcast." Seattle, Wash. Post ntell., December 14, 1938.

"'Rededication' Links Millions for Patriotism." New York City Mirror, December 15, 1938.

"Rededication of Liberty Is Heralded to Nation." Chicago, Ill. Examiner, December 15, 1938.

"Rededication Program on Air Tonight; Nation to Hear Film Stars, Civic Leaders." Los Angeles
Times, December 14, 1938.









"Ripples from Air Waves." Bridgeport, Conn. Post, January 4, 1939.

Root, Deane L. "Meredith Willson," ed. Stanley Sadie, in New Grove Dictionary of Music and
Musicians. New York: W.W. Norton, 1980.

"Rosalind Russell [to] be Guest of Good News Tonight at 9." Greenville, S.C. News, December
8, 1938.

Salzman, Eric. Tii einieit-Century Music, an Introduction, fourth edition. NJ: Prentice-Hall,
2001.

"San Francisco in a Symphony." San Francisco Chronicle, April 17, 1936.

Sandos, James A. "Junipero Serra's Canonization and the Historical Record." American
HistoricalReview 93, (1988), pp. 1253-1269.

Sargeant, Winthrop. Genius, Goddesses andPeople. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1949.

"Silly Songs Herald Bigger, Better Days." Duluth, Minn. Herald, August 4, 1939.

Skipper, John C. Meredith Willson: The Unsinkable Music Man. Mason City, IA: Savas
Publishing Co., 2000.

Slonimsky, Nicholas. Music Since 1900, fifth edition. NY: Schirmer Books, 1994.

Smith, Norman E. Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications Inc., 2002.

Smith, Tom F. "'Good News' Resumes Today Playing of Immortal Music. Music lovers will
enjoy the 'Good News of 1938' program at 9 p.m. today ." Miami Herald, January 13,
1938.

"Stars of Radio to Join Drive." Sniuh Bend, Ind. Tribune, January 22, 1939.

Stempel, Larry. "Meredith Willson," ed. H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie, in New Grove
Dictionary of Music and Musicians. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000.

Suskin, S. .h\/ii- Tunes: the Songs, .,\/vi \, and Careers ofBroadway's Major Composers. New
York: Oxford University Press, 1986, enlarged 3/2000.

"Swing Slang and the Argot of the Cats." The Evening Sun, December. 19, 1938.

"Tag Lines."Chicago, Ill. Radio Guide, January 21, 1939.

"Tallulah Sparkles at 'Big Rehearsal'." The Christian Science Monitor, February 26, 1951.

"Ten U.S. Composers Will Get Commissions." The New York Herald Tribune, August 20, 1939.

"They Started Here: A Mason City Series of Success Stories, No. 2 Meredith Willson, Master
Musician," Mason City Globe Gazette, March 3rd, 1940.









Thomas, Bob. "Meredith Willson Planning Gigantic Musical Project." Iowa City Press-Citizen,
December 1, 1959.

Thompson, Oscar. Editor-in-Chief, International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians, Volume
M-Z. 10th ed. NY: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1975.

"Thoughts While Strolling."Huntington, W VA. Advertiser, February 20, 1939.

"Twenty Years of Marital Bliss." San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, California, August
25, 1940.

"Twisting the Dials." East Syracuse, NYNews, October 6, 1938.

"Two Minute Interview." Chicago Times/Tribune, Chicago Ill. April 12, 1938.

Wedge, George A(nson). Advanced Ear-Training and Sight-Singing as Applied to the Study of
Harmony. New York: G. Schirmer Inc., 1922.

Wedge, George A(nson). AppliedHarmony. New York: G. Schirmer Inc., 1930.

Wedge, George A(nson). Ear Training and Sight Singing Applied to Elementary Music Theory.
New York: G. Schirmer Inc., 1921.

"What Every Young Musician ." Advertiser, Trenton, NJ, January 15, 1939.

"What Is the Most Beloved Musical ." Press, Pittsburgh, PA. February 2, 1938.

"What Manner Of Person Is He? An appraisal of Meredith Willson." Mason City Globe-Gazette,
June 1962.

"What's the Good News? A Birthday!" Jerseyville, Ill. Daily Dem., December 12, 1938.

Willson, Dixie. "The Man Behind 'The Music Man.'" The American Weekly, May 4, 1958, 15.

Willson, Meredith. And There I Stood With My Piccolo. NY: Doubleday, 1948.

Willson, Meredith. But He Doesn 't Know the Territory. NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1959.

Willson, Meredith. Eggs IHave Laid. NY: Henry Holt and Co., 1955.

Willson, Meredith. "House of Melody." San Francisco: Sherman, Clay & Co., 1937.

Willson, Meredith. 0.0. Mclntyre Suite. New York: Robbins Music Corporation, 1934.

Willson, Meredith. "The Reminiscences of Meredith Willson", Popular Arts Project Series V,
Volume IX, Category IA, Oral History Research Office, NY: Columbia University, 1961.

Willson, Meredith. ".\Ayh/ne American Intermezzo for Piano. New York: Edwin F. Kalmus,
Inc, 1929.









Willson, Meredith. "This I Believe." Los Angeles Times, May 18, 1952.

Willson, Meredith. What Every Young Musician .shl, nKnow. NY: Robbins Music Corporation,
1938.

Willson, Meredith. Who Did What to Fedalia. NY: Doubleday, 1952.

"Willson Option Lifted." Hollywood, Calif. Variety, February 22, 1939.

"Willson Quits Director Job." Greenville, S.C. Piedmont, December 2, 1938.

"Willson Signs Contract to Record Music Album." Mason City Globe-Gazette, December 31,
1940.

"Willson Stars On KGO Music Program Today." San Francisco Chronicle, August 22, 1933.

"Within the Law Will Be Good News For .." Sacramento, Cal. Bee, December 3, 1938.

"The Wrestlers Threw The Boxers For A Heavy ." News, New York, N.Y. Januaryl6, 1938.

"WTAM and the Red Network Tonight from ." Blade, Toledo, Ohio January, 1938.

Wyler, William. The Little Foxes. With Better Davis Herbert Marshall, and Teresa Wright.
RKO/Radio, 1941.

Yerger, Waldon. "Microphone Whisperings; Sex Is Not A Factor In The Composition Of Large
Radio Orchestras In Hollywood. Temperamentally And Musically, Women Are
Considered Equals Of Men ." Democrat and Chronicle, Times Union. Rochester, NY:
January 8, 1938.

"Youngest Baton-Waver Lords It at Fair Tonight: Master Lorin Maazel to Conduct
Tschaikowsky's Marche Slave(sic), Festival at Bergamo, Brooklyn Opera, Opportunity."
The New York World-Telegram, August 18, 1939.

"A Youth Who is Going Through College on a ." Washington D.C. Star, February 1938.










DISCOGRAPHY

Willson, Meredith, and His Orchestra. 1949. March for Americans (Ferde Grofe), American
Serenade (Louis Alter), Decca DL 8025.

Willson, Meredith, and His Orchestra. 1949. American Humoresque (Sigmund Romberg),
/American Caprice (Morton Gould), Decca Personality 29102.

Willson, Meredith, and His Orchestra. 1949. American Lullaby (Duke Ellington), American
Barcarolle (Harry Warren), Decca 23215.

Willson, Meredith, and His Orchestra. 1949. American Minuet (Harold Arlen), American
Nocturne (Dana Suesse), Decca Personality 29103.

Willson, Meredith, and His Orchestra. 1949. American Waltz (Peter de Rose), American
Arabesque (Vernon Duke) Decca Personality 23214.

Willson, Meredith, and His Orchestra. 1949. Chiffon Swing, 'Thoughts While Strolling', Decca
DL5074, 1949.

Willson, Meredith. 1998. Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2. Director William T. Stromberg, Moscow
State Symphony Orchestra, Moscow State Orchestra. NAXOS, 8.559006.










BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Valerie A. Austin was born in Massachusetts on the 27th of January, delaying her birth by

nearly five weeks possibly so as to share a birthdate with Mozart. Her mother was not amused.

Her parents separated when she was young, and at the age of six she moved with her mother and

sister to Charleston, West Virginia. The remainder of her childhood was spent there, and the

indigenous music and culture of that State strongly influenced Austin's subsequent interest in

Appalachian customs. While in high school Austin was honored as a "Young Columbus

Ambassador" by Parade magazine. As a result of this award she travelled to Ireland where she

met and made presentations to the Irish president, the American ambassador to Ireland, and the

Lord Mayor of Dublin. It was during this trip the Austin first heard traditional Irish music and

was struck by its relationship to Appalachian music.

Soon thereafter Austin accepted a performance scholarship and matriculated into West

Virginia University. During her years at this university she was awarded numerous scholarships

and honors, mostly for performance on trumpet, her major instrument. During her junior year

Ms. Austin won a seat in the faculty brass quintet and subsequently enjoyed much travel and

performance with this group. After her 1985 graduation with a bachelor's degree in music

education, Austin took a position with the Kanawha county board of education. In 1987 she

began her successful tenure as band and chorus director for Dunbar High School, where she

remained until the school's closure in 1990. At this time Austin entered the University of Florida

to pursue a master's degree in music history and literature. During her time at this institution

Austin was active in the Renaissance Ensemble, eventually rising to the position of assistant

director. During the summers of 1991 and 1992 she held internships at the ITMA in Dublin.









During the 1993-94 academic year she was awarded a Rotary International Graduate

Ambassadorial Scholarship to study at Trinity College, University of Dublin, in Ireland.

Upon her return to Florida, Austin accepted a position as music instructor at the P.K.

Yonge Developmental Research school of the University of Florida. During her seven years

there she gained tenure and served on the committee which designed the P.K. Yonge Performing

Arts Center. She began her doctoral work, concurrently becoming one of the first National

Board Certified teachers in music and earning all three Orff methodology levels. Austin took a

leave of absence from P.K. Yonge after completing her doctoral exams. While writing her

dissertation she has held several one-year positions, at the University of Vermont, Tennessee

Tech University, and Stephen F. Austin University. Her hobbies include reading and travel.





PAGE 1

1 THE ORCHESTRAL WORKS OF MEREDITH WILLSON By VALERIE A. AUSTIN A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2008

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2 2008 Valerie A. Austin

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3 To my friends, family, and especially to those teachers who opened my eyes to the world, past and present.

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This dissertation would not have been possi ble without the expert guidance of my esteem ed advisor, Dr. David Z. Kushner. He was readily available to me, as he so generously is for all of his students, and always read and res ponded to the drafts of each chapter of my work with expediency and excellence. The memb ers of my dissertati on committee, Dr. Raymond Chobaz, Dr. Florin Curta, Dr. Art Jennings, Prof essor John S. Kitts-Turner, and Dr. Leslie Odom have generously given their time and expertise to better my work. A special thanks to them for their countless hours of reading, re flection, and suggestions. Vast accolades are also extended to the excellent UF music librar y personnel, Robena Cornwall and Michelle Wilbanks, whose assistance and attention to detail was especially valuable. I am grateful to residents of Mason Cit y, Iowa, who welcomed me, and shared their memoires and experiences. The staff of the Mas on City Public Library warrants special mention for their unflagging patience, their courtesy, and es pecially for their willingness to check details via e-mail and long-distance correspondence. The contributions, both materi al and reflective, of Mason City archivist Terry Ha rrison, and retired Mason City Historian Art Fischbeck, were invaluable. Bill Oates, a fellow Willson researcher, generously shared his meticulous research that supported and expanded my own work. I thank my family for their support. I here remember all four grandparents for their extraordinary academic accomplishments. These set an educational pr ecedence for their descendents. I thank my mother for her enco uragement, nagging, and ed itorial suggestions. Thanks and accolades also go to the extraord inary school director under whom I worked full time while completing my coursework, Dr. Fran Vandiver, who set a phenomenal professional model and encouraged both praxis and theoretical ap proaches in all matters. Her warnings of legions of uncompleted di ssertations range loudly in my ears.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............................................................................................................... 4LIST OF FIGURES .........................................................................................................................7 LIST OF EXAMPLES .....................................................................................................................8ABSTRACT ...................................................................................................................... .............14 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................. 16Purpose of the Study .......................................................................................................... .....16Need for the Study ..................................................................................................................17Research Procedure ................................................................................................................20Analysis of Data .....................................................................................................................212 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ........................................................................................22Biographical Dict ionaries and Encyclopedias ........................................................................22Books on Twentieth-Century Musicians and Composers ......................................................25 American Music or American Composers .............................................................................26Genre-Specific Sources ..........................................................................................................28The Popular Arena ..................................................................................................................29Subject-Specific Biographical Works ..................................................................................... 303 BIOGRAPHY ..................................................................................................................... ....34Family Background ................................................................................................................34John Willson .................................................................................................................. .........35Rosalie Reiniger Willson ........................................................................................................39The Family and Early Musical Training ................................................................................. 42High School and Immediately Thereafter ............................................................................... 52New York Years ................................................................................................................ .....54The John Philip Sousa Band ...................................................................................................58New York Philharmonic .........................................................................................................70The West Coast Years .......................................................................................................... ..78Posthumous .................................................................................................................... .......1004 WILLSON AS COMPOSER AND CONDUCTOR ............................................................ 112Background .................................................................................................................... .......112Training as a Composer ........................................................................................................ 115Earliest Publications .............................................................................................................120

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6 First Orchestral Publication Parade Fantastique ................................................................121A Trio of works, The Tornado, The Siege, The Phenomena ................................................128From East to West Coast ...................................................................................................... 129Willsons Early Vitaphone Compositions ............................................................................ 131Willson as Conductor .......................................................................................................... .135Film Scores ................................................................................................................... ........138What Every Young Musician Should Know ........................................................................ 141Suites: O.O. McIntyre and Jervis Bay ..................................................................................1455 SYMPHONY NUMBER ONE IN F MINOR: A DELINEATION OF THE SPIRITUAL PERSONALITY THAT IS SAN FRANCISCO ............................................. 150Background .................................................................................................................... .......150First Movement, Andante--Allegro, Ma Molto Moderato--Allegro Moderato--Vivace .......153Second Movement, Andante .................................................................................................172Third Movement, Presto .......................................................................................................176Fourth Movement, Allegro ...................................................................................................183General Analytic Summary ..................................................................................................1936 SYMPHONY NUMBER II, THE M ISSIONS OF CALIFORNIA ................................... 196Background .................................................................................................................... .......196Part One: Junipero Serra ......................................................................................................197Part Two: San Juan Bautista ................................................................................................210Part Three: Scherzo, San Juan Capistrano ...........................................................................218Part Four: El Camino Real ....................................................................................................226General Analytical Summary ............................................................................................... 239Reaction to Symphony .......................................................................................................... 2437 SUMMARY ....................................................................................................................... .2456 APPENDIX A JOHN WILLSON LETTERS TO ROSEMARY, DIVORCE PAPERS .............................. 249B DIXIE WILLSON LETTERS ASSERTING AUTHORSHIP ROLE IN THE MUSIC MAN ......................................................................................................................................259C PAGES OF DIXIE WILLSONS THE SILVER TRIANGLE ............................................ 269D CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF WI LLSONS WORKS ...................................................... 274LIST OF REFERENCES .............................................................................................................283DISCOGRAPHY ................................................................................................................... ......295BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .......................................................................................................296

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7 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 3-1 Note on this photograph from the family album reads, Robert Reiniger Meredith W illson, 6 months old (Courtesy, Mason City Public Library Archives). ..................... 1023-2 Rosalie with Meredith, circa 1904 (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives). ....1033-3 Rosalie coaching sons Cedric, left, and Meredith on the black upright piano in the parlor. (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives). ..............................................1043-4 Willson Family, circa 1908. Left to right: (Dixie), Cedric, Rosalie, John, Meredith. Johns appearance in the background, in diffe rent shades and perspectives, suggests that the photographer may have added a pr e-existing photo to cr eate the family portrait (Courtesy of Mason City Public Library Archives). ........................................... 1043-5 Meredith with banjo, Cedric with an in strument identified as a long-neck mandolin, and Dixie (seated), with mandolin (Cour tesy of Mason City Public Library Archives). .................................................................................................................... .....1053-6 Cedric, left, and Meredith in their So usa uniforms (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives). ............................................................................................................1053-7 Vintage postcard of the Rialto theat er, demolished around 1932, site of one of Willsons first playing positions in New York City (public domain). ............................. 1063-8 Page from the scrapbook kept by Mere dith and Peggy Willsons during his radio days. The two defaced entries represen t an apparent attempt by Willsons second wife to remove memorabilia associated w ith first wife, Peggy (F rom Art Fischbeck). .. 1073-9 (Josef) Wilhelm Mengelberg (1871-1951), Willsons bogeyman (public domain). ..... 1083-10 Poster for one of Willsons early films. Co mposers of these early talkies did all the composing and scoring, but had not yet gained enough stature for inclusion on advertisements (public domain). ...................................................................................... 1093-11 Poster for another of Willsons early films, Peacock Alley (public domain). ................. 1103-12 Meredith Wilson while directing the Carefree Carnival program, during rehearsal with the Williams Sisters: Top standing is Laura Williams, middle is Alice Sizer and sitting is Ethelyn Willia ms (Public domain). ................................................................... 111 4-1 Willson conducting, c. 1938. This photo was autographed for Dixie, with whom Meredith still ma intained good relations (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives). .................................................................................................................... .....1484-2 Advertisement for What Every Musician Should Know. .................................................149

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8 LIST OF EXAMPLES Example page 4-1 Trumpet fanfare which begins Parade Fantastique ........................................................1244-2 Woodwind motif ............................................................................................................ ..1244-3 Basic string rhythmic pattern, staccato eighth note march in the string section. ............ 1244-4 Main theme of Parade Fantastique ................................................................................ 1255-1 Introductory musical materi als which, on first appearance, seem to be transitory, mm. 1-4. ...........................................................................................................................1545-2 Introductory material development, mm. 9-12. ............................................................... 1545-3 Initial Theme 1 statement, mm. 17-22. ............................................................................ 1555-4 Introduction of Theme 2, mm. 27-41. .............................................................................. 1565-5 Theme 1 derivative, with key and meter modulations, mm. 44-49. ................................ 1575-6 Presentation of Theme I in C minor, mm. 62-65. ............................................................ 1585-9 Theme 1 derived material augmented a nd presented in the bass lines, mm. 109-115. .... 1595-10 Chordal movement in the woodwind parts, accompanied by driving tympani triplets, mm. 137-138. The material loos ely resembles Theme 1, but is separate enough to be labeled Theme 3. ..............................................................................................................1605-11 Measure 205 or 164, tympani solo leading to B-flat minor. ............................................ 1605-12 Theme 2 in saxophones, mm. 209-217. ........................................................................... 1615-13 Baritone saxophone solo, mm. 249-253. ......................................................................... 1625-14 Theme 4 as introduced in mm. 279-287. Th e thick chordal figures and chromaticism combine to make this a hyper-exp ressive thematic presentation. ....................................1625-15 Entrance of Theme 1 development, mm. 307-311, page forty-three. ..............................1635-16 Theme 4 materials, mm. 311-315. ................................................................................... 1635-17 Fanfare-like inte rjection, mm. 319-323. .......................................................................... 1645-19 More flourishes, mm. 323-326.........................................................................................1645-20 Return to Theme 1 derivative materials, mm. 332-336. .................................................. 165

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9 5-21 Development of augmented in troductory ma terial, mm. 340-347. .................................. 1655-22 Introduction of Theme 4 as flute solo mm. 374-382. The first modulation and restatement of the theme begins in th e last measure of this example. ............................. 1665-23 Flourish, mm. 402-403. ................................................................................................... .1665-23 Hyper-expressive developmen t of Theme 2 material in th e key of B minor, in which Theme 1 forms the basis for the accompaniment, mm. 404-411. .................................... 1675-24 Return of the flourish, mm. 424-425. .............................................................................. 1675-25 M arcato Theme 1, mm. 470-474. .................................................................................... 1685-26 Theme 3, mm. 482-489. ................................................................................................... 1695-27 Development of introductory motif, mm. 510-516. ......................................................... 1695-28 Theme 1 derivative development and flourish in stretto mm. 522-526. ...................... 1705-29 Beginning of coda, mm. 579-584. ................................................................................... 1715-30 Conclusion of firs t movement, mm. 639-543. ................................................................. 1725-31 Statement of passacaglia theme, mm. 1-8 of second movement. ................................... 1735-32 First variation, mm. 25-30. ..............................................................................................1745-33 Second variation, D minor, mm. 41-46. ...........................................................................1745-34 Third variation, mm. 57-62. ............................................................................................. 1745-35 Fourth variation, mm. 89-97. ........................................................................................... 1755-36 Fifth variat ion, mm. 138-144. .......................................................................................... 1765-37 Theme 1 of movement 3, mm. 1-8. Th e rapid sixteenth-note runs and busy accompaniment parts are reminiscent of Italian opera music. ......................................... 1785-38 Theme 1 restated in a modal fashion, mm. 9-16. ............................................................. 1795-39 Lyrical Theme 2, mm. 17-24. .......................................................................................... 1795-40 Transitional materials, mm. 48-53. .................................................................................. 1805-41 Transitional materials with Theme 2 fragments, mm. 71-75. .......................................... 1805-42 Theme 3 with a significant nod to Italian opera, mm. 95-102. .................................... 181

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10 5-43 Modulation of Theme 3 fragme nt, mm. 115-119. ...........................................................1825-44 Theme 4, loosely derived from Theme 3, mm. 122-128. ................................................ 1835-45 Theme 1 introduction in F major, mm.1-7 of the Fourth Movement. .............................1845-46 Seemingly transitory tr iplet figures, mm. 11-15. ............................................................. 1845-47 Theme 1 with transitional material, mm.17-23. ............................................................... 1855-48 Presentation of fourth movement Theme 2, mm. 54-62. ................................................. 1865-49 Transitional material, mm.78-83. ..................................................................................... 1875-50 Transitional material presented as a planing progression of dominant 7th chords, mm.86-90. ..................................................................................................................... ...1875-51 Theme 4, mm. 118-121. ................................................................................................... 1885-52 Closing theme in C minor, mm. 132-135. .......................................................................1895-53 Theme 1 development, mm. 144-148. ............................................................................. 1895-54 Theme 5, mm. 172-175. ................................................................................................... 1905-55 Tempo1 marcato statement of Theme 1 derivation, mm. 188-191. ................................. 1915-56 Tympani solo, reference to first movement, mm. 204-209. ............................................. 1915-57 Restatement of Theme 1 in F major, mm. 208-210. ........................................................ 1925-58 Theme 5, presented in E minor, mm. 273-276. ............................................................... 1926-1 Serra theme, mm. 1-4. ...................................................................................................1986-2 Theme 2, which Willson calls both Spanish and Pagan, mm. 7-11. .......................... 1996-3 Triplet-dominated theme 2, mm. 23-26 ........................................................................... 2006-4 Solo oboe presentation of Theme 1 derivative and solo trom bone with rhythmically driving triplet pattern, mm. 27-31. ...................................................................................2006-5 Clarinet cadenza at measure 32. ....................................................................................... 2016-6 Lento Theme 1 derivative flute and oboe so los in F-sharp minor, with rhythmic passage as a trombone solo, mm. 36-40. .........................................................................2026-7 Measure 40, flute cadenza................................................................................................ 202

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11 6-8 Furioso Theme 2 in clarinets, bassoons, hor ns, tympani, and strings, mm 41-43. ......... 2036-9 Triplet pattern which loosely represents Theme 3, mm. 44-49. ...................................... 2036-10 Beginning of chromatic motion, mm. 73-74. ................................................................... 2046-11 Solo English horn stating a rhyt hmic variant of Theme 1, mm. 148-150. ....................... 2056-12 Gaily played B theme, mm. 151-155............................................................................. 2066-13 Theme sequences, mm. 168-174. ..................................................................................... 2066-14 Modulated Theme 2, mm. 170-171. .................................................................................2066-15 Theme 2 in F-sharp major, mm. 176-179. ....................................................................... 2076-16 Reappearance of Theme 3 materials, mm. 180-182. ....................................................... 2076-17 Measure 192, second clarinet cadenza. ............................................................................ 2086-18 Second flute cadenza, measure 194. ................................................................................2096-19 The lyric theme of San Juan Ba utista as outlined by Willson in his autobiographical, And There I Stood with My Piccolo ................................................... 2116-20 First theme of San Juan Bautista which serves as Theme 2, mm. 1-8. ........................... 2126-21 Beethoven quote and musical reference to first movement in the French horns, mm. 15-22. ........................................................................................................................ .......2136-22 Page 61, mm. 21-24, horn and violin themes. Jump of the 4th is the most identifiable feature. ...................................................................................................................... .......2136-23 Flute and oboe presentation of Theme 1 variant, page 63, mm. 36-44. ...........................2146-24 Page 68, mm. 66-73, augmented muted string presentation of B theme in Eflat major. ........................................................................................................................ .......2156-25 Theme 1 derivative as stat ed in the oboe, mm. 82-90. .................................................... 2156-25 Clarinet solo, Theme 1 derivative, mm. 90-94. ............................................................... 2166-26 Theme 2 derviative in G major, mm. 101-105................................................................. 2166-27 Triplet reference to movement 1, mm. 114-118 .............................................................. 2176-28 Second quote from Beethovens Ninth Symphony, mm.160-163. ................................... 2186-29 Thematic reference to movement one, mm.162-168. ...................................................... 218

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12 6-30 Initial through seve nth measures of the scherzo movement. ........................................... 2196-31 First melodic presentation which c ould be defined as Theme 1, mm. 20-23. ................. 2206-32 Oboe and clarinet solos, mm. 25-29. ............................................................................... 2206-32 Flute solo, mm. 29-22. ................................................................................................... ..2206-33 Theme 1 passed among woodwinds, mm. 35-42. ............................................................ 2216-34 Violin retransition, Theme 1, mm. 43-47. ....................................................................... 2216-35 Initial presentation of Theme 2 in low woodwinds, mm. 59-64. ..................................... 2226-36 Brief chorale in the styl e of Wagner, p. 96, mm. 105-108. .............................................2236-37 The chant which Willson obtained from the nuns and included in And There I Stood with my Piccolo. .....................................................................................................2246-38 Application of the San Juan Capistrano melody as Theme 3, mm.113-145. ................... 2246-39 Alto flute solo, mm. 167-174. .......................................................................................... 2256-40 Chorale, mm. 215-226, Theme 1 and transition back to the beginning. .......................... 2256-41 Willsons melody set with the Capistrano melody. ......................................................... 2276-42 Traveling pattern, mm. 1-4. ........................................................................................... 2276-44 Theme 1 as introduced in the cellos, mm. 5-20. .............................................................. 2286-45 Declamatory statement, mm. 39-44. ................................................................................ 2296-46 Introduction of Theme 2, mm. 39-46. .............................................................................. 2306-47 Thematic material loosel y based on Theme 3, mm. 49-53. ............................................. 2306-48 Pedal points, mm. 52-59. ................................................................................................. 2306-49 Alto flute solo, derived from Theme 2, mm. 59-66. ........................................................ 2316-50 Clarinet solo derived from Theme 2 materials, mm. 67-74. ............................................ 2316-51 Introduction of Theme 3, mm. 77-88. .............................................................................. 2326-52 Chime motive, mm. 79 and 80. ..................................................................................... 2336-53 Chromatic motion, mm. 90-94. ........................................................................................2336-54 Expressive string solos, Theme 4, mm. 93-96. ................................................................234

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13 6-55 Retransition utilizing both Themes I and II, mm. 114-116.............................................. 2356-56 Theme 1 derivative stated in imitative entrances, mm. 133-137. .................................... 2356-57 Reference of the Serra them e from movement one, mm. 136-143. .............................. 2366-58 Beginning of retransition, mm. 237-238. ......................................................................... 2376-59 Allegro molto in Theme 1 fragments, mm. 253-254. ....................................................... 2386-60 Final reference to first movement theme, mm. 277-282. ................................................. 239

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14 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy THE ORCHESTRAL WORKS OF MEREDITH WILLSON By Valerie A. Austin August 2008 Chair: David Z. Kushner Major: Music Iowa-native Meredith R. Willson contributed si gnificantly to twentieth-century American music. Best-known as a flutist and composer of popular songs and musicals, Willson was also a radio musical director, division head of NBC west, popular radio host who became an Iowa icon, and composer of orchestral works. Nevertheless, aside from just a handful of compositions, the bulk of Willsons work, regardless of genre, remain s virtually unknown. This is particularly true of his orchestral works. To better facilitate a discussi on of Willson, this study begins with a brief synopsis of the literary sources. A biographical overview of the composers life follows, in which significant aspects of Willsons life are examined, including his childhood, training, pe rformance highlights, major compositions, and recognitions. Willson s relationship with the popular world as examined through the composers own writings a nd in writings by other individuals. Following this information, the bulk of this study focuses on the orchestral works in relation to Willsons life. A chapter on his training as a composer and conductor outlines his studio career and places the orchestral compositions in thei r chronological output. Particular analytical attention is given to Willsons two symphonies, as these are the only of his works for which complete scores are known to exist.

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15 Compositionally, Willsons orchestral works co mbine elements of popular and classical music, including polytonality. This study documents Willsons orchestral compositions and examines the social factors and cultural contexts which contributed to their writing; analyzes the works to identify compositional procedures utilized, observes stylistic influences, and summarizes the composers style as an orchestr al composer. Numerous musical examples and extensive quotations from the composers autobiographical works and interviews are included. Two lengthy analyses of the symphoni es, with musical examples, are included. Willsons style as a symphonic composer is exam ined in terms of programmatic influence, rhythm, melody, harmony, instrumentation, improvisation, and structural devices. Commentary from popular and critical sources is incor porated throughout the study. An extensive bibliography and catalogue of Willsons works complete the examination.

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16 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Purpose of the Study Meredith Willson, 19 02-1984, was a remarkab le multi-talented American musician whose musical skills encompassed an array of musi cal interests over the cour se of his lifetime. The earliest professional aspect of his career was as a flute and piccolo player in John Philip Sousas band, and soon thereafter with the New York Philharmonic under Willem Mengelberg, Wilhelm Furtwngler, Willem Van Hoogstraten, a nd Arturo Toscanini. From performance Willson expanded into conducting, distinguishing himself by becoming the youngest director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Willson wa s a pioneer in the new medium of radio, for which he directed orchestras, developed program s, and managed radio stations during the 1930s and 1940s. He influenced the development of st andard accepted media formats of the era, including stereotypical characters and top ten or Hit Parade listings. Willson was also a writer, authoring a manual of popular compositi onal techniques, three books reflecting on his musical pursuits, and one work of fiction. Over the course of hi s various musical and professional identities, Mere dith Willson maintained his creative outlet, composition. Willsons career as a composer spanned sixty years, over which time he composed approximately four hundred works in numerous ge nres. His output included hundreds of songs, some works for band, film scores, and seve ral stage works, such as the popular The Music Man and The Unsinkable Molly Brown The area of output for which Willson is least known is his orchestral works: two full symphonies; two symp honic poems; three suites; and several works of no specified genre. Over the course of his career, Willson received numerous honors, awards, and commissions, among them two Academy Award nominations and a Tony award.

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17 During the early twentieth-century, American composers were significantly influenced by new trends and technologies, and became both ag ents of this change, and affected by it. Willsons musical life was lived during a time of dramatic musical and social change in the United States. The purpose of this dissertation is to present a short bi ography of the composer, to discuss musical influences on the compositions, to explore aspects of Willsons performance and conducting careers, and to illuminate his lifelong connection to hi s native Iowa. An overarching aim of this study is to document ways in which Willsons music was affected by twentieth-century trends, the multitu dinous facets of his career, and his diverse life experiences. To this end the study explores circumstances surrounding Willsons orchestral compositions. Appendices order his works by chronology and genre. In order to consider the orchestral works within a context of his entire output, the study to uches, to a reasonable extent, upon compositions in the diverse genres of music in which Willson composed. Works are analyzed to show how Wills on used compositional elements. Extracompositional particulars are also explored so as to place Willsons works in the context of the early twentieth-century and to reveal the variety of influences which inspired his compositions. Analytical focus centers on those compositions for which a score is known to exist. Commentary is generally omitted on transcrip tions, editions, and rearrangements by Willson. There are numerous orchestral arrangements, by both the composer and others, of Willsons successful stage works; these will not be considered part of his orchestral output. Need for the Study Displaying a divers ity of talent that riva led other composers of his generation, Willson composed songs, orchestral music, radio music, film scores, and centennial music for at least five individual state celebrations. Th ese works have been given short shrift in current literature and are in need of further elucidat ion. Willson appeared frequently as a guest conductor for groups

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18 as diverse as large established orchestras and middle school bands. He was honored by federal, state, and municipal governments, as well as by universities, profe ssional societies, and individuals, with honorary degree s, membership invitations, and various other awards. Despite his musical prowess, Meredith Willson has not b een well-remembered in musical circles nor, considering his high-profile radi o career, by the public he served for many decades. He is generally only recollected for one or two stage works which gain ed widespread popularity. The bulk of his numerous compositions, including so ngs, band works, symphonies, and orchestral works, are largely unknown and inaccessible. Though his output was prolific and diverse, Willson remains a neglected figure in twentieth-century music. He did not center himself as a classical comp oser, nor as a popular composer, nor did he focus his efforts in any one ge nre. He rode the wave of faddish culture and willingly popularized himself with public and press. Only a limited selection of leading books, dictionaries, and encyclopedias mention the musi cian and his accomplishments, and in these the focus is largely on his better known popular works, rather than his orchestral works. At the time of publication most of Willsons orchestral compositions were not widely circulated, and many scores cannot be located. This scarcity of prin ted scores is a factor further contributing to the neglect of Willsons orchestral compositions. The scores for most of his compositions for radio have disappeared, and it is likely they were either destroyed or, through multiple purchases and repurchases of networks and radio stations, remain lost in boxes or storage facilities. Willson made no effort to keep scores or personal papers, frequently sending items to friends without keeping a copy. What personal papers and other forms of memorabilia have survived, remain scatte red, unpublished, and unavailable to performers, teachers, and

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19 conductors. Some items may remain in th e possession of his widow, Rosemary Sullivan Willson, who, for many years has been largely secluded. Though Willsons fame rests largely on his popular stage works, most of his orchestral compositions were publicly premiered. This is la rgely due to the composers friendships with influential musical figures, as we ll as his own efforts in using or chestras with which he had an affiliation, usually as a guest-conductor. Relative ly few of the orchestral works, though, have been recorded. The difficulty in finding r ecordings and scores, and a lack of repeat performances of many of the premiered works has further hampered appreciation of Willsons orchestral contributions. Few individuals have explored Willsons life and works, and existing works focus almost exclusively on his stage works. The most noteworthy of these, The Music Man (1957), was produced relatively late in Willsons career. A se lection of newspaper and journal articles have focused on either the life of the composer, or on an individual career success, such as The Music Man but there has been little scholarship on Willsons earlier life and works. The orchestral works were composed almost entirely in the first decade of his compositional career, from his early Parade Fantastique (1930) to his Symphony Number 2 in E Minor (1940), an era of Willsons life which remains largely unexplored. Willson has been overlooked, too, by the scholarly community. A survey of the literature reveals that discussions of his music are omitted altogether from important texts dealing with music of the twentieth-century, music of America, and biographies of musicians. Willson is mentioned only in passing in other texts, and th e overwhelming focus of most entries is on his stage works. These are curious omissions in im portant areas of Willsons creative career. Since a study of Willsons orchestral works has not been previously undertaken, the author will rectify

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20 this situation in the present document. The curre nt study will also endeavor to correct errors or misconceptions found in other printed sources and previous published materials regarding Willson, both as a personality and as a composer His good humor and willingness to play the stooge have contributed to the an ecdotal nature of previous writings about the composer. This study seeks to present a revisi onist perspective, one which does not demolish or diminish Willson, but brings accuracy to the circumstances of his life. Research Procedure Inform ation for this study had to be gleaned from various diverse sources. The general information and framework for the present investigation was based on material from the sources cited in the Chapter 2, Review of the Literature More specific details were found in such disparate sources as newspaper and journal articl es, Willsons literary works, the University of Iowa (UI) Music Library, Mason City Public Libr ary archives, letters, program notes, and talks and informal interviews with members of the musical community who knew Willson personally. The author consulted illumina ting vignettes in a number of newspapers; for example, the New York Times the Mason City Globe-Gazette the San Francisco Observer and multitudinous other city newspapers which contained one or more articles on the musician. Among the more helpful and detailed sources on the composer we re program notes from performances of his various works. The present study would not have been po ssible without the assi stance of several important institutions. The Mason City Public Library (MCPL) Archives houses family letters and information pertaining to the ancestry and childhood of Willson and the local history of the Willson family. This excellent archive was al so the source of biographical pamphlets, newspaper and magazine articles and most importantly, manuscr ipt and publishe d copies of several of Willsons works, though largely the so ngs. The University of Iowa Archives hold

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21 manuscripts and music donated by Willson, includ ing the score for two movements of his First Symphony and a variety of newspaper ar ticles relevant to his conn ection with the University. The Fleisher Collection of the Fr ee Library of Philadelphia holds th e complete scores for the two symphonies. Analysis of Data Using an essentially chronologica l approach, each orchestral work was individually studied and addressed. An analysis of the individual works was gained through biographical readings, score study, listening to any availa ble released or private record ings, score reading, and program notes. Background information, such as comm issioning circumstances, premier dates, and general life circumstances of th e composer, was established and presented for each piece. A thorough and deliberate search was made for the sc ores for each work. Those works for which a score could be located were analyzed, and an atte mpt made to illuminate stylistic trends. Those works for which only a reduced or piano score coul d be located were also analyzed for general characteristics. Items for which no score coul d be found are noted, both in the body of the work and in the appendices. Both written commentary and musical examples were used to describe and illustrate compositional style and intent. Findings are presented using an essentially ch ronological approach. The intent of this approach is to facilitate the identification of trends in Willsons development as a composer and the reflection of these in his compositional style. A chronological approach is also valuable in establishing Willsons role within the diverse tren ds of twentieth-century music. An additional aim of this approach is the anticipation that providing a background for and broad description of each piece will encourage perfor mance of Willsons works by orchestras and ensembles. Finally, conclusions are drawn as a result of this vast research and analytical survey.

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22 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Biographical Dictionaries and Encyclopedias As a thorough exam ination of the orchestral works of Meredith Willson has never before been executed, any gathering of information must begin by examining general music dictionaries and encyclopedias, and major sources on the history of music in the United States. Given the common perception of Willson as a popular compos er, sources must include a variety of books which examine this area as part of an overall perspective; thus the review includes selected sources on contemporary music and popular compos ers. While most examined references are excellent in their own way, they generally touc h only briefly upon the subj ect at hand. Much of their merit lies in their bibliographies as a point of departure to additional material. The researcher, then, must ferret material from a variety of sources, among them, newspaper and magazine articles, reviews of Willsons works, interviews with individuals who had close contact with the composer, record and CD jacket notes program notes, letter s, scripted talks and lectures, and archival materials. The remainder of this section will provid e an overview of musical sources grouped by topic or subject area: general references; books on twentieth-cen tury musicians and composers; texts on twentieth-century music; American musi c and American composers; and sources that deal with a specific genre of music. Informati on exists in each grouping, with different sources providing varying degrees of usefulness. Since virtually no research has been done on Willsons orchestral works, little exists in the way of di rectly related sources. Mo st entries are brief and serve more to establish a historical pe rspective than to provide topical data. The first category consists of major musical so urces serving as general references of music facts. The standard music dictionary in English, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and

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23 Musicians, recognized Meredith Willson for the first ti me in its 1980 edition. The entry consists of a single paragraph, in which one learns th at Willson composed tw o symphonies, a set of orchestral variations and the music for films.1 Also included in the entry is mention of the three well-known stage works, The Music Man The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Heres Love. Nowhere in the entry is there an attempt to address the compositional style of either orchestral or stage works. The entry concludes with a bibl iography of only two sources, both of which were published significantly earlie r than the entry itself. Willson is again included in the most recent edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Published in 2000, the entr y in this edition is expa nded to two paragraphs. Persons unfamiliar with the composers orchestr al works will discover that Willsons . orchestral compositions tend to be programmatic a nd to espouse much of the musical rhetoric of late 19th-century Romanticism (despite such modern ist felicities of orchestration as a saxophone quartet in the First Symphony ).2 The entry also includes a re pertoire list divided into two categories. The first focus is the Stage Work s, and this constitutes the bulk of those works included as Willsons repertoire. In the second, smaller, category, Other Works, several orchestral works are listed, including the early Parade Fantastique, the O.O. McIntyre and Jervis Bay Suites, the two Symphonies, Symphonic Variations on American Themes, and Willsons two best-known film scores, The Great Dictator and The Little Foxes The bibliography is also expanded, and the 2000 edition includes five sour ces, all but one published significantly earlier than the entry itself. 1 Deane L. Root, Meredith Willson, ed. Stanley Sadie, in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (New York: W.W. Norton, 1980), 20:442. 2 Larry Stempel, Meredith Willson, ed. H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie, in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000), 24:421.

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24 Another source containing a significant entry on Willson is Bakers Biographical Dictionary of Music and Musicians Here one finds a sizable pa ssage of both scope and depth. Willsons childhood piano training by his mother is addressed, as are his youthful musical experiences and early career. Th e entry is loosely structured as a chronology of his positions, compositions, and major personal and musical events of Willsons life. This approach provides valuable insight about where the composer was located when he wrote various works, and suggests influences in his life that may have impacted his compositions. The premiers of both symphonies are covered, and there is some mention of his other orchestral music. Other general references that contain material on Willson include the Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music edited by Don Michael Randel. It contains a short, one paragraph biography which is well-balanced and mentions various diverse aspects of Willsons career, including the fact that in his youth th e composer, played flute in John Philip Sousas band (1921-23), then in the New York Philharmonic under Toscanini (1924-29).3 The entry also traces dated highlights of Willsons career, such as 1932, when he, . became musical director of NBCs Wester n Division, first in San Francisco, then in Los Angeles. Despite the inclusion of such diverse aspects of Willsons mu sical life, there is only brief mention of his orchestral works: He also composed some concert music, including two symphonies (1936, 1940) and some film scores ( The Great Dictator (1940)). The focus on musical works in this entry is on those songs and stage wo rks which gained popular success. A retrospect look at the International Whos Who in Music finds that Willson was included in numerous editions, and covered for the final ti me in the 1980 edition, the last edition before his 1984 death. This account mentions his earl y training and career, three marriages, popular 3 Don Michael Randel, ed., Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996), 989.

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25 songs, and books, but makes no mention of his orchestral compositions.4 An entry in the International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians focuses on the serious versus the popular perceptions of Willsons works. This entry exemplifies perceptions about the composer, noting that Willson . composed symphonies and other orchestral music, choral music, and band music. But he won his real successes with his popular music, including the scores for Broadway musical comedies, Music Man and Molly Brown .5 This observation, with a focus on the serious versus the popular nature of his music, highlights a central f acet of Willsons career. It is relevant that several important lite rary works did not include an entry on Willson. There is no mention of the composer, for example, in Randall Thompsons Dictionary of 20th Century Composers 1911-1971 or in Greenes Biographical Encyclopedia (1989). Willson is also omitted from Michael Kennedys well-known volumes, The Oxford Dictionary of Music and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music (1994). Books on Twentieth-Centur y Musicians and Composers Another category of importance encom passe s those sources focusing on composers and performers in the twentieth-century. The lif e of Willson, who was born in 1902 and died in 1984, lies exclusively within this century, and consultation of these sources is necessary for the establishment of current perspective of his compositional role in this period of music history. One of these sources is Eric Salzmans Twentieth-Century Music, An Introduction which misspells Wilson in the index, but correctly in the text. Willson is listed as one of a number of composers for whom, The Broadway influence, found in the movie scores of experienced 4 Adrian Gaster, ed., International Whos Who in Music, 9th edition (Cambridge, England: Melrose Press, 1980), 791. 5 Oscar Thompson, Editor-in-Chief, International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians volume M-Z. 10th ed. (NY: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1975), 2469.

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26 Broadway composers was, on the whole, le ss important except in the film musical itself.6 A Twentieth-Century Musical Chronicle, Events 1900-1988 includes copious listings of musical events, formal and popular, by both major and minor composers. Despite the multitudes of listings, the important contributions of Willson as listed are his birth, death, and the premier of The Music Man .7 Nicholas Slonimskys Music Since 1900 lists important musical events in chronological progression, and includes two entries for Willson. The first of these is the sole entry for April 19, 1936, which reads: Meredith Willson conducts in San Francisco the first performance of his First Symphony on the thirtieth annivers ary of the San Francisco earthquake.8 In the entry for August 27, 1940, one learns that, Meredith Willson, 38-year-old American composer of popular music, conducts the San Francisco Symp hony Orchestra on Treasure Island, California, in the world premier of his Prelude to The Great Dictator, the thematic material of which was composed, by whistling and humming, by Charlie Chaplin himself, and set on paper, organized and harmonized by Hanns Eisler and others, with Hynkel (Hitler) represented by a hoarse trumpet. (The program included also Willsons own Second Symphony, subtitled The Missions of California .) 9 American Music or American Composers A further division of the twentieth-century sources can be found in those which focus on Am erican music or composers. One of the majo r sources of information on American music is the New Grove Dictionary of American Music, and one finds two paragraphs about Willson 6 Eric Salzman, Twentieth-Century Music, an Introduction fourth edition (NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2001), 248. 7 Charles J. Hall, compiler, A Twentieth-Century Musical Chronicle, Events 1900-1988 (NY: Greenwood Press, 1989) Part of the Music Reference Collection No. 20, 7,174, 253. 8 Nicholas Slonimsky, Music Since 1900 fifth edition (NY: Schirmer Books, 1994), 395. 9 Ibid., 452.

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27 included in the fourth volume of this large work.10 The entry is the same as that in the 2000 edition of New Grove Dictionary of American Music and one finds two paragraphs about Willson included in the fourth volume of this large work. The entry is the same as that in the 2000 edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Another major source of information is Contemporary American Composers: a Biographical Dictionary. Here we learn of Willsons private flute studies with Henry Hadley and Georges Barrre. The usual honors are presented, along with his distinction as the recipient of the . first annual Texas award to an outstanding figure in musical life, 1958.11 This is one of the few accounts of Willson which completely neglects his numerous vocal work s, though the entry does make passing mention of several of the smaller or chestral works in addition to the symphonies. A volume which deals indirectly with American music, by listi ng literary works related to music, is the Literature of American Music. This citation includes two of Willsons autobiographical works, with brief sketches of their contents and the wry summary of the composers . apparent aim to tell as many funny stories as possible.12 There is a smattering of information about W illson in several sources in this category, including A Chronicle of American Music 1700-1995. This volume is a chronological list of significant events in American music, which notes the three successful musicals and the premier dates of his two symphonies (1936, 1940.)13 In a chapter titled Contemporary Composers, John Howards Our American Music mentions Willsons symphonic works in passing.14 The Biographical Dictionary of American Music categorizes Willson as a Popular Composer. The 10 Stempel, Meredith Willson, 537-538. 11 E. Ruth Anderson, compiler, Contemporary American Composers: a Biographical Dictionary second edition (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co.), 561. 12 David Horn, Literature of American Music Supplement 1 (NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1988), 318-319. 13 Charles J. Hall, A Chronicle of American Music 1700-1995 (NY: Schirmer Books, 1996). 14 John Howard, Our American Music, 538.

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28 inclusion is a single paragraph which menti ons Willsons musical training and the two symphonies, with the focus resting on his most famous popular works.15 A brief account in The Bibliographical Handbook of American Music mentions Willson only as the donor of a large collection of sheet music to UCLA.16 Willson is entirely neglected, though, in the authoritative The Cambridge History of American Music,17 and in the biographically oriented Contemporary American Composers.18 Genre-Specific Sources A particu lar group of sources which seem to ha ve at least some mention of Willson is that which focuses on band literature. This is especial ly surprising considering that very little of Willsons output was for band. The inclusion of Willson in band sources might be explained by the fact that the few band pieces he composed were fight songs and include the current collegiate fight songs for both State Universities in Iowa, and at least two high schools in the same State. Some of his most popular songs, including Its Beginning to Look Like Christmas ,19 are found in standard band arrangements. Several pieces fr om his musicals are also commonly found in band arrangements, and one piece in particular, 76 Trombones is a standard for marching bands. A source with an entire page devoted to a biography of Willson is Program Notes for Band .20 This listing also includes several of hi s instrumental works not menti oned elsewhere, though is limited to marches and arrangements of his Broadway hits. The major works of Willsons orchestral output are his tw o symphonies, and publications focusing on this genre should be examined. It is apparent, though, that there is a distinct lack of 15 Charles Eugene Claghorn, Biographical Dictionary of American Music (West Nyack, NY: Parker Publishing Company, Inc., 1973), 478. 16 D.W. Krummel, ed., Biographical Handbook of American Music (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 160. 17 The Cambridge History of American Music, ed. David Nicholls (Cambridge University Press, 1998), 323. 18 Anderson, Contemporary American Composers 560. 19 This is the correct title, though there exists the tendency to include the words a lot, which are found in the text. 20 Norman E. Smith, Program Notes for Band (Chicago: GIA Publications Inc., 2002), 650-651.

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29 inclusion of Willsons works in the standard texts on symphonies. The sizable American Orchestral Music: A Performance Catalog fails to mention Willsons works,21 as does A Guide to the Symphony despite an entire chapter devoted to The American Symphony.22 There is no mention of Willsons works in the vast Da Capo Catalog of Classical Music Compositions.23 A more serious omission is Orchestral Music in Print which fails to mention Willsons works in the original printing, the 1983 supplement, and the 1994 supplement.24 Adding to the challenge of locating Willsons scores is the sparsity of his works in the catalog of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), whic h lists locations for only four of his works.25 The orchestral volumes in which Willson does appear are those sources geared towards more popular orchestras. An entr y for pianist Carmen Dragon, in Conductors and Composers of Popular Orchestral Music: A Bi ographical and Discographical Sourcebook,26 notes that Dragon, . was employed by Meredith Willson, the NBC Radios West Coast musical director. The same entry goes on to draw the connection that working for Willson, . led to other important work in radio, records, motion pi ctures and television, as well as appearances as guest conductor with symphony orchestras th roughout the United States, South America and Europe. Despite the allusion to his importance and influence, surprisingly the volume holds no independent entry for Willson. The Popular Arena In addition to his inclusion in works on popular or chestras, Willson is covered in several volumes dealing with the development of popular music. In Show Tunes, the Songs, Shows, and 21 Richard Koshgarian, American Orchestral Music: A Performance Catalog (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1992). 22 Robert Layton, ed. A Guide to the Symphony (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). 23 Jerzy Chwialkowski, The Da Capo Catalog of Classical Music Compositions (Da Capo Press, 1996). 24 Margaret K. Farish, ed. Orchestral Music in Print (Philadelphia: Musicdata, Inc., 1979). 25 ASCAP Symphonic Catalogue 500. 26 Reuben and Naomi Musiker, Conductors and Composers of Popular Orchestral Music: A Biographical and Discographical Sourcebook (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998), 62.

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30 Careers of Broadway's Major Composers, author Suskin devotes over two pages to Willson. Though the focus is primarily on his Broadway works, Suskin tells his readers that, as a child, Willson . sang barber shop and became proficient on flute and piccolo. The author later provides his opinion that Meredith Willson was an inventive novelty writer with one great show in him.27 Another significant entry can be found in American Song: The Complete Companion to Tin Pan Alley Song The entry consists of several pages of a chr onology of the publication of Willsons compositions. This is largely complete, and mentions several of Willsons orchestral works. In the short biography preceding the list, one discovers that Willson Studied music with George Barrre, Henry Hadley, Mortimer Wilson, Bernard Waganaar, [and] Julius Gold.28 Stephen Banfields Popular Song and Popular Music on Stage and Film mentions only The Music Man and then only to compare the protagonist to a similar character in the earlier George Cohan musical, El Capitan Film Music: From Violins to Video includes Willsons contributions The Great Dictator (1940) and The Little Foxes (1941), while overlooking the composers recently discovered earlier film contributions.29 Subject-Specific Biographical Works Willsons musical career spanned six decades and little has been done to compile a definitive musical biography. A logical place to seek information about Willson would seem to be his personal correspondence, letters, diarie s, and everything whic h comprises his personal 27 S. Suskin, Show Tunes: the Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers (New York, 1986, enlarged 3/2000) 269-271. 28 Ken Bloom, American Song: The Complete Companion to Tin Pan Alley Song volume 3: Songwriters (NY: Schirmer Books, 2001), 979. 29 Film Music: From Violins to Video, compiled and edited by James L. Limbacher (Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. 1974), 683.

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31 papers. These have never been collected30, but various letters and scores exist in several locations. The Resources of American Music History notes that the Iowa State Historical Department contains miscella neous biographical materials31 Some letters can be found in the Sousa collection at the Harding Library of the University of Illinois, as well as reminiscences of Sousa by Willson. Willsons hometown library, the Mason City Public Library (MCPL), has an excellent archive of local history and notable figures. Th e MCPL collection includes a number of binders containing copi es of collected family informa tion and early press clippings. The scattered nature of his papers holds true, too, for Willsons scores. Willson gave scores to people throughout the country, seldom retaining a pers onal copy. Recipients may or may not have saved the works; several have not come to light in ei ther recorded or written form. Some scores may exist undiscovere d in the libraries of current day media giants, the result of decades of media company mergers and the resulti ng acquisition of materials. Willson also left scores where he worked, so some are scattered in various public libraries throughout New York City. Other works seem to have been left in th e state in which they were written, as in the case of the five or more centennial celebrations for which Willson composed music, which included California, Kansas, and Texas. Th e lack of a central re pository of his persona l papers and scores is a serious challenge to Willson research; pieces are scattered everywhere. Mason City journalist John Skipper recentl y published a biography of Willson, cleverly titled The Unsinkable Music Man .32 The work focuses largely on the popular compositions, and includes limited reference to the orchestral work s. Skipper clarifies the chronology of Willsons 30 The existence of personal papers is a matter of some debate. A very few letters can be found in scattered libraries and archives, but a collection does not exist in any public library or location. If personal papers have been preserved they are most probably in the poss ession of Willsons widow, Rosemary Willson. 31 D.W. Krummel, et al., Resources of American Music History: A Dir ectory of Source Materials from Colonial Times to World War II (University of Illinois Press, U Chicago, 1981), 128. 32 John C. Skipper, Meredith Willson: The Unsinkable Music Man (Mason City, IA: Savas Publishing Co., 2000).

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32 career, and brings to light some examples of inaccuracies in Willsons own autobiographical works. The importance of Skippers book is the clarification of some of Willsons dates and locations. The book, however, does not cite s ources, relies heavily on anecdotes, includes numerous factual errors, and does not provide a strong basis for study. Bill Oates recently published another biography of Willson, Americ a s Music Man, which corrected some of Skippers inaccuracies and focused strongly on Willsons radio years.33 The composer himself wrote two general autobiographical works, which are largely stream-of-consciousness and anecdotal, And There I Stood with My Piccolo (1948)34 and Eggs I have Laid (1955).35 A third autobiographical work, But He Doesnt Know the Territory centers largely on the creation of a single work, The Music Man, and, as such, is of little relevance to the topic at hand. In all, these autobiographical compositions are interest ing and entertaining, and provide some general impressions of Willson. On the other hand, Willson provides little information about the writing of his symphonic works, to the point of neglecting to mention most of them. In Willsons writings nearly all the information is anecdotal, and this presents significant challenges in detailing the composers life. Willsons literary gifts lay not so much in factual accuracy as in good storytelling. Sometimes the dates and locations Willson provides do not align with dates and places which can be verified via other, unbiased, sources. In his writings he exaggerates some events, probably to present a more entertaining retelling of an actual event. In still other cases there are not able omissions of important ma terial, as in the 255 pages of And There I Stood with My Piccolo, in which Willson fails to mention his twenty-six years of marriage to Peggy Wilson, a high school sweethear t, their subsequent divorce, and his remarriage two weeks later. Further, musical happenings related to Willsons marriage are 33 Bill Oates, Meredith Willson, America s Music Man (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2005). 34 Meredith Willson, And There I Stood With My Piccolo (NewYork: Do ubleday,1948). 35 Meredith Willson, Eggs I Have Laid (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1955).

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33 glossed over or entirely ignored. It has been reported, for example, that Willsons renowned New York flute professor, Georges Barrre, stubbornly refused to continue with Willson as a student in reaction to the young flut e players marriage. External sources suggest that Barrre felt that marriage at such a young age would compromise Willsons performance career. Because of this and other omissions, the reader is left to assume that Willsons studies with Barrre continued uninterrupted from the time he came to New York until the time he left it for the West Coast a decade later, though other so urces suggest differently. Willson also drew attention for paying for Peggy to follow him while on tour with the Sousa band, a practice not allowed by Sousa. Nowhere in And There I Stood with My Piccolo does Willson mention these or any incidents related to Peggy. In all, Willsons writings prove to be more challenging than enlightening as source materials. He may have neglected mention of these events for personal reasons, but the absence of major life events lessens the value of his biographical works as sources of detailed facts about the composer. Willsons omissions and exaggerati ons do not seem malicious, but the end result is a significant need to question the accuracy of his recollections, and to use caution in accepting his facts. A final publication of Willsons, What Every Musician Should Know (1938),36 has been little explored, and is notewort hy for its focus on the composers ideas about the composition and performance of contemporary, largely popular, mu sic. While it possesses much of Willsons trademark humor and quick wit, What Every Musician Should Know is the sole work in which Willson addresses functional elements of the compositional trends of his era. 36 Meredith Willson, What Every Musician Should Know (NY: Robbins Music Corporation, 1938).

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34 CHAPTER 3 BIOGRAPHY Family Background Robert Reiniger Mered ith Willson was born in Mason City, Iowa on May 18, 1902, to John and Reslaie Reiniger Willson. His father, John Willson, was a lawyer who had studied law at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. His mother was the former Rosalie Reiniger, daughter of a Chicago lawyer, who graduated from the Armour Institute in Chicago as one of the first trained Kindergarten teachers. Glory, as he was known in his childhood, or Meredith, as he later became publicly known, was said to have entered the world to some local acclaim. His sister reminisced, Less than 24 hours after he was born in Mason City, Iowa, on May 18, 1902, my brother Meredith Willson made headlines: he had weighed in at 14 pounds, 7 ounces, the biggest baby Iowa had ever recorded.37 Merediths birth notice in the local paper was more mundane, announcing a normal weight of 7 pounds 4 ounces. The sisterly exaggeration, however, serves as a fitting introduction to certai n aspects of Merediths life, including a Willson family habit of embellishing stories to make them more dramatic, a sense of fun, and a positive outlook which would accompany Meredith throughout his life (Figure 3-1.). The Willson family had strong roots in the area and enjoyed a certain degree of social prominence. Grandfather Alonzo Willson organi zed a team of men to search for gold in California in 1853, and returned with $10,000 in cas h from deals he had made with the gold miners.38 Upon his return to the town of Owen s Corner, Alonzo increased his fortune by setting up a business loaning money to farmers, w ho put up their land as collateral. His relative wealth impacted the local community, for Alonzo established the first public library and oversaw construction of the first school in the township, in addition to serving as its first teacher. In 1878 37 Dixie Willson, The Man Behind The Music Man, The American Weekly May 4, 1958, 15. 38 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man 3.

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35 the family moved to nearby Shibboleth, where Al onzo was instrumental in changing the town name to Mason City. John Willson Alonzos son John, Merediths father, was born August 4, 1866, on his fathers farm in Owens Corner, Iowa, one of three boys and four gi rls. In 1884 John m atriculated into a two-year law course at the University of Notre Dame, wher e he played E-flat cornet in the Notre Dame band and also played on the school baseball team Upon completion of th e course, the eighteen year-old John took the state bar examination, where he represented himself as twenty-one years of age, the legal age to practice law. As an adult he lived in Mason City where he was a practicing lawyer for only a brief period of time. While the reasons are not clear as to why he did not establish and maintain a legal practice, one obituary opin ioned that the law profession palled upon him. The mean little te chnicalities that baffled and bl uffed justice irked against his nature.39 John became a sort of general businessman who tried several sorts of enterprises, including banking, contracting, and real estate. He was even a builder for a short time, and built the first brick building in nearby Esther ville. After that, in 1899, John took over management of his fathers large farm at Owens Grove. Eight year s later he once more turned his attention to various business opportunities in Ma son City. At one point he co -owned a bakery in which he was active in management, and served as secret ary and treasurer of a baking corporation. The subheading from his home-town obituary concludes that John, Had Varied Career as Realtor, Banker and Contractor.40 39 Obituary for J.D. Willson, Jan 10th, Mason City Globe Gazette, 1931. 40 Ibid.

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36 The impact of Merediths father, John Wills on, on the development of his children is not well established. Meredith recalled little in th e way of musical influence, offering only that Papa played the E-flat cornet in the Notr e Dame band but gave it up for the guitar as he mellowed into middle age. His [guitar] specialty was the Spanish Fandango.41 The recollections of Johns children ar e striking for their lack of cons ensus as to the personality and influence of their father. Two of Johns childr en, Dixie and Meredith, me ntioned their father in various interviews and articles, though their recollections of hi m are notably different. Dixie remembered and wrote about her father fondly, while Meredith wrote about him with mixed recollections, generally negative, and sometimes contradicting hi s own statements. Recollections which credited John Willson as playing a positive in fluential role in the development of his three talented children came largely from Dixie. Meredith presented more unflattering reco llections. In his first biographical work, And There I Stood with My Piccolo Meredith mentioned his father very little, only to remember him as, red-headed, Scotch-Irish, Midwestern and very stubborn and declared, there is no stronger combination.42 In his second biographical work, Eggs I Have Laid Willson devotes several pages to consideration of his father. As his first work had focused glowingly on his mother, perhaps Meredith sought a certain balan ce in parental memories, though not in the same memoirs. He provided probably the best explanation for his strain ed relationship with his father in Eggs I Have Laid when he reflected, Too bad that a guy s father generally has to be a big granite institution instead of a person. As I look back now, Papa was just the kind of man Id love to have sat around and visited with.43 41 Willson, And There I Stood 74. 42 Meredith Willson Product of Sad Family Strains, Iowa City Press-Citizen August 6, 1970 43 Willson, Eggs I Have Laid 41.

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37 A central point in Johns life, which dramatically affected his children, was his bitter divorce from their mother, Rosalie, in 1920. Mere dith was a teenager at the time of Johns divorce from Rosalie, and had just moved to New Yo rk City, the last child to leave home. The divorce provides some explanation for a general tr end by Meredith, based on articles in which he was directly quoted, to become more acrimonious about his father as he grew older. At the age of sixty-eight Meredith was th e subject of an article by the Iowa City Press-Citizen The article is dramatically titled, Meredith Willson Product of Sad Family Strains, and begins by quoting Merediths assertion that, All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.44 He continued by suggesting a tense paternal relationship with roots in Me rediths own birth: My mother and father already had a son and a daughter. He [John] was angry when my mother told him I was on the way and further that she was determined shed have me. From that time on, my father never spoke directly to my mother by name and never in my lifetime did I hear my name pass through my fathers lips.45 The same article suggests that the rejection by Merediths father was, . the kind of episode that would galvanize a youngster into the determin ed path of independence and success.46 It is possible that Meredith meant to say her name, rather than my name, implying that his father never again spoke his mothers, Rosalies, name. It is curious that Meredith states that his father never spoke hi s name, for there are several examples, related by Meredith, of his father speaking his sons name, and Merediths comment is in direct contrast with the recollection of his sist er Dixie. And while John Willson is not specifically mentioned, it seems unlikely that he, or at least his derby, would play such a role in the selecti on of Merediths name, and then never speak it. 44 Product of Sad Family Strains. 45 Ibid., 5B. 46 Ibid.

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38 Even the acquisition of his [Merediths] na me had a sort of dramatic aspect. He was one week old when slips of pa per bearing five potential names were put into Dads derby. My brother Cedric 16 months old, held the hat while I, as eldest of the Willson progeny now numbering three, reached in to make the all-important choice. If my hand had ta ken a different direction [the name might have been] Roderick, Rex, Alonzo or Buford. But the slip I brought out said Meredith.47 Other quotes in the article, P roduct of Sad Family Strains, are negative to the point of near paranoia: I wired my father and aske d him to lend me the money ($50, to attend the Damrosch (Sic) Institute)48and guaranteed Id repay him. In May, I did, and I dont think he ever forgave me for it, because my brothe r and sister never re paid his loans.49 It makes little sense that John Willson would be angry with his son for repaying a loan, but demonstrates the bitterness with which Meredith incr easingly remembered his father. Another part of the recollection appears to date from the early 1920s, Merediths time with the Sousa band: By that time, my father was very ill and had gone into the Mayo Clinic. When we were playing nearby, I stopped in to se e him and told him I was first flute with the Sousa band and playing a solo each day and maybe hed like to hear me. I stood in that hospital room and played for him and he still wouldnt adm it he appreciated it or I was talented or it was good or anything I really think I sped his de mise. That was the last time I saw him alive.50 It is relevant to note that Merediths tenure with the Sous a band ended in 1923, but that John Willson did not die until January of 1931, and that his demise occurred in a Mason City hospital. Merediths significant distortion of the facts is an indication of the lengths to which he would go 47 Dixie Willson, The Man Behind, 15. 48 Willson frequently refered to the school as the Damro sch Institute of Musical Art, a misnomer which has been perpetuated, usually in writings about Willson. The Institute, while founded by and closely affiliated with Damrosch, did not bear the founders name and was known simply as The Institute of Musical Art (IMA). 49 Product of Sad Family Strains. 50 Ibid.

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39 in order to indict his father, and suggests that Meredith held strong ne gative feelings for his father. Rosalie Reiniger Willson Rosalie Reiniger was born in Charles City, Iowa, in 1860. Rosalies father was Gustavus G. Reiniger, a lawyer who died when Rosalie w as a child of eight. Little is known of her mother, the former Lida Meacham. Rosalie grew to be a lady with a strong personality, deep convictions, and strongly held and voiced opinions. Given the de fined gender roles of the early twentieth-century, it is not surprising that he r primary outlet was her th ree surviving children. She provided an immense early influence on th e development of Merediths talent and personality. As her role was paramount in Mered iths early years, and shaped much of his later life, Rosalie Reiniger Willson warrants close examination. As a nineteenth-century female from a prom inent mid-western fam ily, Rosalies options were likely limited to marriage, nursing, or te aching. She chose teaching and in 1885 completed a short course in Kindergarten E ducation at the Armour Institute in Chicago. The Armour course was among the first in the United States dire cted towards the teaching of young children. Rosalie went on to study at the Kindergarten Department at Iowa State Teachers College, today the University of Northern Iowa located in Cedar Falls.51 Her age at the date of her graduation, 1888, is noteworthy, for she was twenty-eight and unmarried in an era when women commonly wed in their late teens. Rosalie met John Willson that same year when he traveled to Chicago to play a baseball game. When she married Willson on August 28, 1889, she was six years older than he and the editor of a weekly newspaper, The Blushing Bud, which focused on womens rights. After her marriage, Mrs. Willson moved with her new husband to the small town of Estherville, near Mason City, where she took up her role as 51 In 1901 this institution became the State College of Iowa, and in 1961, the University of Northern Iowa.

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40 the wife of a prominent citizen. By 1901 she was quite active in the Womens Christian Temperance Union and the Humane Society. Rosalies most zealous focus, though, was the church. She was deeply religi ous, taught Sunday school, and eventually became superintendent of the primary department of the First Congreg ational Church, a position she proudly held for thirty-two years (Figure 3-2.). Rosalie adorned the Willson home with religious and moral reminders posted in such places as the bathroom mirror; God Gave You Th is Day: Meet the Challenge, and the outside door, Remember, Do Unto Others52 The four pictures which hung in the parlor represented stages of the Voyage of Life, complete with Guardian Angel and moral warnings.53 Rosalie also wrote inspirational thought s on little cards giving them, al ong with advice, to young people delivering goods and papers and to other children.54 She gave many of her former kindergarten students a card inscribed with a quotation by author Philip Brooks: Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for power equa l to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle. Everyday (sic) you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of your life, which has come to you by the grace of God. 55 One childhood playmate of Merediths ki ndly remembered Rosalie Willson as, a wonderful lady with high ideals which she worked hard to instill in children.56 Rosalies strong pious focus was recalled differently by various people. Some said Mrs. Willson was a very religious woman. Others deemed her, a sanctimonious old gal.57 Rosalie certainly had a deep sense of propriety and an equally strong com pulsion to share it with others, an impulse sometimes considered intrusive. 52 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man 9. 53 Willson, And There I Stood 14. 54 Letter from Marjorie S. Arundel, undated, found in MCPLA, 1. 55 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man 9. 56 Letter from Arundel. 57 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man 9.

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41 Rosalies strong focus on religion impacted her children, who were expected to regularly attend church with her. All three children were heavily involved in church activities at the local Congregational church. There is some eviden ce that Rosalies husband, John Willson, grew to resent Rosalies concentration on religion, especially where it c oncerned the three children. It was, nonetheless, at the local c hurch that Meredith had his firs t experiences performing on stage, in plays, and musical events. Certainly Mere dith recalled certain pa rts of his childhood as strongly infused with religion. He later desc ribed relating childhood events and routines to certain sounds, Sunday sounds began with mom playing Jerusalem the Golden and Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam, or maybe The Church in the Wildwood, on the black upright piano in the parlor .58 (Figure 3-3.). After he left home as a teenager, there is no evidence that Meredi th had anything to do with religion for the next forty or so years. While his upbringing was strongly religious, this training produced little or no direct influence on Meredith Willsons output, nor a religious basis for his works. Merediths third marriage was to a devout Catholic, and late in life he converted to Catholicism and composed a small Mass for his wife. During Merediths childhood, small town news papers provided deta iled announcements of local happenings and events both in homes and c hurches. The Mason City Globe Gazette of the early 1900s provides tantalizing information about Merediths early musi cal activities. For example, readers of 1915 are encouraged to attend an upcoming Easter service which will include a special flute and piano selection by Robert Meredith Willson and sister and an Easter play arranged by Mrs. John D. Willson .59 We know the family was musically active 58 Willson, And There I Stood, 12. 59 Mason City Globe Gazette, April 8, 1915

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42 in the community, and that the ch ildren were encouraged to partic ipate in musical events both in and out of church. During their childhood Rosalie was the parent who dominated home life, the parent who said grace at the dinner table and specia l prayers at Thanksgiving and Christmas.60 A cousin who visited the Willson house as a child described it as emotionally cold and Rosalie as stern and strict.61 Rosalie was strongly opini onated and outspoken. These characteristics can be seen in her lifelong crusade to convince the US Postal service to revers e its address practices; Rosalie was convinced that State information should come first, city name next and street number, the least common element, last. She expressed he r opinions on the topic at every chance, even speaking publicly to suggest the Post Office alter their procedure. Rosalie read aloud every night to Cedric and Meredith from a book called What Every Boy Should Know, a dry etiquette manual about how to act when in the company of the opposite sex.62 She had little experience beyond her local area; there is no evidence that she trav eled beyond Iowa and Illinois, other than a trip she took late in life to New York City to visit he r daughter, Dixie. The Family and Early Musical Training John and Rosalie Willson were both intellig ent and well educated. They produced five children, three of whom survived infancy. Th e oldest was Lucille Reiniger Willson, born on August 6, 1890, who became a doting older sister to Meredith. As a teen, Lucille took to calling herself Dixie, and that became the name by wh ich she was known for much of her life. In a page of a family album there is a rough tracing of a small hand annotated with the date of an 60 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man 12. 61 Related by Art Fischbeck, June, 2003, who had spoken with the cousin. He indicated that the cousin was slightly younger than Meredith, and female, though Mr. Fischbeck declined to identify her for the sake of propriety. 62 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man, 9.

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43 infants death.63 This was daughter Maureen, born in Es therville, who died in October of 1894 at the age of six months. Maureens death, probably from cholera, occurred shortly after the family moved to Mason City. The local paper, at that time called The Times carried a brief piece about the infants death. It is possible that this was yet another lost Willson infant, since The Times refers to this child as a male, and states that he died of Spinal Meningitis. The dates, however, make it more likely that these facts we re in error and that the child who died was Maureen. The deaths of these infant siblings certai nly impacted the young Dixie, and may be one reason she bonded strongly with Meredith; the two had a lasti ng and fond relationship during their childhood and through Merediths twenti es. The middle child, John Cedric Willson, was born on 26th October, 1900, and known simply as Cedric. Robert Reiniger Meredith Willson was the youngest; an enthusiastic and energetic child nicknamed Morning Glory and frequently in his childhood called simply Glory. The Willson parents had decided ideas about how to raise their children; from birth they guided all three of their offspri ng towards specific careers. Daught er Dixie later wrote about her parents unique views on child-rearing a nd the guidance they found in a book titled Prenatal Influence The book outlined how potential parents could, from the moment they knew they were to have a child, make and mold that child s future into anything they wanted it to be.64 According to Dixie, when John and Rosalie were expecting their first ch ild, they talked it over and decided they would like to have an author fo r a child. Within a short time, fine engravings and copied photographs of great authors and poets were hung on the walls, and a bust in bronze of a child reading a book was brought into the house. Dad, who enjoyed reading aloud, 63 Copies of many family papers, including this album, can be found in the Mason City Public Library Archives. 64 Dixie Willson, The Man Behind, 16.

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44 brought home everything he could find to read and discuss concer ning the lives of great writers and their work.65 Prenatal Influence directed the objectives for John and Rosalies other children, as well. When Cedric was due, explained Dixie, they decided on a business man and bent all effort toward that . For Merediths impending arrival, . they discussed the future of this child and decided on a musician. Di xie recalled that a bronze bust of Wagner appeared, and pictures of great musicians were put up all around the house, and that Books about music and composers and musicians were read aloud by Dad and re-read by Mother. While Prenatal Influence sounds like a fascinating book to have put into pr actice no such publication by that title fitting Dixies description has b een located with certainty. It is no teworthy that Dixie is the only source which tells of this parental guidan ce. It is possible that Dixie, an author, exaggerated or simply created the entertaining Prenatal Influence story.66 While it is impossible to know exactly how the parents encouraged their first child while she was still in diapers, Dixies recalled her earliest t houghts were an urge to write write write in every spare moment. I was no more than te n when, instead of play ing, I would hurry home to a small desk Mama put in my room where, in my school notebooks I would write stories and plays while the neighborhood kids romped outside. After religion, Rosalies second strength wa s early childhood education. She started the first kindergarten in Mason City, when Meredith was about five y ears old. She also had a strong theatrical bent and produced church plays with her Sunday school cla sses and including her children. Meredith performed in these from an early age. Most important, both parents had 65 Ibid. 66 If Dixies tale is accurate, this book has not been positively identified. On e likely contender is Heredity and Prenatal Culture Considered in the Light of the New Psychology written by Newton N. Riddell and published by Child of Light publishers in 1900, though the date of publication would suggest this was used more for Cedric and Meredith than for Dixie, who was born in 1890.

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45 some musical training, and music was prominen t in the Willson household. Rosalie was a strong proponent of music in the home. Rosalie set the direction for the upbringing of Meredith and his siblings, and daughter Dixie would recall that her mother kept the children out of mischief with prayers and banjos.67 It seems certain that both parents played ro les in encouraging and supporting Merediths early musical growth, but it is indeed a difficult ta sk to establish clearly their roles in his life, largely because of the conflicting accounts by their children. This may have been in part because Dixie, as the oldest of the child ren, experienced and remembered different aspects of her parents relationship than did Meredith, who was the youngest child, and se parated in age by twelve years (Figure 3-4.). Part of the expl anation may also be found in the divorce of John and Rosalie, an acrimonious and public scandal whic h occurred soon after Meredith left the house for New York. John left Rosalie, writing her an eight page lett er of explanation for hi s actions, accusing her of coldness, distance, and creating an unpleasant home environment.68 (See appendix A) The letter also paints a bleak picture of home life for th e Willson family. John labels himself and Rosemary a mismated couple, with views of life diametr ically opposite of one another. He tells Rosemary that he consider s her inane and ignorant and provides examples of incidents where she has publi cally embarrassed him, When I think of the times you have humiliated me before business men, even until y our grown children have been ashamed of your actions (and) begged for me, I grow to hate. John goes on to accuse Rosemary of sneer(ing) at my friends and associates th en asserts that he wants to, get you out of my way so that I can, without fear of insinuation or insult, associat e with the class of people that I find to be most 67 Agnes McCay, Prayers and Banjos Started Dixie Willson on Fames Road, Herald Express, April, 1941. 68 This document can be found in the Mason City Public Library Archives.

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46 honest and kind hearted, and less hyp ocritical than the ones to whom you wish to attach me and yourself. A central focus of Johns complaints lie wi th Rosemarys religious convictions, which John attributes to causing Rosemary to be set and stubborn, bigoted and vain, in addition to her having, an insatiable desire to ape after peop le that are in better circumstances than you, you travel alone in your chosen sphere It is obvious, too, that th e relationship of the parents has impacted the children. John notes that he regrets that, the children ha ve had to listen to disagreeable and inharmonious conversations, and have naturally acquired a querulous demeanor that will handicap them in life. He also stat es that Rosemary has accused him of, every thing (sic) mean and crooked, and that she has encouraged the children to do th ings contrary to my desires. Neither the letter nor the divorce papers them selves should be trusted as a completely objective source of information, as they are likely inflated to overstate salient points. But the letter is raw in its portrayal of the poor rela tions between John and Ro semary, and is a very different view than any painted by Meredith. It establishes that home life was tense and argumentative, and that the parents likely manipulated the children to their own ends. This situation had probably existed for much of Mered iths life, and at one point John comments that, It makes me rage inwardly now to think of the times without nu mber that you have told me to pack up and go. The divorce pe tition also provides new information, though much of it is directly drawn from Johns lette r. In paragraph five John is accused of, absent(ing) himself from home for months at a time. In paragra ph eight we learn that John Willson holds stock and ownership in property which is worth, at least the sum of $100,000.

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47 The divorce petition was filed on January 5th, 1920, six months af ter Meredith, the youngest child, graduated from High School. Later in 1920, John remarried. The second marriage was to Minnie H. Hartzfield, a young wo man who was the same age as his children, in fact four years younger than Dixie. John and Mi nnie moved into a home which had been owned by his grandfather, Alonzo, and was located di rectly and insultingly behind Rosalies home. Rosalie, who did not drive and owned no cars, had a three-stall garage built behind her house, to block the view of John and Minnies house. In areas of the Midwest in the early twentiethcentury a divorced woman was termed a grass widow This colloquialism explains listings of Rosalie Willson in newspapers and the town di rectory as widow in the years following the divorce. The three Willson children chose sides, perhaps were forced to do so in order to maintain relationships with a parent. Dixie, the eldest, remained closest to her father, perhaps due in part to a strong father daughter relationship, and perhaps in part because her memories of the twelve years she lived with her parents before Me redith's birth were, presumably, more pleasant than the later years of their marriage. Meredith, the youngest child, maintained a stronger contact with his mother. It was to her house, his childhood home, that he came on his trips back to visit Mason City. Perhaps the most telling information about their natal home is the fact that all three children left home at young ag es and returned only for brief visits. While many aspects of Willsons childhood remain unclear, what is certain is that the three Willson children were strongly guided in music. This was an activity in which they were encouraged to engage at any time. Rosalie pr ovided early training and instruments, telling her children, they could own and play as many musical instruments as they wanted Their house

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48 was alive with musical instruments.69 The Willson children were born during the era of American parlor music, and their parlor held both a piano and guitar. Both parents were musical, though which parent played which instrument is unclear; various sources report differently. Some sources report that John play ed piano and Rosalie played guitar. It is more likely, though, that John played the guitar and Rosalie was the pianist. Meredith recalled in an article published some sixty years later that his mother, played th e piano, as did all proper ladies in those days, and she believed in music in the home.70 Under the tutelage of his mother Meredith began piano lessons at age six. His older sister recalled that their mother spent endless hours tutoring Meredith on the piano.71 Indications are that Meredith was a musical child, who, could, and did, make music on just about anything on Mothers sherbet glasses, on pieces of pipe left in the back yard by the plumber, on the inside strings of the piano when Mr. Vance took the keyboard downtown for repairs.72 Iowa was a state with a strong musical tradi tion. Home music making was a widespread tradition, and banjo bands, or trios, were popul ar; there is a suggesti on that both Cedric and Meredith picked-up the guitar, banjo, mando lin, and ukulele while they were children.73 Certainly all three children had some degree of ability on the piano and some stringed instruments by their teens (Figure 3-5.). A major part of Iowas strong musical tradition centered on band music, both marching and performing, wh ich certainly impacted the young Meredith. As he later remembered, Like any Iowa child, I loved to play circus a nd hated to practice the piano. I hung around the bandstand in the summertime and practically passed out when they 69 Marjorie Arundel letter, 2. 70 Product of Sad Family Strains, 5B. 71 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man, 19. 72 Dixie Willson, The Man Behind, 16. 73 Willson Family Anecdotes, a 5-page collection of family lore found in the MCPLA, 2.

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49 played Custers Last Stand with the red fire and everything. Na turally I wanted to play in the band someday, and that got me to dreami ng about Sousas band and show business.74 Along with encouraging their musical activitie s, Rosalie provided the resources for her children to attend functions where there might be live music, as one musician recalled: During this time I met a friendly boy who I know now was 7 years old and seeing him on the street he always ga ve me a smiling friendly greeting but I didnt know his name. As time went on I was so glad to see this boy, at this time, 1910, I was with Bob Gates orchestr a, married and livi ng (in? unclear writing) Clear Lake but being in Mason City often, after another year or two passed the Bijou picture house opened, wan ting an orchestra. I formed one (with) piano, clarinet, drums and violin, so seeing 3 children sitting behind the orchestra quite often and one of these was my friend I asked their name and it was Willson.75 This sort of encouragement was important fo r the young Meredith, for this was a period of time in American music when there were few boundaries between musical styles. Meredith likely would have heard classical works pl ayed alongside popular tunes of the time. Each Willson child learned the piano first, taught by Rosalie, and Meredith progressed quickly enough to study with another teacher afte r a short time. An announcement in the Globe Gazette informs readers of a good attendance last evening at the piano recital by the pupils of Prof. E. A. Patchen, held at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Earl McEwen, at which Meredith performed Witchs Dance, by Schytte.76 The length of time Meredi th studied with Professor Patchen is unknown. After about two years of piano study, Cedric and Meredith began studying the bassoon and flute, respectively. Not surpri singly it was Rosalie who directed Merediths selection of a second instrument, After you get so you can play the piano real nice, you must learn to play another instrument so you will stand out among the other boys when you go to 74 Willson, And There I Stood 16. 75 Unsigned letter of reminiscence, titled Meeting Meredith 1909 7 years old but not knowing his name. in MCPLA, by John Kopecky, band director at Clear Lake. 76 Mason City Gazette

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50 school.77 Years later Meredith recalled that his mother began talking up the flute because her father, a Stuttgart professor,78 was an amateur flautist.79 Rosalie scraped together the funds, probably borrowing the money, and they ordered a flute from the Chicago Mail Order House. Meredith described the arriva l of the first flute seen in that part of Iowa: Such goings on and hysterical unwrapping of paper you have never seen in your whole born days as that Saturday morning when my cousin Walter, who was the postman on our street, brought the package from Chicago. And what a horrible disappointment to get the flut e out finally and put it together and discover that instead of holding this inst rument in front of you you had to play it sideways, practically over you r shoulder, where you couldnt possibly see what was going on.80 The complications of returning a mail-order flute seemed less involved than suffering a transverse playing position, and the decisi on was made to keep the instrument. As there was no other flute, nor flautist, in the area, Merediths piano teacher found a book on how to play the flute and coached him for few lessons. Meredith then switched to study with, a gentleman who actually played the cornet but who managed to stay one lesson ahead of me on the flute.81 Soon thereafter he found a real flute t eacher in Suiz Hazleton, who had come to Mason City to play in the theate r orchestra. Hazleton recognized an ability to improvise in the young Willson, and suggested that this might be of real benefit in a dance orchestra. He recommended that Willson begin playing banjo, an instrument significant in dance accompaniments of the time. The addition of this instrument to his performance repertoire expanded Willsons musical opportunities, and he wa s soon performing with regularity in nearby towns. 77 Willson, And There I Stood, 18. 78 Rosalies father had been an Illinois lawyer, so it is unclear where Meredith got the idea of his grandfather being a Stuttgart professor. 79 Willson, Eggs I Have Laid, 33. 80 Willson, And There I Stood, 18. 81 Willson, And There I Stood, 18. 83 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man.

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51 Hazleton gave Meredith his lessons in the towe r of White Pier at Clear Lake, a few miles from Mason City. After about a year, Haze lton told John Willson, who was paying for the lessons, that Meredith knew more about playing th e flute than Hazelton. At that point the elder Willson began an earnest search for a good teach er, and, hunted all over the state to find a teacher for Meredith. He finally engaged one who made a weekly trip from Minneapolis for the lesson.83 There is no record of how much John Willson paid for these lessons. From his earliest musical experiences Meredith was also experimenting with playing as a member of a group. First it was with Dixie and Cedric who were al so learning to play instruments. Very soon, though, he asked to sit in with local groups. A le tter in the Mason City archives has an illegible signatu re, but the writer apparently kne w Meredith at a young age; it was 2 years later, 19XX, (illegible) when I st arted leading orchestra at Cecil Theatre. He Meredith) patted me on my back and asked if he c ould sit in, as I didnt have flute parts out he played off my violin part a nd enjoyed it, we enjoyed him.45 Acting was one of the activities encouraged in the family. Mama had played the lead in a great many local productions when she was a be lle around Brighton, Illino is, and she tried to give us some histrionic coach ing and although we were impresse d with her scrapbook and all, we were too filled with that native impatience to settle down and learn a few principles.82 From a young age, Meredith also took part in theatrical productions, both in church and community. These included events both at the Congregational church and childhood plays written and produced by sister and future playwr ight, Dixie. At age fifteen Dixie entered a writing contest; her poem was selected as the winner over entries from 5000 adults. 82 Willson, And There I Stood 45.

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52 High School and Immediately Thereafter Willsons high school years were m usically active and the time during which he cemented his desire to become a profe ssional musician. His high school yearbook, The Masonian, records that Willson played in the high sc hool band, and sang in the glee club for four years and in the chorus for three. As a sophom ore he appeared in the school opera, and as a senior participated in the school minstrel show Throughout his high school years, Willson also played in the eleven-pie ce high school orchestra. The group me t in the evenings, at the homes of members. Since they lacked a cello, one young la dy played those parts on her euphonium. The repertoire was wide and included light string music of the time, generally popular tunes arranged for small string groups. The group also played ba nd arrangements for orchestra, and a few true classical works, such as Schuberts Serenade.83 This was probably Willsons first significant playing exposure to stan dard concert repertoire. Willson gained his first semi-professional performance experiences just after his freshman year in high school. At that time summer bands were sponsored by municipalities and hugely popular throughout the State.84 He was hired to play flute and double on piccolo with an orchestra at Lake Okoboji, a re sort town about 100 miles west of Mason City. The orchestra consisted of piano, drums, cornet, trombone, clar inet, flute, and piccolo. Willson did not own a piccolo, but calculated that the proceeds of the summer would just cover the cost of one. He purchased his first piccolo at the local Ma son City music store, Vances, for $96. The 1918 summer stint also provided Willson with his first opportunity to conduct. During the final week, the orchestra leader, a vi olinist named Emery Moore, was called into the 83 Willson, And There I Stood 25. 84 So popular, in fact, that in 1923 the State of Iowa passed a law commonly known as the Iowa Band Act, which enabled cities and municipalities to pass a local ordinance which could use tax dollars to provide for summer band concerts and lessons, and even to fund an entire municipal band.

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53 war service. Willson was an obvious replacement, as his flute could easily play the C violin parts, so he led the group in the final performa nce of the season. It was immediately following the first number that the relieve d novice conductor sat heavily into his chair and onto his piccolo, bending it into a permanent curve. In his memoirs he stated that he played the bent piccolo for a number of years, though he sadly called it, part scimitar and part bow and arrow.85 An Mason City Globe Gazette article from 1940 tell s what is probably a more accurate account, that Willson traded in the bent piccolo for a less substantial and at the same time less expensive wooden variety.86 Hazel Erwin Griffith, who was four years olde r than Meredith, played the piano in the orchestra that summer and later married one of the men who founded it. She said Meredith had not yet turned 16 (Willson had actually had his sixteenth birthday that May) during the summer in which he learned piccolo. In a later interview she recalled the night he sat on his piccolo. Ive never seen a man so sad. That piccolo stayed bent for years. He even played that same one when he took his first big job at the Winter Garden Theater in New York. Meredith was a fine flute player, she went on to say, but I confe ss I never really ever t hought he would be a bigtime success. I just thought he would end up as a musician.87 Meredith graduated from Mason City Hi gh School in 1919. In the yearbook, beneath their name and school activities, students were permitted to include a single phrase or saying. Willsons was, great men are not always wise. Another yearbook inclusion was Willsons goals for the future, and this was telling, as he wrote, Consolidate the Wilsons. He was referring to his plan to marry his high school sweetheart, Elizab eth Peggy Wilson, daughter of 85 Willson, And There I Stood 23. 86 They Started Here: A Mason City Series of Success Stories, No. 2 Meredith W illson, Master Musician, Mason City Globe Gazette March 3rd, 1940. 87 Skipper, The Unsinkable Music Man, 21

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54 the city engineer in Mason City. It was a year after his graduation that Willson returned to play in the municipal band. During his high school years it seems that Mere dith was also serving as librarian for a Mason City concert orchestra. A hometown article from many years later tells us that the orchestra was led by James A. Fulton, now a prominent composer and who has done many arrangements for Victor Herbert.88 While the article does not provi de an exact date, indications are that his concert orchestra pa rticipation was during his high school years. The article goes on to tell of another musical luminary who played with the group, cornet soloist Frank Simon, who had been a soloist with Sousas band and later became a featured soloist with the Armco band.89 The Simon connection was to prove vital in W illsons future, for Simon, a featured cornet soloist, held an important position in the Sous a band, even serving as assistant conductor, and had influence with the legendary conductor. Meredith was increas ingly gaining exposure to the musical world. New York Years Sister Dixie provided Merediths first contact in New York. Dixie was twenty-four years old and dreamed of a career as a playwright. In March, 1913 Dixie wrote a m usical comedy, The Owl and the Pussycat with original musical numbers. In February of 1914 she wrote a three-act play, The Blue Heron which ran in Mason City and gained local acclaim. On October 29th, 1915, Dixie married Benjamin Lambert, only to divorce him within a year. Feeling limited in Mason City, she moved to Chicago in 1916, and in 1918 moved to New York. The reasons she later gave for the move do not seem to match her life at the time, but are probably a literary embellishment: 88 They Started Here. 89 Ibid.

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55 To help me make up my mind whet her I wanted a literary or a stage career, Mother and Dad let me join a musical comedy chorus in nearby Chicago.90 It was via this company that I made my first trip to New York, by which time writing had become my choice. Meredith was then 15 and I begged Dad to let him visit me for a look at the town where I was cer tain [Meredith] would find his four-leaf clover. On the night of his arrival I took him for a ride on the upper deck of a Fifth Avenue bus. I was certa in no sight on earth could thrill him so much. But I was wrong. Wh en he spotted a large electric calendar and the current date of July 12, he exclaimed, Look at that, Sis. Were missing the county fair!91 Just after he graduated from high school in 1919, at age 17, Willson made a move to New York. Through the years, Meredith told different stories about his departure for New York, at one point reducing his age to onl y fourteen at the time of the move. In his recollections, And There I Stood with My Piccolo Willson reminisced that, the main reason of going to New York was to study the flute with the world-famous flutist, the great Georges Barrre.92 As his autobiography centered on his prof essional experiences as a musici an, it stands to reason that Willson would highlight a musical impetus for his m ove. Some thirty years later, however, in another biographical article, he indicated a different reason for going to New York. This retrospective had little to do with flute study, but Willson admitted that he moved to the city, because I thought it was exciting.93 Willson first called on Barrre at his New York City apartment. During their initial meeting the young flutist arranged to take less ons and Barrre phoned seve ral of his top pupils and asked them to help Willson find a job as a flute player. These contacts included Lem Williams and Billy Kincaid, who was then pr inciple flute with the Philadelphia Symphony 90 It is notable that Dixie indicated gaining her parents permission, as the dates she provided indicate she was married or newly divorced. 91 Dixie Willson, The Man Behind, 16. 92 Willson, And There I Stood, 29. 93 Product of Sad Family Strains, 5B.

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56 Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. These establis hed players advised Wills on to report to the union every day carrying his flute, prepared in the event that abse nce of a regular player would provide a substitute flute job on the spur of the moment. The young flute player was impressed with Barrres assistance and willingness to help a stranger. It was many years later that Willson discovered that his mother, on the day young Mere dith left Mason City for New York, had written Barrre a letter extolling the virtues of he r son and asking the great French flute player to, Take care of my boy, please. Help him to meet good people.94 At the time of their first meeting, Ba rrre (1876-1944) was inarguably the most influential flute player in Ameri ca; it is impossible to understate the importance of his influence on the young Willson. A Frenchman by birth, Barrre had graduated from the Paris Conservatory in 1895, became premier flutist of th e Paris Opera, and also taught at the Paris Schola Cantorum In 1905 Barrre came to the United States to play with the New York Symphony Orchestra, a position he held through 1928, when the New York Symphony Orchestra merged with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The same year Barrre came to the United States, he joined the faculty of the Institute of Musical Art (IMA), where he taught for thirty-nine years, through the transition of the Institute in to the Juilliard School of Music on September 18, 1930. He was a close friend of Frank Damrosch, founder of the IMA, and was an honorary pall bearer at Damroschs funeral in 1937. Barrre was a player of great virtuosity and is credited with creating a new standard of excellence for American flute players. His virtuo sic playing inspired majo r additions to the solo and chamber repertoire of the flute, including Charles Tomlinson Griffess Poem and Edgard Varse's Density 21.5 During his years in New York Barr re premiered more than 170 works, including several now standard to flut e repertoire, including the Hindemith Sonata and Roussels 94 Willson, And There I Stood 63.

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57 Trio for flute, viola, and cello Barrre also commissioned works from many American composers, especially encouragi ng young composers. His method book, Flutists Formula, A Compendium of Daily Exercises remains a standard resource for flautists. The French flutist holds a pos ition of preeminence in the history of American flute playing, teaching the vast majority of outstanding flute players of the era. In addition to Willson, Barrre taught a number of great American flutists, including William Kincaid, Frances Blaisdell, Arthur Lora, Samuel Baron, Bernar d Goldberg, and Henry Ha dley, alongside whom Willson was soon playing in the New York Philharmonic. Barrres close ties to musical life in New York, his contacts were paramount in Willson s success as a professional flutist. It was through Barrres connections th at Willson obtained his first few playing experiences in New York. Willson substituted throughout the city and soon landed a permanent job as a member of the pit orchestra at the Crescent Theatre in the Bronx. There he played to accompany the silent moving pictures of the era. In his memoirs, Willson reveled in the retelling of humorous and entertaining stories, such as the time he was play ing in the pit orchestra at the Crescent Theatre and they added a viola player: He sat next to me in the orchestr a pit and played so out of tune I couldnt stand it anymore, and I finally leaned over to him and whispered, If youll excuse me, your C string is a little flat. He plucked at the string a couple of times and then said pleasantly, Thats funny. Its about as tight as I usually have it.95 Sol Klein, a leader of various New York popular bands, also hired Willson as a regular, and Willson had a steady income. Within a shor t time Willson realized he could enroll at the Damrosch (Sic) Institute of Musical Arts for lessons with Barrre, with a savings of three dollars per lesson, a not insignificant sum for a strugglin g young musician at that time. Willson recalled 95 Willson, And There I Stood 32.

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58 that the only hitch was a $50 enrollment fee, returnable in May if you passed all your subjects.96 While Willson later claimed that he had left for New York City as a teenager and never returned home, one brief summer in Ma son City would have ramification which would forever change the young flute players career prospects. An article in Willsons hometown newspaper, the Mason City Globe Gazette appeared in the summer of 1920. It informs the reader of a mu sical luminary who has been hired to play with the Mason City Municipal band, cornet soloist Fr ank Simon. Simon had been a soloist with Sousas band and later became a featured soloist with the Armco band.97 Also listed are the names of the other band members, including Mered ith Willson on flute. This article indicates that Meredith, despite later assert ions to the contrary, returned home from New York for at least one summer, the summer following his parents bitter divorce and his fathers remarriage. It also squarely ties Meredith with a well-known Am erican musical figure, one who would play a promising role in the young flautis ts, cornet soloist Frank Simon. The John Philip Sousa Band One of Mason Citys leading residents was Ha rry B. Keeler, Vice Presid ent of the Mason City Brick and Tile Company. Keeler played both trumpet and piano, was a graduate of Bostons New England Conservatory and, most impor tant as relates to Meredith, was a huge fan of John Philip Sousa and his traveling band. Keel er encouraged Mason Ci ty leaders to sponsor the Sousa band, and also to sponsor the town M unicipal Band in which Willson played in the summer of 1920. In the Sousa band the most important figures after Sousa himself, were the featured soloists. Frank Simon was among the most famous of these, a card man, who was given the 96 They Started Here. 97 All Artists Engaged For Mason City Summer Band Mason City Globe Gazette, June 7, 1920.

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59 prestige of having a large card placed on the front of the stage where he played, a card which displayed his photo in Sousa uniform and the na me of his hometown. Keeler was immensely impressed with Simon and concocted a plan to br ing him to Mason City. After its Mason City appearance the Sousa band went on to Des Moines, and it was to Des Moines that Keeler sent Frank Simon a telegram, proposing the cornet solois t be featured with th e Mason City Municipal Band during Sousas off season. Keeler pointed out the job perks of a potential Mason City engagement: Frank would not have to work too ha rd, as no-one played at all on Mondays; during the rest of the week there was an hour-long concert in the afternoon a nd an evening concert lasting an hour and fifteen minut es; Keeler also mentioned the beautiful Lake Okoboji. A brief negotiation followed, along with Fr anks acceptance of the offer. Soon after Simons arrival in Mason City, th ree local groups, the Kiwanis, Rotary, and the Lions Clubs, invited the cornet tist to a special meeting at the local country club. The event was actually a concert designed to hi ghlight the best of the local ta lent for the visiting musician. Meredith Willson was a featured performer, and his performance made an impression on Simon. I thought he was simply great, Simon wrote in his memoirs. I was astounded at this young mans artistry, how magnificently he played. I w ondered how he got it, but he did play like an angel. I was knocked off my feet. Willson was accompanied by his mother, Rosemary, on piano, and Simon complemented her, as well, You could see where he got his background of good manners, good looks and great musicianship.98 After the concert Simon approached Willson. Young man you play the flute very well. You are a very talented young man. I have noticed your work in the band. How would you like to go with Mr. Sousa? 99 In his memoirs Frank Simon recalled that Willsons response wa s, You know, Mr. Simon, I didnt believe this 98 Michael Freedland, Music Man: The Story of Frank Simon (Portland, Oregon: Vallentine Mitchell, 1994) 106. 99 Freeland, Story of Frank Simon 106.

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60 could ever happen to me, but I would give my right arm if I could get in. To this Simon responded, Ill see what I can do.100 Simon immediately wrote a lett er to the famed conductor. Mr. Sousa, he wrote, you will be pleased with this young man. He is a fi ne reader, he is a handsome-looking boy. He plays well and is an excellent musician. He has style, taste and techniqu e. He has everything.101 The description of Willsons qualities gives an im portant insight into Sousas priorities. Sousa was as concerned with appearance as he was with musical talent. He demanded that his musicians portray an attitude of intelligence, and a certain degree of good looks and manners. Willson fit these qualities well, which is one of the reasons Simon took such note of him. From the DuPont hunting preserve in Calif ornia Sousa wrote back to Simon. Have your boy send me two pictures of himself, one in playing position and one standing holding his instrument. On the basis of Simons recommen dation Sousa was set to hire Meredith if his general appearance was suitable. Perhaps he was even projecting ahead to how the young flute player would look on the Sousa ba nd posters and publicity leaflets As soon as Sousas return letter arrived, Simon advised Willson to have his photographs taken as quickly as possible. Simon also sent another letter to Sousa, urgi ng, Dont pass this boy up, Mr. Sousa, hes got it and hes going places. He has the dedi cation, determination and the talent.102 Simon probably did not tell the young Meredith that the Sousa band was undergoing a transformation. Sousas famous band was, at th at time, populated by an assortment of German, Spanish, and Italian-born musicians. Sousa had apparently told Simon that he hoped to see the day when every one of his musicians would be a real American. This was reflected in a 100 Ibid. 101 Ibid., 107. 102 Freeland, Story of Frank Simon 108.

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61 comment Frank made to Meredith, Youre just the type of young American boy that Mr. Sousa wants for his band.103 The future looked bright. Willson played in the band all summer, excitedly anticipating his Sousa possibilities. Immediately after the fina l band concert, on August 29th, 1920, Meredith drove his long-time sweetheart Pegg y drove 37 miles to Albert L ea, Minnesota, and there the two were married. The Albert Lea location, wh ich Meredith and Peggy called their elopement, was almost certainly designed to avoid the Willson parents. John and Rosemarys separation and divorce, and Johns quick remarriage to a much younger woman, were agonizingly painful for the family, and Meredith returned to New York with Peggy as soon as the summer band ended. In 1921, while attending the Institute of Musi cal Arts and studying with Barrre, Willson was hired as principle flutist and piccolo play er in the John Philip Sousa Band. Though he came under the strict regulation Sousa imposed on his bandsmen, several friends of the family relate that Meredith took Peggy with him on at least one Sousa band tour, even though Sousa himself did not approve. In one article he joked that, he and Mrs. Willson honeymooned with Sousas band supplying musical accompaniment.104 Willson held his chair in the Sousa band during the 1921, 1922, and 1923 seasons, and was one of, perhap s the youngest, instrume ntalists to hold a soloist position with the band.105 In 1923 Willson recommended his brother, Cedric, to Sousa as an excellent bassoon player. Like Meredith, Cedric was hired wit hout an audition and played in the band through the 1924 season. Meredith played with the Sousa Band through 1923, touring the United States, Mexico, and Cuba, and reminisced that, We traveled a lot and always in band 103 Ibid. 104 They Started Here. 105 The soloist position seems unique to the time thes e were musicians who played with the band and were featured on technically challenging solos.

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62 uniform. They locked up our own clothes and we were walking advertisements.106 He continued to study with Barrre in the brief intervals between performance tours (Figure 3-6.). The breadth of Sousas compositions stretches far beyond the marches for which he is best remembered, a depth of career which likely set an example for Willson. Sousas nickname, The March King, primarily reflects the public memory of his numerous marches and would suggest that these were his only musical contributi ons, though Sousa composed and arranged in a surprising number of musical genres. His orig inal vocal works included seventy songs, based largely on the works of American poets, fifteen operettas, and a number of works which fall into genres as diverse as hymns and pageants. Sous as instrumental works include one hundred and thirty-five marches and include four overtures, el even programmatic suites, instrumental solos, and more than three hundred arrange ments of works in various genres.107 Merediths tenure in Sousas band provided th e regular playing the young musician needed to hone his performance skills. The band perf ormed an average of two concerts per day, sometimes even playing in two different states on the same day. A further aspect of the Sousa experience was Willsons growing association with musicians of significant stature in the professional world, all of whom had played with Sousa at one time or another. Willson recalled that each Sousa season would close with a grand concert at Madison Square Garden, attended by former bandsmen from points near and far. In one of these concerts Willson glanced around and realized he was playing with so me of the leading American in strumentalists. Standing on my right was Ellis McDiarmid from the Cincinnati Sy mphony and one of the best flute players I ever knew, and next to me on the other side was the first trombone of the Phildelphia Symphony, Simon Mantia, and next to him was Arthur Pryor, who had his own world-famous band by this 106 Product of Sad Family Strains, 5B. 107 The Corporation for Public Broadcasting's series The American Experience, produced an hour-long special entitled "If You Knew Sousa" which briefly menti ons Willson and Sousas mentoring of him.

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63 time.108 As a musician in the Sousa band, Willson was a member of a sort of music fraternity and gained a lifelong series of contacts in varied mu sical fields. These asso ciations were vital to his success in the music world. During periods of time when Willson was in New York, usually in the Sousa off-season, he continued his flute studies. He studied sporadi cally with Barrre. There is an indication that there was some sort of opposition to Willson be ing married at such a young age, by either Barrre or Damrosch, and that this opposition resulted in Willson being denied the opportunity to study for a period of time. A memory book by W illsons cousin, Jeanette Hardy Cain, states that as a result of Merediths marriage to Peggy, Mr. Damrosch got mad and wouldnt take him anymore, so that is how he happened to join Sousas Band.109 Another person who knew Willson told this author that this was incorrect, that it was Barrre who refused to teach Willson because of his marriage. Eventually peace was made and Willson continued his studies. From 1923-1924 Willson also studied with Henry Hadley. Other flute instructors with whom he studied during his years in New York include Mortimer Wilson, Bernard Wagenaar, and Julius Gold. Willsons relationship with his wife, Peggy, during these years seems to have been good. One article informs readers that, Mrs. Willson was not idle in this period either, for she went to school and in time earned a teachers certificate.110 There were early signs of marital friction, however. Acquaintances of the couple suggest th ey began a private conf lict over the issue of children from early in their marri age. Meredith is said to have wanted children, though Peggy 108 Willson, And There I Stood, 43. 109 Jeanette Hardy-Cain, unpublished Memory Book, found in the Archives of the Mason City Public Library. 110 They Started Here.

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64 rejected the idea early on, due to concer ns that pregnancy would ruin her figure.111 Though their marriage last nearly two decad es, the two had no children. One of Willsons most important contacts in New York City was Hugo Reisenfeld, whom he met soon after his move to the city. Reisenfe ld conducted the orchestra in the Rialto Theatre, and Willson began playing in the Theatre orchestra during the Sousa off-season, perhaps in 1920 (article from Mason City states he was ). The Rialto was among New Yorks most important motion picture houses at that time. In this era, radio was in its infancy and there were as yet no films with sound, nor was there television. Entertainment was live, and in this world the orchestra was of vital importance as the voice of the silent drama. This was particularly true in New York City, which boasted large theatres and full-sized orchestras. Where space and funding allowed, the orchestra was of sizeable proportion s and conductors of major stature would be retained. Elaborate thematic scoring was prevalen t and even the delineation of a newsreel could be a precise art. For example, there are several historical scores for The Thief of Bagdad including Mortimer Wilson's specially-compos ed score for the New York premiere and the James Bradford "cue sheet" score. But these are by no means the only legitimate scores for the film. Local theater musicians were ultimately responsible for choosi ng the music for silent films shown in their theaters, so almost every theat er had a different score. Perh aps a third of Americas movie houses had orchestras, which at that time ranged from three to twenty-five players. Large theaters in large ci ties might have an expanded orchestra, but most theaters would not have used Wilson's score, as they did not have the one hundred-piece orchestra required. Instead, they would have compiled their own scores from their own music libraries, possibly with the help of 111 Fischbeck Interview.

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65 James Bradford's cue sheet.112 The cue sheet would have help ed to determine the type of emotion meant to be drawn from the film acti on, and this music would have been drawn from short arrangements catalogued accordingly. The conductor of the Rialto, Hugo Reisenfeld, had been born in Vienna in 1879. At the time Willson met him, Reisenfeld served as ma naging director of three important New York theaters, the Rivoli, the Rialto (Figure 3-7), and the Criterion, and was a pioneer in the composition and performance of theater music. Reisenfeld felt that too many theater musicians failed to correlate their music with the mood of whatever was being shown.113 His approach was to score music which followed what he called the mood of a particular film or scene. During his time at the Rialto, Reisenfeld oversaw the cataloguing of over twen ty thousand pieces of music and had them all organized according to the mood they represen ted. The headings included such diverse themes as, "Spanish danc es, romances, religious ecstasy, cowboys, running horses, joy, and so forth. Reisenfeld was of the opinion that cataloguing by mood greatly facilitated the arranging of a score, T he musician simply ha s to note what kind of emotion or situation is registered in each s cene and then turn to his files for its musical counterpart. While it is impossible to say how Reisenfeld s system, unique for its era, influenced Willson, one can infer that as a musician playing under Reisenfelds baton, Willson knew of the conductors theory and performed music which Reisen feld felt to reflect th e emotional content of whatever silent film was playing at the time. A programmatic appro ach can be found throughout 112 A cue sheet is a list of scenes in a film, with a suggested piece of music for each scene, an approximate duration of the scene, and occasionally comment s such as percussion effects to watc h for. The cue sheet was sent to each theater several days ahead of the film, so that the music director could select music from his library before having seen the film if necessary. The cue sheet for The Thief of Bagdad is six pages long and contains 64 musical cues. http://www.mont-alto.com/recordings/ThiefOfBagdad/ThiefCues.html, accessed 23rd August, 2004. 113 Riesenfeld, Hugo. "The Advan cement in Motion Picture Music", The American Hebrew (April 3, 1925), 632. Available online at h ttp://www.cinemaweb.com/silentfilm/bookshelf/6_ riese2.htm, accessed 26th August, 2004.

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66 Willsons symphonic works, perhaps in large part due to the influence of Reisenfeld. The two had a working relationship which extended beyond the Rialto. They collaborated on at least one of Willsons early compositions, and the score of a film, My Cavalier, released November 1, 1928, and all indications are that Reisenfeld wa s an important musical mentor for the young Willson. 1920s New York was also a world center of growth in technology, not the least of it centered on entertainment in the form of music. Re isenfeld was interested in this sort of growth, and involved himself in it, as well. He involve d himself with the work of Dr. Lee De Forest, who was experimenting with the technology to incorporate sound with moving pictures. In 1923 Reisenfeld supported the process by hiring Wills on to provide live music for De Forests experiments. Every morning Willson would head to the studio to play for what became one of technologys greatest achievements: His place was the old Norma Talmadge Studio over on East Twenty-eighth Street, and I would play scales on my flute hour after hour while this man would record on film. The next day he would play it back and we would listen. There was so much surface noise and static scratching that you couldnt recognize the sound for a flut e, but at least you knew you were hearing tones and the pitch was accurate. Well, I never knew anyone to have the patience this man had. We would listen to yesterdays scales, and that night he would tear out every bit of insulation and rewire the whole studio, then in the morning more scales. The next day wed listen to the play backs again, and sometimes the rewiring made it sound worse and sometimes slightly better. But either way, that patient man panned out little grains of golden know-how, and after a few months the scales not only played ba ck as clear as could be, but now you knew it was a flute.114 Thus De Forest, using Willson as his musical model, developed the first method with which to tie recorded sound to the motion pictur e. De Forest might well be considered the 114 Willson, And There I Stood, 59.

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67 worlds first sound engineer. The final test li nking sound and motion was a moving picture of a girl dancing to the music of a four-piece orchestra, Willson included, playing Brahmss Waltz in A Major and the talking picture was born. Reisenfeld, ever the innovator, became one of the first to compose for the new medium, and his works included scores for numerous early talking pictures. The Rialto theatre became the first venue for sound on film, the first performance of which took place on April 15th, 1923. Sadly, however, Reisenfeld is little known to history. His prog rammatic cataloguing system may be the reason, for he composed and catalogued so much music that early talking pictures made liberal use of it, yet gave little credit to the mu sical point of origin. Riesenfelds extensive musical files seem to have formed a major sour ce for stock music in early films. Works and parts of works by Riesenfeld were featured in over one-hundred movie scores of the 1920s and 1930s, yet few credited the composer.115 Following an extended illness Riesenfeld died in Los Angeles in 1939. In the 1920s Willson was still working with Ri esenfeld at the Rialto and encountering some of the great musical figures of the day, in cluding Rialto guest conduct or Victor Herbert. Herbert wrote music for a series of elaborate tableaux and conducted the orchestra during a week of rehearsals and performances Willson was most impressed w ith Herbert and recalled that, All of us musicians in New York had a real affection and admiration for this great man, and also he was very amusing at rehearsals on account of he was Irish and very witty.116 One incident made a lasting humorous impression, and Willson described several musicians joking around in Herberts dressing room when a fright ened-looking little man all full of apologies came bowing and scraping in. The gentlemen was a wealthy amateur who produced a score, 115 http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006252/ accessed December 20th, 2004. 116 Willson, And There I Stood, 48.

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68 gorgeously bound in Morocco leather with beau tiful gold-embossed lette rs on the cover that read Mass in F, Dedicated to Victor Herbert. It was still about forty-five mi nutes before curtain time, so Mr. Herbert took the score, settled back in his chair, and proceeded to look through the music, painstakingly scrutinizing every note on every page, while the small (m an) chewed off his nails and perspired all over his necktie. A half-hour later Victor Herbert closed the Mass in F and handed it back to his admirer a nd, fixing him with a curiously intense look, he said, By God, it IS in F!117 That this was the major incident with Herbert which Willson chose to recall in his memoir illuminates his sense of fun. While Herbert was an excellent conductor and well-known and regarded composer, Willson focused on the humorous aspects of his personality, rather than on his musical accomplishments. Willson frequently seems to have eschewed the serious, and chosen to move towards humor. Many of Herberts musical connections were similar to Willsons, though not contemporarily. Like Willson, Herbert was involved with the bands of the time. In the 1890s Herbert was connected to numerous bands, in cluding the famous 22nd Regiment Band of the New York National Guard, previously directed by Patrick Gilmore. In 1914 Herbert and John Philip Sousa were among the principal founders of The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). The group has a strong presence in the modern era, where it continues to protect copyrights, and collects royalties on behalf of the organization's members. In 1916 Herbert wrote the first identifiable through-composed score for film, still silent at the time, The Fall of a Nation and for this is sometimes considered the first composer to write for film. Herbert died suddenly of a heart attack in 1924, within a year of meeting Willson, so there was only a brief association between the two. Yet Herbert, like the leading musical figures of 117 Ibid., 48-49.

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69 the time, was a musician of multiple talents; in strumentalist, composer, and conductor. These multiple musical facets, found among the great musicians of the era, served as a model for the young Willson. Herberts charm and wit also impressed Willson. Willsons admiration for a one-liner, as well as his desire to be the showman who provide d the punch-line, came to closely emulate his musical heroes, of whom Herbert was one. He grew to be known as a humorous and entertaining musician willing to be the stooge or butt of a joke, characterizations which sometimes overshadowed his musical gifts. In the 1920s Willson was in the right place at the right time. He was working with musicians and conductors of immense ta lent, leaders in their fields. He was living in one of the great musical centers of the early twentieth-century, working with talented and influential mu sic personages. No wonder, the n, that he soon tried his hand at composition. 1924 was a year marked by two important events for the young Willson. The first landmark was the publication of his first composition, a work he called Parade Fantastique. While he claimed to have been, writing all kinds of musical junk ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil ., 1 only one previous work by Willson is known to have been written; a small piece he mentioned composing while in high school. No score has been found for this juvenile work, and Parade Fantastique takes a place as the earliest kn own orchestral composition by Willson. Willson relates the story of his best friend, Abe Meyer, who was a secretary to Reisenfeld. Meyer pestered Riesenfeld to listen to the Parade Fantastique, and Reisenfeld agreed to help Willson publish the work. Willson admits to a resist ance to make suggested edits, particularly to the overall form of the work, and re ferred to the piece as his child.118 Willson opinioned that, A man isnt really a composer till this happens, I think it is en tirely safe to say that there is 118 Ibid., 58.

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70 no feeling like the one a person gets the first tim e he sees his own composition in print, real print. He is now a composer his music is available to ev erybody, he has actually created something.119 New York Philharmonic The second major event of 1924 was W illsons admission to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, a group he fondly calle d, . that obstinate, stubbor n, spoiled, conceited, pampered, gorgeous instrument known as the Philharm onic Symphony Society of New York. The program from October 16, 1924 records Willson s first performance with the New York Philharmonic as R.M. Willson. The conductor was Van Hoogstraten, in a concert which included Weber, Respighi, Mozart and Wagner. For the rest of his lif e Willson told the semi-apocryphal st ory that his inaugural concert with the New York Philharmonic marked onl y the second time Willson had heard a symphony orchestra, and he was living the experience as principal flutist. Willson told the story of the overture of this first con cert having been Beethovens Lenora and then recalled that the orchestra, . rushed through rather sketchily at the rehearsal on account of everybody (but me) had played it a million times. Willson had been hired as second chair flutist; the first chair flutist at the time was John Amans. At the ti me of Willsons premier Amans was temporarily sidelined by acute appendicitis, thus Willsons so -called premier performance was as first chair flutist. Willson was fond of recalling this partic ular concert, referring to himself as a dude in a canoe shooting the rapids for the first time, but just leaning back in his metaphorical canoe and enjoying it. Willson enjoyed pretending ignorance of common orchestral literature and customs, so told a fine story of conductor Van Hoogstraten gesturing to the novice flute player, 119 Ibid., 56.

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71 who looked around confusedly, and had to be to ld to get up and bow. Willson stood up and bowed, as nonchalantly as possible and early the next morning rushed over to ask my teacher, Mr. Barrre, if they always did that to a new member. What overture was it? he said, and I said, Leonore by Beethoven. Well, he started to laugh and rocked back and forth so furiously that his favorite chair, with him in it, turned a complete somersault and ended up upside down in the corner, his famous Parisian beard waving helplessly at the ceiling. He finally managed to say, Tha t overture has in it one of the most celebrated flute solos in th e whole symphonic repertoire. I helped the worlds greatest flutist to his feet and his little boy, Jean, who was four years old by now, laughed a nd laughed, too, and for the first time I wasnt scared to death of my teacher.120 While Beethovens Lenora Overture was not on the program of Willsons first concert with the New York Philharmonic, it is likely that the in cident happened. It was at this time, upon joining the Philharmonic that Willson first began to develop a sort of jovial bumpkin persona. He would state that he never heard of such a nd such symphony growing up in Iowa, or that he had never heard of a certain famous composer but would be happy to learn the flute parts, then proceed to astonish by playing a part superbly. This act certainly worked in his favor and became a favorite of his, as illu strated in the above example. The New York Philharmonic Society, as it was known in those days, was a changing organization. In 1921 it had merged with the National Symphony orchestra, whose conductor, (Josef) Wilhelm Mengelberg, became one of the l ead conductors of the New York Philharmonic (Figure 3-8). Wilhelm Furtwngler was a f eatured guest conductor until 1925, when he was appointed a permanent conductor. Arturo Toscanini was conductor from 1927-1933. The overlap in years is notable, for the Philharm onic retained concurrent permanent conductors 120 Ibid., 61-63.

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72 during the 1920s. Those were years during whic h the Philharmonic absorbed several smaller orchestras, including the City Symphony, the Am erican National Orches tra, and the State Symphony Orchestra. The amalgamation of va rious performing orchestras produced multifaceted results. It reduced competition, strength ened a base of public support, and brought in new talent. Willson was one of the young talented musicians brought in during this time; he played with the Philharmonic fo r five years, from 1924 through 1929. During his years in the Philharmonic, Willson played primarily under conductors Mengelberg, Furtwngler, and Toscanini. His writings suggest that th e young flutist was the least fond of (Josef) Willem Mengelberg, a Dutch pianist and celebrated conductor. Mengelberg first guest conducted the New York Philharmonic in 1905. In 1921 he became conductor of the newly organized National Symphony, which soon merged with the New York Philharmonic. Mengelberg was retained as a permanen t conductor, a post he held until 1930.121 Willson called Mengelberg his bogeyman, and related an e xperience which, no doubt, helped to set a poor tone between the two. Willson, with his keen sense of fun, was standing in the musicians locker room, telling a joke about a musician who went insane every time the name Mengelberg was mentioned, when he discovered that Mengelb erg was standing unsmiling behind him.122 Mengelberg was a European-trained conductor, a nd had a definite opinion about how every note in a composition would be played; musicians were expected to accept his word as law. Willson illustrated the conductors attention to detail by recounting incidents such as his placement of special signs throughout music. One ex ample given by Willson was Tschaikovskys Fifth Symphony a work frequently played by the Philharmoni c. The famous horn solo was apparently heavily marked, to the point where horn play er Bruno Jaenicke could scarcely see the notes. 121 Living Musicians Compiled and Edited by David Ewen (New York: The H. W. Wilson Company), 1940. 122 Willson, And There I Stood, 70.

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73 Willson recounted that Jaenicke went to Meng elberg before rehearsal one morning, to let Mengelberg know that he could not see the notes for the part s. Jaenicke produced a new horn part asked Mengelberg to add any expression marks he would like played. Mr. Mengelberg said, Hou haff ze ol d part? Mr. Jaenicke handed him the old part. After studying it for a few mo ments Mr. Mengelberg said, Zis old part is pairfectly fine, except you must can add a crescendo here and a diminooendo at zis blace, one more forte in ze next measure, and two more pianissimos by ze end.123 Despite his respect for the written note, Me ngelberg often made sweeping alterations in scores. His attitude to this pr actice comes vividly to life in the two following quotations: "The performer must help the creato r," and "Faithfulness to the notes is a recent invention."124 Mengelberg was a link in the nineteenth-centu ry, Austro-Germanic romantic tradition of conducting: Wagner-Mahler-Mengelber g-Furtwngler. The chain would be broken with the next conductor of the Philharmonic, Toscanini, who would become the leading pioneer of a more objective, typically twentieth-century style of conducting. As a mu sician playing under the great conductors Willson expressed a preference for the style of Toscanini, rather than of the Germanic romanticists. He seemed to appreciate Toscaninis clarity and excellent musicianship. Willsons writings about Mengelberg may have been colored by events of the time. Mengelberg had been a prestigi ous, highly-regarded conductor w ho maintained an excellent reputation with the American public. His star however, began to fade under the increasing popularity of Arturo Toscanini. Willson published his first biography, And There I Stood With My Piccolo in 1948, shortly after the Second World War. The prevailing an ti-German sentiment of the time, coupled with the writing of a book Willson hoped to be a popular favorite, may have prompted Willson to portray the Germanic composers in a somewhat less than favorable light. 123 Ibid. 84. 124 Frits Zwart, "Willem Mengelberg Dirigent Conductor", Haags Gemeentemuseum, 1995.

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74 While Mengelberg was a Dutch citizen, both hi s parents were German and he was closely connected with certain German composers whom he championed in the U.S. After the Second World War Mengelberg, who spent the war y ears conducting in the Netherlands, came under public censure for cooperating with the Germans. While Willsons recollections are not overtly hostile, he definitely presents Mengelberg as Germanic: Mengelberg used to invent words. T ee-totto meant crisply marked. Teetottissimo meant very crisply marked. Sevcik was a world-famous violinist especially renowned for his brilliant bowing, so Mengelberg tried to coerce brilliant bowing from his string secti on by often asking for Sevcikissimo. An expression which no member of the orchestra was able to decipher was the Bismark bow. In fact, nobody knew what (Mengelberg) meant until years after he went back to Holland. By that time some genius had figured out that Bismark was bald except for two or three hairs, so when Mengelberg asked for the Bismark, he was only tr ying to get the string players to play lightly, with, if possible only two or three hairs of the bow.125 During Willsons tenure in the New York Philharmonic, Mengelberg was one of the few conductors in the States to perform the music of Gustav Mahler. The conductor had met and befriended Mahler in 1902 and zeal ously promoted his compositions.126 He would tell the orchestra members, Szhentlemen you must can like this moosic. Mahler iss ze Bateoffen von our time.127 Mengelberg was also good friends with Ri chard Strauss, whose Ein Heldenleben is dedicated to him. Despite, or perhaps because of, the tutelage of Mengleberg, Willson never professed a great admiration for the music of Mahler, Strauss, nor of Bruckner, whom Mengelberg also championed. Willsons biographical works provide a glimpse into the political workings of the New York Philharmonic of the 1920s. He writes little of Furtwngler other th an that the board of Directors wanted Toscanini. The implication is that they set out to rid themselves of 125 Willson, And There I Stood, 96-97. 126 Mahler had also been a highly-touted conductor of the Philharmonic Society from 1909 through 1911. 127 Willson, And There I Stood, 96.

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75 Furtwngler: The music critic on the Herald Tribune Lawrence Gilman, had written Furtwnglers epitaph in the nature of a scathing review of what most of us in the orchestra thought was a very magnificent all-Wagner concert, and Maestro Toscanini replaced Furtwngler as the Philharmonics permanent conductor.128 Willson reserved his greatest praise for Toscanini, a conductor he called, . the greatest by 10 miles than any other before or since . 129 In addition to the primary conductors Willson played under a host of musical giants who guest conducted the Philharmonic, including Da mrosch, Goossens, Reiner, Stravinsky, and others. The New York Philharmonic was renowned for introducing some of the great musicians of the day. Before rehearsal one day Willson as ked several musicians about the guest soloist, none of whom knew much about him, nor coul d remember his name. Mengelberg was the conductor that day, and when he came in to begi n rehearsal was, followed by an anemic high school sophomore in a pink shirt who looked like he was apologizing for being alive as he sat down nervously at the big concert grand, sniffling from a runny nose. Mengleberg introduced the young pianist as, one of ze great pianists von our time. Willson records a rather bored shuffling from members of the Philharmonic, none of whom had ever heard of the young man. The young mans nose was dripping very noticeably by now, but apparently he was used to it because he didnt pay any attention. Mengelberg glared around the room, hit the throne a couple of times with his stick, and finally threw the down beat. Well this pink boy crashed down onto the keyboard with the most electrifying sound Id ever heard in my whole bor n days, and by the end of the first movement that hall was rocking with the most majestic, monumental reverberations in the hist ory of the building, mixed with the hysterical shouts 128 Ibid., 98. 129 Product of Sad Family Strains, 5B.

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76 of the dignified, superior gentlemen of the Philharmonic: Horowitz had played in Carnegie Hall for the first time.130 Of all the musicians with whom Willson work ed, and out of his seve ral years playing in the New York Philharmonic, Willson reserves his highest praise for Toscanini. He recounted several incidences of Toscaninis legendary ear, as well as his infamous temper. As a conductor Toscanini inspired, according to Willson, both f ear and love. Willson recounted completing a composition some years after he moved to th e West Coast, which the NBC music director, Frank Black, mentioned to Toscanini, who responded that he would be in terested in seeing the piece. Excited by the possibility of Toscanini conducting one of his works, Willson records the story, probably apocryphal, of rushing to New Yo rk with his score, a tw enty-three hour journey at the time, to watch Toscanini rehearse at Radio City. There were those eyes and they darted at me, around me, over me, and through me. That hoarse voice began: Ah yes, ah yes, ah yes caro my dear, my dear I remember, I remember Willson, the flute, the flute, the Ameri can flute. You are now in California, no? With sunshine, the beautiful suns hine, and the oranges. You are well, no? You are happy? I am glad to see you. Ah yes, ah yes, ah yes I remember, I remember. Pause long pause. Ah yes, ah yes I remember the American flute. Is always sun in California? I will come once to California, ah yes. Pause. You wish to see me about something, no? I shook my head and bowed myself b ackward out of the dressing room with my score still under my arm. I hurried out to La Guardia Field, sat there half the night waiting for a seat on a west bound plane, arrived in Los Angeles some twenty-three hours later, and Iv e never brought up the subject since.131 130 Willson, And There I Stood, 86-88. 131 Ibid. 106-107.

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77 Willsons years with the New York Philharmonic were also notable for his first exposure over a growing medium, radio. On November 15th, 1926 Willson played a concert which was the first broadcast of a musi c program on the NBC radio netw ork. This broadcast, the culmination of a concept of wiring different radio stations together to facilitate c overage of large areas, was an event known as the birth of NBC.132 The concert was conducted by Walter Damrosch, and included the New York Oratorio Society, and the Goldman Band. In 1922 the New York Philharmonic became one of the first orch estras to be broadcast, via radio, in a live concert. The Philharmonic quickly became one of the most frequently broadcast orchestras in the world, and it is likely that W illson participated in a broadcas t prior to the 1926 NBC premier, though there are currently no records indicating this. As a talented flute player in New York in the 1920s, Willson also played with other groups, such as the New York Chamber Music society.133 He found himself involved with some of the more progressive and daring trends in mu sic, which he blatantly disliked. Details of exactly whose works he played have not come to light, but Willson deemed the music, ugly, cacophonous schnozola One assumes he is referring to compositional experiments with atonality. Willson did admire the music of some contemporary composers, and these included Resphigi, Stravinsky, and Gershwin, all tonal co mposers. He was bound to be stung by criticism from some of the notable critics of the day, in cluding Olin Downes. When Willson played for dancer Angna Enters, Downes wrote: Miss Enters is perhaps the greatest mime of our day. As for the rest of the evening, its items were uniformly vapid.134 Willson never forgot the 132 Electrification of Sound: Audiovisual Collections Between the Wars, Library of Congress Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, Recorded Sound, An Illustrated Guide (Washington, 2002), 24. 133 They Started Here. 134 Willson, And There I Stood, 111.

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78 comment and included it in his memoirs to illu strate how a young musician could take such criticism to heart. The West Coast Years Sometim e in the mid 1920s Willson made the acquaintance of Aldoph Linden, a Seattle banker who was attempting to build a coast-to-coast network. In these early radio days there was a difficulty in linking broadcasts, as Willson explai ned, . there was only one complete coastto-coast network, and it was highly desirable to broadcast not only eas t to west, but also west to east, and this network-reversing was a big technical chore and expe nsive, too, in those days, so Mr. Linden thought of having his coast-to-coast station hooked toge ther in a figure-eight pattern, so that the broadcast would constantly be fl owing in both directions at once and no network reversals would ever be necessary.135 In addition to his bank ing interests Linden owned Seattles Camlin Hotel, produced and sold phonogra ph records, was involved with oil interests, and, like Willson, was a native of Iowa. In 1928, while Willson was still living in New Yo rk, Linden hired him as musical director for a series of summer concerts in Seattle, designed to promote th e coast-to-coast radio stations. While not financially successful the concert series was notew orthy as a beginning of new horizons for Willson. It marked a number of fi rsts for the young musician: first significant exposure to life on the West Coas t, his first foray into conduc ting, and his introduction to and initial contacts in the burgeoning world of radio. The concerts, however, were not well attended. In his writings Willson simply recalled that the radio venture failed and he returned to New York,136 blaming the lack of attendanc e on poor weather. The details were more dramatic, as 135 Ibid., 114. 136 Ibid., 117.

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79 Linden and his partner were arre sted for embezzling bank funds to bankroll the network. They were later convicted and se nt to Walla Walla prison.137 The enterprise had created ongoing problems fo r Willson, as well, for he had convinced a number of New York musicians to accompany him to the West Coast. They had been promised pay at the end of the summer, but the low turn-out and arrest of the sponsoring partners meant no funds were available. Willson lived in fear th at musicians were going to seek him out and hold him responsible for their unpaid services, but all was forgiven. Sometime in 1929 Meredith and Peggy Willson headed west for a permanent relocation to the West Coast. There seems to have been no single impetus for the move, but a combination of circumstances. The moved heralded what was to become the bulk of his professional career: Willsons work in radio and, later, television. Willson had an important contact in Hollywood in the person of good friend Abe Meyer, who was now musical director of Tiffany-Stahl, a company which produced moving pictures. W illson recalled his 1929 efforts in Hollywood: In those early days Hollywood was a glor ified fish fry, and the important thing was to look busy, so at Abes sugges tion I took up cigar smoking and spent my mornings walking around the TiffanyStahl lot, knitting my brows and smoking cigars.138 Tiffany-Stahl was an early film company which first specialized in silent films. As technology for sound became available Tiffany-Stahl became one of the first studies to integrate the new sound technology and produce numerous Tal kies. In his first m onths in California, Willson scored music for several films produced by the company.139 Willson mentioned the names of two of these films in And There I Stood with My Piccolo One was a December 1929 science-fiction film called The Lost Zeppelin another was the melodramatic Peacock Alley 137 J. Kingston Pierce, Eccentric Seattle, Washington State University Press, 2003 138 Willson, And There I Stood, 129. 139 Dates for Tiffany-Stahl films can be found at http://www.vitaphone.org/tiffany.html accessed 10th February, 2005.

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80 which was released in January of 1930 (Figures 3-9 and 3-10). It is relevant to note that the films were released within two months of each ot her. Composers were expected to write, score, rehearse, conduct, and record quickly. Composers of these early talkies did all the composing and scoring, but had not yet gained enough stat ure for inclusion on advertisements. When it came to the actual recording of the film, music, voices, and sound effects were recorded at one time, with actors, conductor, and orchestra in the same room and reading the same script. This practice resulted in one of the few remaining trac es we have of Willsons earliest film scores, ASCAP cue sheets. These cue sheets still survive in the ASCAP archives and list Willson as composer for several early films. Recent research has proved that Willson wrote scores for several additional Tiffany-Stahl films, including My Cavalier (also known as The Cavalier ), released November 1, 1928, The Taming of the Shrew (1929 United Artists), and Wide Open, 1930.140 Composing credit for My Cavalier was given to Hugo Reisenfeld, Willsons colleague from the New York Rialto theater, who worked in partnership with Willson. No copy of the film has thus far come to light, nor has any score; only the ASCAP cue sheets are known to exist. Wide Open and The Taming of the Shrew incorporated works Willson composed in 1929; Tornado and The Siege which, as examples of some of Willsons first orchestral co mpositions, will be addressed in a later chapter. In the latter part of 1932 TiffanyStahl was absorbed into World Wide Pictures. Somewhat later Willson also contributed to a twelve-part serial, Undersea Kingdom which was released in 1936. Undersea Kingdom has recently been found and is in circulation on DVD among certain early film buffs, but the extent of Willsons contributions is not clear. With no existing scores and no credits it is difficult to determine exactly to which musical portions Willson contributed. Many early films were lost, composers were recogni zed haphazardly, and there remains the possibility 140 ASCAP sheets indicate Willson as composer and conductor.

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81 that Willson composed music for films which have yet to be rediscovered. Of these early talkie scores Willson admitted that he, didnt know much about picture scoring in fact, didnt know anything about picture scoring, tho ugh he did possess what he fe lt was one vital qualification, his cigar gave out the proper smoke screen.141 At about the same time as he was composing his first film scores Willson was hired as musical director of radio stati on KFRC, based in San Francisco.142 The call sign KFRC was an acronym which stood for Known for Radio Clearness, a promotion of the stations transmitter system. The station was owned by entrepreneur Don Lee, who had accumulated much wealth as the California franchisee for Cadillac automobiles. In the late 1920s Lee had branched out into radio and set up wire-line connections between seve ral stations, one of the first examples of a network. In 1929 Don Lee entered into an agreement with Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) for his stations to become the western outlets for CBS; he touted this as the Don LeeColumbia Network. Willsons hiring was a direct result of the contract, for Lee sought out the best talent he could find to promote and run the new network. Thus Willson began to serve in a new capacity for radio, that of Music Director and/or Orchestra Leader for widely-heard radio program s. The positions were not well-defined and seem to have overlapped. As Orchestra Leader his primary job would have been to rehearse and conduct the orchestra, with limited input regard ing musical selections. As Music Director, Willson would have had a broader influence in wh at was being heard in the broadcast, as he would have selected the music a nd integrated it into the narrati ve portions of the program. His earliest widely-heard big show was Blue Monday Jamboree which in 1929 began a successful run of several seasons. Willson recalled Blue Monday Jamboree as, . a two-hour clambake 141 Willson, And There I Stood, 129. 142 http://www.oldradio.com/arch ives/stations/sf/kfrc1.htm

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82 every Monday night from eight to ten, and you c ould shoot off a gun in any street in California on that night and never hit anybody on account of they were all home listening to The Blue Monday Jamboree. I cant think of anything thats ever been done on th e radio that we didnt do first on that program.143 Indeed, many stock characters, wh ich came to define radio and early television, were developed for The Blue Monday Jamboree These include comedy duos like those later imitated by Amos n Andy, widely used stereotypical ethnic ch aracters of the day such as the wise-cracking Mexi can janitor, the standard sing ing cowboy, and many more. KFCR also played the first original musical comedies written for radio, as well as murder mysteries and comedic whodunits. Even the voice of the ch aracter foghorn leghorn, popular in childrens television cartoons of the 1960s, was attr ibuted to emulating a character on The Blue Monday Jamboree. As is the case with many early radi o programs, the significant impact of Blue Monday Jamboree is not well understood in the modern era. Recordings were sometimes made, but generally the better r ecordings were reused or lost, t hough curiosity about particularly poor performances kept those recordings in circulat ion. A few years later many early recordings made on aluminum and glass cylinders were contri buted to recycling effo rts of the second World War, and thus lost forever. One of the ideas Willson premiered, probably on Blue Monday Jamboree, was that of Chiffon Jazz. He had the idea that the audience would prefer a sort of modified jazz or dance music to listen to over th e air. He began to arrange works in which the brasses and saxophones were replaced by violin s and woodwinds, a practice which became popular and has continued to this day.144 143 Willson, And There I Stood, 135-136. 144 You and I, Super Song Book (popular magazine, no publisher listed, 1940), 3.

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83 Peggy and Meredith settled in San Francisco and began a long and productive association with the city. The NBC Western Division headquarters were in Sa n Francisco and, due in part to the strong Don-Lee, NBC connection Willson was appointed music director of the Western Division of NBC in 1932. This position was, presumably, excellent training for Willson, and San Francisco was the center of West Coast radi o, then emerging from infancy into the major form of entertainment. Radio broadcasts in th e early days were live, and studios were usually filled with people; the musical director, engineer s, guests, and a live orchestra which varied in size from a quartet up to one hundred musicians. The variety of music played was remarkably wide, ranging from classical concertos to jazz (Figure 3-11). This period was busy and productive for Willson. It was in these early years with NBC that Willson began to implement innovative programming ideas for radio. One of these was the program, Concert in Rhythm the first to feature popular danc e music not to be danced to, but simply to be listened to. Another innovation was in the form of a half hour radio program Waltz Time devoted entirely to the playing of waltzes. Both Concert in Rhythm and Waltz Time ran in 1932. In 1933 Willson became orchestra director of the popular Captain Dobbsie's Ship of Joy, which ran for three years, and al so became orchestra director of his first big hit radio program, Carefree Carnival which ran through 1939. In all, this was a heady time in radio. The c ountry was in the middle of the great depression and people depended on radio as often their sole form of entertainment, news, and even education. Willson was at th e center of developing the new medium, given largely a carte blanche to try new things. After two or three uncertain years cau sed by the depression, musical activity boomed again on a burgeoning radio and record industry and the public's need for communication and entertainment as war clouds ro lled in during the following decade. Willson

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84 was immensely busy during these ye ars, directing sometimes as many as seventeen musical radio programs a week. He also found time for app earances as a guest conductor for regional orchestras, including the San Fr ancisco Symphony Orchestra, S eattle Symphony Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. Researching the radio years of Willsons car eer has the potential to be highly confusing, for early radio was not the standardized syst em we know today. Rather, it was a growing conglomerate of independent owners who shaped rather loose ties to networks. In the early years of radio, there were two NBC networks, NBC Bl ue and NBC Red. From the early 1920s, large cities had multiple stations, problematic when more than one wanted a network feed. If the network was already affiliated with a station it could not affiliate with a second station. NBC solved this dilemma by creati ng two networks, which it name d Blue and Red, potentially doubling the number of stations which could have an NBC affiliation. Additionally, in the early years, some stations carried shows from more than one networ k. The autonomy of the early stations was a boon to the spread of different genres of music. Local stations had, when needed, the resources of a national hookup, but they also r ealized the value of ma intaining and drawing upon regional aspects. For example, Willson built a Spanish program around a local singer, Carmen Castillo, while at KFRC.145 Networks depended on their local affiliate stations to provide national advertising and nationa lly directed, high-budget programming. Station owner Don Lee died of a sudden heart attack in 1934, and his stations were taken over by his son, Tommy Lee, with the CBS arra ngement continuing through the end of 1936. During the early 1930s there had been growi ng friction between the Lee organization and Columbia over programming control issues. The Lee group wanted to continue their programming autonomy, while CBS sought more contro l over the broadcasts. It is notable that 145 Willson, And There I Stood, 134.

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85 Willson departed the network in 1936, the same y ear in which the CBS moved its affiliation to station KSFO. At that time the Lee stations b ecame affiliates of the Mutual network and moved their radio headquarters to Los Angeles. Willson left no clue that he had any preference nor played any role in KFRCs switch in network affiliation. Willson remained in San Francisco and became musical director of the NBC stations KGO and KPO. As radio expanded in popularity and sc ope in the 1930s certain challenges arose. One was the difficulty of having a single network whic h served the different time zones of the east and west coasts. This was live radio, with no option to record and re play, so a show which broadcast in the evening on the east coast would be broadcasti ng at mid-afternoon on the west coast. One attempted solution was a double broa dcast, in which shows would broadcast from LA in the afternoon for an evening program for NY, and then cast and crew would reassemble several hours later and do the show again for the West Coast. The dilemma of live broadcasting and time zones required the network stations in the Pacific to air much of their own programming, which in turn called for a person to coordinate the performance and broadcasts. In 1935 Willson was named to this important post and became the music director for the West Coast division of the NBC network, esse ntially half the national network. The following year, 1936, was a banner year for Willson. He completed and premiered his First Symphony subtitled San Francisco Symphony, and inspired by his time living and working in San Francisco and his deep passion for the city. Willson guest conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in the April 19th premier of the work, in the process becoming their youngest ever guest conductor. The work pr emiered to some acclaim. Willson seemed to be on the brink of carving a permanent ni che for himself as a symphonic composer.

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86 At the end of his 1936 season Meredith and Peggy took a month-long cruise aboard the S.S. Virginia, crossed through the Panama Canal, then spent two weeks amid familiar scenes in New York City. While there he directed th e NBC symphony orchestra in Radio City. The couple then made a trip to Mason City, where th ey stayed with Peggys mother. In the language of the time Willson told the local paper that he was making the trip as a celebration of the completion of his First Symphony He added, Who knows, I might write a Mason City symphony Mason City has plenty to crow about. I like it better every time I come here.146 The following summer he hinted that his symphony would be played by the New York Philharmonic, though the work was apparently never written. His work in radio, however, was about to pull Willson in another direction. From the mid 1930s radio headquarters had begun to shift gradually southward to Los Angeles, in large part because of the talent pool in nearby Hollywood. The location made it more convenient, too, for big name artists to perform on radio and in m ovies, and NBC moved many of its shows to Los Angeles. In 1937, less than a y ear after the premier of his San Francisco Symphony Willson, still NBC Western Director, made the move to Los Angeles and signed an agent from the William Morris agency. Just after moving to Lo s Angeles, Willson became the musical director and host of thirty-minute variety radio show which became one of his best remembered programs, NBCs Good News (1937-1939). That summer Willson finished the first season of Good News and took a European vacation. In London he saw his first television and was asked to conduct a broadcast with the BBC orchestra, which he declined due to a slight illness. In 1938, riding on name recognition and the success of his First Symphony, Meredith wrote a guide to composition, c onducting, and radio, titling it What Every Young Musician Should Know The work was a good-natured manual, filled with slang of the era, giving advice 146 Meredith Willson Plans to Continue Composing, Mason City Globe Gazette June 3rd, 1936.

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87 about how to approach the popul ar music world. The 1930s wo rld of popular music included a variety of forms, from classical to swing, and Willsons guide addressed them all. Indeed, the move to Los Angeles marked the beginning of Willsons affiliation with many of the popular radio shows of the era. He worked in various capacities, as host, co-host, orchestra conductor, and musical director, for many years. In his various capacities Willson became instrumental in developing what became stock characters on radio; stereotypes which we re later carried over onto television. As one of the few speaking char acters in the radio studio, and one whose voice the audience would recognize, the orchestra c onductor was frequently used as an actor or stooge to whom questions were asked. Willson cu ltivated this role with a passion. He enjoyed serving as both serious orchestra conductor and the butt of jokes, but never at the expense of musical quality. A former performer, he resp ected his orchestras and once commented, When you play in an orchestra youre scared of the conductor, and when you become a conductor youre scared of the orchestra because theyre the ones who can really tell whether you know your stuff or not.147 In his role as Music Director Willson found himself largely outside the loose network boundaries. While different stati ons might share the same owne rship, they might also have different network affiliations. It was not uncomm on to find stations in different cities which shared ownership, but which held different networ k contracts. As music director, Willson need only go from one station to another, a frequent, sometimes daily, occurrence, to find himself working for different networks. This explains the confusion of records which show Willson working at two or more studios an d/or networks at the same time. Additionally, affiliation with a network was not as exclusive as it is today, and Willson moved his shows. He sometimes directed a show on one network concurrent with directing the same show on a different network. 147 Willson, And There I Stood, 69.

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88 A source which does an excellent and detail ed examination of Willsons chronology and affiliation with different Old Time Radio, OTR, networks, and details the various shows he directed is Bill Oates book, Meredith Willson, Americ a s Music Man.148 Over the course of his radio and television career Willson worked for the Red and Blue NBC networks and for CBS. In the1940s the F CC ruled that the NBC Red and Blue networks comprised a monopoly and forced NBC to relinquis h a network. Hence the Blue network spun off to become the American Broadcasting Corpor ation (ABC) in about 1945. As a result, some sources show Willson working for ABC.149 The changes between networks seem to have been encouraged, at least in part, th rough advertising sponsorship of networks and specific shows. Though somewhat later, an example can be found in Willsons show Sparkle Time (1946-47), also known as The Meredith Willson Show and Ford Showroom. The program began on CBS, sponsored in part by Ford, then moved to ABC, sponsored by Canada Dry Ginger Ale and later, again, Ford. Simultaneously, Willson wa s directing other shows on NBC. As Music Director Willson influenced the format of radio programs, and thus impacted developments in the field. He developed the id ea of taking the ten most played songs of the week, as published by V ariety magazine, and making them into a show he called The Big Ten The network later sold this concept, and it became the NBC Lucky Strike Hit Parade The idea of featuring and counting down the top hits of the week originated with Willson and is carried on in the recording industry to this day. Another significant feature of Willsons radio years was the number of celebrities and rising stars with whom Willson worked. A lis t is practically a whos who of notable performers of the day, and incl udes such luminaries as Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald, Judy 148 Bill Oates. Meredith Willson,Americ a s Music Man (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2005). 149 Bill Oates also notes that in the late 1920s Willson worked for a Seattle network called ABC, a network which failed, not to be confused with todays ABC network.

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89 Garland, Buddy Ebsen, Mickey Rooney, Clark Gabl e, Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, Fannie Brice, Jimmy Stewart, and more. Willson was never really a name-dropper, but did occasionally mention the celebrities with whom he worked. Writing about the 1938 premier of Good News for example, he recalled We had lots of glamour and had rehearsed for many days with a big orchestra and chorus of seventy people and Jeanette MacDonald and Judy Garland and Buddy Ebsen.150 Willson painted vignettes of some of these personalities in his memoirs: Nelson Eddy was getting good and tired of hanging around M.G.M. doing bit parts and was happy to get away to San Francisco and get a chance to sing again. He was barely in his twenties, but he killed all the people with the most tastefully complete singi ng of the Toreador Song youll ever want to hear. He was a bit on the callow side in those days, as it comes to me now.151 Sometime in 1939, using the Good News program as his platform, Willson commissioned ten well-known American composers to write original works in various prescribed traditional forms. The idea was probably first been broa dcast in the summer, as several newspapers reported on it in mid-to late August. From The New York Herald Tribune : Noticing that no American works have figur ed in the lists of favorite melodies named in various polls and performe d in his Concert Hall radio hours, Meredith Willson is commissioning ten American composers to write works in small forms such as those of the minuet, serenade, caprice and barcarolle. These will be performed in the Concert Hall program, which originates from Los Angeles on Thursday nights over an N. B. C. national network. The committee choosing the list of ten composers consists of Mr. Willson, Dr. Frank Black, of the National Broadcas ting Company, and Howard Barlow, of the Columbia Broadcasting System. Favored tunes which have already figured on Mr. Willsons programs include Beethovens and Paderewskis minuets, Schuberts Serenade, the Brahms Lullaby, Kreislers Caprice Viennois and the Barcar olle from Offenbachs Tales of Hoffmann. Mr. Willson th inks that American composers of 150 Willson, And There I Stood, 149-150. 151 Willson, And There I Stood, 132.

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90 popular music have hitherto lacked the incentive to compose works of such a type.152 Another article asserts that It is Mr. Willsons contention that American popular composers have rarely been given the opportunity to try their talents in the more classic forms.153 Another article continues this thought providing more detail about what Willson considered to be the problem: Meredith, who is almost painfully in earnest about this, is worried because there were no American names in the list of composers of the ten most beloved melodies ever written, he ha s put on the air in the past. It is obvious, says Meredith, that American composers lack the stimulus and incentive to write in classical forms. The Wilson (sic) composers list is not yet complete, but its our guess that those who have felt the urge to write in the classical form have already done so and will continue As for those other writers who wouldnt swap a dozen barcarolles for one simple song a la Berli n, we regret theyd stick to their own very good lasts, keep far away from fo rms for which they have little sympathy and out of which they dont get much fun.154 Willson presented the resulting compositions each week during the Good News program, conducting the premier performances himself.155 Each work was preceded by the designation American. The pieces composed include American waltz by Peter De Rose; American arabesque Vernon Duke; American barcarolle Harry Warren; American lullaby Duke Ellington; American humoresque, Sigmund Romberg; American caprice, Morton Gould; American minuet Harold Arlen; American nocturne, Dana Suesse; March for Americans, Ferde Grofe, and American serenade, Louis Alter. The works were recorded by Decca in 1941 in a five disc collection titled the Album of Modern American compositions. 152 Ten U.S. Composers Will Get Commissions, The New York Herald Tribune August 20, 1939, Sunday. 153 Youngest Baton-Waver Lords It at Fair Tonight: Master Lorin Maazel to Conduct Tschaikowskys Marche Slave(sic), Festival at Bergamo, Brooklyn Opera, Opportunity. The New York World-Telegram August 18, 1939, Friday. 154 Meredith Willson, who is to lead the orchestra, The New York Post August 17, 1939, Thursday. 155 Willson Signs Contract to Record Music Album, Mason City Globe-Gazette 12/31/1940.

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91 The exposure of his 1936 First Symphony and close affiliation with Hollywood soon resulted in a new venture. Around 1938 Willson was contacted by Charlie Chaplin, who asked if he might be interested in writing music for a new film, The Great Dictator In an interview recorded in 1959 Willson recalled his collaborat ion with Chaplin with great fondness. His mention of Chaplins lack of politics is particul arly relevant given the time of the era of the interview. In 1952 Chaplin had come under severe pressure through accusations from Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, which accused the filmmaker of communist leanings. Willsons recollections of eight weeks spent scoring with Chaplin were quite different: I had lunch with him every single day, and ev ery day I was absolutely sick from laughing. Such a fantastically humorous man and I ne ver heard him tell a joke. He only told experiences, things that had happened. All of this eight weeks on th e lot, lunching every day, maybe from 12:30 to 2:30 we were leis urely the minute the picture was finished, Charlie would be out of wor k. He wouldnt have anything to occupy his mind. So he pretended that he was in a big hurry, but actually he hated to ha ve it get over. In all that time, I never heard him speak a word of po litics. We never exchanged one word about politics. He had something to say in general about the quality of the guy who was reading the news, maybe didnt like his voice but his leanings that weve been led to believe he has politically, and his citizen of the world poppycock is ju st a shame. Its too bad, because Charlie is such a great ar tist in every way. This man is a genius, no doubt about it. He would have been a genius as a house painter or as a portrait artist, or in the ballet he could have out Nijinskyd Nijinsky. Whatever he put his mind to, he would have been the greatest.156 Willson was also still heavily involved with songwriting and his radio career and was one of the countrys well-known entertainment figures. As such there were fr equent news articles about him. Many of these were brief lines informing the radio public which artists would be featured on an upcoming show. These would me ntion Willsons name along with those of other celebrities: 156 New York, Columbia University, [Willson, The Remini scences of Meredith Willson, Popular Arts Project Series V, volume IX, Category IA, Or al History Research Office, 1961] 34.

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92 Lionel Barrymore again will visit Robert Young, Fanny Brice, Frank Morgan, Meredith Willson, Connie Boswell and other members of the cast of Good News of 1939, when he stars in a dram atic sketch during the broadcast at 7 p.m. today over WMAQ.157 Other articles, though still brief, provided somewhat more substance about Willson, the man, such as those articles which seem to have evolved from a short interview or even overheard comments. Like the smaller articles, these list ce lebrities and, frequently, the names of shows. These vignettes are somewhat longer and more an ecdotal, relating short stories or incidents which involved radio personalities. Even sm all items were of interest to the public: Frank Morgan hit the jack pot on a new soft drink vending machine just installed in the artists corridor of NBCs Hollywood Radio City. First of the Good News of 1939 cast to spot the m achine, Morgan insisted upon treating Fanny Brice, Bob Young, Meredith W illson, Hanley Stafford, Warren Hull and Connie Boswell. He started feeding nickels faster than the machine could take them, and before long the ja nitor was busy moppi ng, and collecting tipped over paper cups. After much effo rt but little refreshment, the Good News cast adjourned to their air cooled studio to enjoy iced coffee, leaving Morgan still trying to explain what he had done to the machine.158 Willson was frequently asked his opinion about mu sical items, such as the current trend in writing silly songs: Carloadings may fall off, the business index may sink out of sight, but the current silly music craze is a sure sign that bigger and better times have come, according to Meredith Willson, Good News musical director, here for a visit. The fad for nursery rhyme swing that began with A Tisket A Tasket and continued with The Mulberry Bush, Rumplestiltskin, and The Three Little Fishes, he explained, is the sa me kind of absurdity we had during the flush twenties in the form of Yes We Have No Bananas and Barney Google. All such songs are superficial from a musical viewpoint, Willson declares, and they will not have any more last ing effect on musical trends than 157 Lionel Barrymore Visits Snooks Springfield, Ill Journal Springfield, Ill, June 8, 1939. 158 Air Land Chatter Sacramento California Bee Sacramento, Californi a, June 8, 1939.

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93 Ferdinand the Bull on lite rature, but they reflect a fundamental upswing in our national spirit. They herald better business and good cheer.159 There were also articles which included Wills on as part of a significant event. He was sometimes featured as the main event, some times mentioned along with many other well-known performers: It started with a tremendous crash of cymbals and the majestic sweep of Meredith Willsons symphony orchestra carrying Tony Martin, famed tenor of screen and stage, into Irving Berlin s patriotic masterpiece, God Bless America. Tiny, red-headed Judy Garland held an honor position in the broadcast that of unfurling before her nation-wide audi ence a radio American flag in the symbolic singing of MacDowells To a Wild Rose for he red of the flag, Stephen Fosters My Old Kentucky Ho me, for the Dixie cotton fields representing the white, and George Gershwins Rhapsody in Blue for the blue field. Jeanette MacDonald had an equally imp ressive patriotic role when called upon to sing The Star-Spangled Banner. Robert Taylor introduced what was probably the most dramatic bit of acting on the program the landing of the Pilg rims, played by noted film stars under the direction of Frank Capra.160 1940 was a productive year for Willson. In addition to The Great Dictator, Willson completed his Second Symphony, which he subtitled The Missions of California About 1938 Willson had met conductor Albert Coates, of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Coates suggested that Willson compose a second symphony. He began work immediately and completed the work in 1940. He also composed a song titled, Wings on High which he dedicated to the United States Aviation Forces.161 The Mason City Globe Gazette touted that the work had, . been accepted by them (the United States Aviation Forces) as their theme 159 Silly Songs Herald Bigger, Better Days, Duluth Minnesota Herald Duluth, Minnesota, August 4th, 1939. 160 Patriotic Music Marks Program Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois 161 It was only after the Second World War that the Air Force was established, and until that time several branches of the military had aviation services. Willsons dedication seem s to be directed towards those members of all branches who worked in aviation, rather than to a single service.

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94 melody.162 During this year he also began work on what would become one of his most famous radio affiliations, the Maxwell House Coffee Time which ran through 1949. In 1941 Willson was hired by CBS to host a one hour radio program The Ford Summer Hour This was also the year he composed two songs which achieved wide-spread radio popularity, You and I and Two in Love. Willson was delighted that both songs got on the Hit Parade at the same time, which I thought was sligh tly ironic, or poetic justic e, or sumpn, in view of the fact that I i nvented the Hit Parade.163 You and I stayed on the Hit Parade for 19 weeks. Also in 1941 Willson scored the music for the Goldwyn film The Little Foxes based on the play by Lillian Hellman. The film version starred Bette Davis. For his work on The Little Foxes Willson received his second nomination by the Acad emy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, for Scoring of a Dramatic Picture. In the early 1940s Willson, like many Americans, was becoming increasingly focused on events of the war which would soon expand to the United States and be come the Second World War. One incident particularly caught his in terest. A 1940 poem, authored by Gene Fowler, related a tale of the heroism of th e captain and crew of a ship, the Jervis Bay.164 While escorting a convoy the Jervis Bay was attacked by the German warship Admiral Scheer Most of the officers were killed during the shelling. The Captain of the Jervis Bay Fogarty Fegen, suffered the loss of one of his arms, but stayed on deck issuing orders and was later killed by a shell. The crew refused to abandon ship but continued fi ring on the German fleet in order to occupy the attackers and provide the rest of the convoy ships a ch ance to escape. Moved by the story of these gallant actions, Willson composed The Jervis Bay an orchestral work he termed a 162 Mason City Globe Gazette August 10th, 1940. 163 Willson, And There I Stood, 170. 164 Gene Fowler. The Jervis Bay Goes Down (New York: Random House), 1941.

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95 symphonic poem. The Jervis Bay was premiered by the San Fr ancisco Symphony Orchestra in 1942, with Willson sharing the podium with Francescatti and guest conducting his own work. Later that same year Willson enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was given the rank of major and made head of the Music Division of the Armed Forces Radio Service, essentially music director of Armed Forces Ra dio. At one point Willson was contacted by a musical friend, guitarist Les Paul, who had recently been drafted. Willson pulled strings to get Paul assigned to his unit, and Paul edited many hours of prerecorded entertainmen t into variety shows for Armed Forces network distribution, basically serving as a recording engineer.165 Les Paul went on to become a famed guitarist and well-remembered for the guitar named for him. He considered the work he did with Willson to be among the most important of his career. During his time in the Army Willson joined fo rces with radio personality John Nesbitt and co-hosted a half hour show entitled The Meredith Willson John Nesbitt Show on NBC. Under his influence the Armed Forces Radio Servi ce also produced such memorable programs as Command Performance and Mail Call for GIs throughout the world. It was during this busy time that Willson wrote again for film, contributing the piece Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay to the movie Happy Go Lucky, released in 1943. The stars were big names of the era, Mary Martin and Dick Powell, a nd Willsons piece, to which Mary Martin dances, was the show-stopper of the film.166 In 1944 Willson worked on a radio documentary program entitled The Passing Parade, written and produ ced by Nesbitt. The fifteen-minute program was shown in film houses as a short subject. After Willsons 1946 discharge from the Army, he returned to radio. He exited the service determined to embark on a personal crusade to do something about what he felt were the trite 165 Robert Denman, Les Paul: The Living Legend of the Electric Guitar, Classic Jazz Guitar 9/1 (2005) http://www.classicjazzguitar.com/ar ticles/article.jsp?article=25 166 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0035969/ accessed 22nd September, 2005

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96 musical programs on radio and the tired form at into which commercial announcements had fallen. In his zeal to make commercials palata ble, Willson conceived the "Talking People," a speaking chorus to deliver the sponsors message, and various other ingenious devices. For the next decade he continued working on radio as commentator, composer, conductor, and musical director. Willson also continued to develop his own radio personality as a comedian, usually serving as the stooge of jokes. 1948 marked several landmark events in Willsons personal life. One of these was the publication of his first biography, And There I Stood With My Piccolo which became a bestseller. The major changes, however, we re in Willsons personal life. On March 5th of 1948 Meredith Willsons divorce from Elizabeth Peggy Willson became final. Just a week later, on March 13th, 1948, Willson married Ralina Rina Zirova, who was generally called Rini. Apparently Meredith met Rini, a singer of Russian and French parentage, during a rehearsal. The two quickly fell in love, a nd Meredith requested a divorce from Peggy. As was common practice at that time Peggy was the party who filed the divorce papers on grounds of mental cruelty. Merediths twenty-nine year marriage to Peggy produced no children, and various friends of the family tell of an increasing strain this decision placed on the relations hip. Peggy is said to have insisted that bearing children would ruin her figure. As Willsons career and public stature grew, so did his wifes. Pe ggy appeared in many newspaper and magazine articles about Willson; these frequently accompanied by pictures. This public scrutiny may have hardened her resolve not to bear children, and sources close to the family relate that this was a source of conflict between Meredith and Pe ggy. In July of 1947 the coupl e was featured in a bucolic

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97 pictorial in The American Home magazine.167 By early 1948 they were in the middle of a divorce. Despite Willsons twenty-nine years of marriage to Peggy, in formation about their life together is scanty. Willson, in fact, never me ntioned Peggy in any of his autobiographical works. The primary sources for information about her are newspaper and magazine articles which mention Peggy alongside Meredith, or feature her as the wife of a popular musical figure. Besides the American Home magazine there are several news paper and magazine articles which mention or feature Peggy Willson. One is a st ory published in the Albert Lea Tribune in 1939.168 The last column that O. O. McIntyre ever wrote, chatted about a love story that was considered Hollywoods most ro mantic: that of th e famous Meredith Willson The Wilsons and the Willsons lived next door in Mason City, Iowa. Meredith and Peggy had grown up together and every tree in the neighborhood had carved hearts on them, M. W. P. W. 1910. Their parents thought this was puppy love and even during college days th e couple still were very serious. One day, Meredith came home, in the spring, and told Peggy he would not go back to college until she went along. So he borrowed $12 from his brother and later, in fact on August 29, 1920, they made the trip to Albert Lea, Minn., where they proceeded to look for the pr ettiest parsonage. It happened to be the Methodist one. The only thing they remember about is that the minister had a cold and reeked of Smith Brot hers cough drops. And that, on the way out of the house, Peggy saw the dining room table set for dinner with two large and 10 little chai rs drawn up around it, and for some reason, cried. The Albert Lea story draws heavily on column ist O.O. McIntyres last column, published posthumously. Both contain many factual errors, and an equal number of exaggerations. The Wilson and Willson families, for instance, lived cl ose, but not next door to each other, Willson never went to college, but took a single cla ss at Damrosch while beginning his professional career, there is no evidence of in itials carved in trees, and so o n... The article is, on the other 167 The American Home, 37/6, 1947. 168 Albert Lea is 37 miles from Mason City, the city in which both Meredith and Peggy Willson grew up.

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98 hand, a very public confirmation that the couple was generally considered to have a happy marriage.169 Another article, this one from 1940, boasts, Twenty Years of Marital Bliss and celebrates the couples long and happy marriage. Many stories have been writt en about ideal marriages but none fits the plot better than the union of Pe ggy and Meredith Willson. This week, in the city where admittedly they have spent the happiest years of their married life, Mr. and Mrs. W illson will celebrate their twentieth anniversary amid a series of fete s to be rendered by San Francisco friends.170 The Willsons, who lived in Los Angeles at the ti me, are said in this article to have found it fitting to return to San Francisco to celebrate their anniversary, Because it was in San Francisco that Willson first rose to fame. An article from the couples hometown newspaper, the Mason City Globe-Gazette, trumpets an upcoming visit in which Willson will direct the North Iowa band festival. This article feat ures a picture of Meredith play ing the piano, Peggy fondly holding his shoulder, and the couple smiling at their cat, who sits atop the piano, and portraying the image of a happy and successful couple.171 According to friends of the couple, in an attempt to remove memories of Peggy from Merediths life, Rini proceeded to throw aw ay many of Willsons early press clippings and papers, with special emphasis on items which mentioned Peggy. This purge provides a partial explanation for the lack of papers and informati on about Willsons early career and works. A set of scrapbooks kept by Meredith and Peggy bears the unique feature of scra tched out and partially 169 Heres an Interesting Story Albert Lea Tribune Albert Lea, Minnesota, February 21, 1939. 170 Twenty Years of Marital Bliss San Francisco Chronicle San Francisco, California, August 25, 1940, 4. 171 Meredith Willson Invited to Festival: Asked to Lead Massed Bands. Mason City Globe-Gazette, Mason City, Iowa, May 18th, 1945.

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99 destroyed entries.172 The missing entries were article s which mentioned Peggy, defaced by second wife Rini (figure 3-8). Rini, on the other hand, was feat ured prominently in Willsons second memoir, Eggs I Have Laid Willson indicated that the two had a close personal and working relationship and that Rini a singer, was frequently consulted about works in process. In the divorce settlement Peggy received more than fifty thousand dollars in bonds, insurance and securities, twenty -five percent of Willsons continued earnings, a gas station, and the Beverly Hills home which had so recently been featured in The American Home magazine. Two years later, in 1950, Peggy married wealthy businessman Leroy Van Bomel. Van Bomels obituary states that he was president of the Natio nal Dairy and increased sa les to $1 billion, thus making his company one of the nations biggest food processors.173 Peggy died in 1986 and her ashes were interred in Mas on Citys Elmwood Cemetery. In 1949 Willson was included in David Ewens American Composers Today, A Biographical and Critical Guide. This entry is flattering and exaggerated in some respects. What is most relevant about this period is Willsons recognition by, and popularity with the listening public. Television had had begun to spread in the 1940s, and by the end of the decade was growing rapidly, pulling sponsors and audience away from radio. In 1950 Willson became part of radios attempt to remain competitive with television. This was in the form of a ninetyminute extravaganza entitled The Big Show, co-hosted by Willson and Tallulah Bankhead. Willson composed the theme song for the show May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You which closed every show and gained wide popularity. The song was a number one hit and 172 These scrapbooks contain articles sent to the Willsons from fans throughout the country, with entries ranging in length from two to three lines to several pages, and coveri ng much of his early career. The scrapbooks are currently in possession of Art Fischbeck, retired Mason City town historian and archivist. He relates that they were thrown in the trash by Willsons third wife, Rosemary Sullivan, in an attempt to remove items which reminded Meredith of his former wives. Neighbors who had been friends of Rinis rescued them from the trash and sent them to Fischbeck. 173 Time Magazine Friday, Dec. 30, 1966.

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100 became one of the pieces for which Willson is today most remembered. The inspiration for the song came from his mother, who every week dism issed her Sunday school class saying, May the good Lord bless and keep you! The Big Show ran until 1952. Willsons long and salubrious radio career ended in 1952 with a 30-m inute musical variety program on NBC, Encore, which ran for just a year. He continued to guest c onduct orchestras for special programs for the next few years, but Encore was the last regular pr ogram for which he served as orchestra conductor. Posthumous During his lifetim e Willson received praise fr om groups as diverse as Parents magazines, military associations, church organizations and others, who lauded the composer for presenting an entertaining picture of Ameri cas better side. The childless composer was an active member of the Big Brothers organization and a six-time pr esident of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of Big Brothers. President Kennedy presented Will son with the National Big Brother Award in recognition of his service to the country's youth. President Lyndon Johnson appointed Willson to the National Council of the Humanities. In 1982, the National Academy of Popular Music elected him to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Willson received honorary doctorates from at least five colleges/universities. Willson received recognition from the National Fathers Day Committee, and The Salvation Army honored him for service to it and other volunteer organizations.174 A stamp featuring Willson was released on Sept. 21, 1999, in New York City, as part of a series to commemorate the impor tant contributions of Broadway songwriters. Acknowledgement of Willsons musical talent s continued after hi s death. Willson was posthumously awarded the Iowa Award for lif etime achievement by Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan. In recognition of Willson's great contribution to musical theater and twentieth-century music, the Mason City 174 Mason City Globe-Gazette Obituary.

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101 Foundation has created Music Man Square in W illson's birthplace, Mason City, Iowa. The facility is a mall-like structure with a faux stre et down the center designed to emulate a street from the early twentieth-century. The sides of the street are lined with old-time business fronts and buildings drawn from The Music Man The designers based the names on the shops from citizen names they found in a 1912 city directory. While the names reflect those of prominent 1912 Mason City residents, they do not necessarily relate to the business fronts on which they are found. The large space, plus the attached r eunion hall auditorium, attracts public events such as class reunions, wedding receptions, band festivals, and even debates between Presidential candidates.

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102 Figure 3-1. Note on this photograph from the fam ily album reads, Rober t Reiniger Meredith Willson, 6 months old (Courtesy Mas on City Public Library Archives).

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103 Figure 3-2. Rosalie with Meredit h, circa 1904 (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives).

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104 Figure 3-3. Rosalie coaching sons Cedric, left, and Meredith on th e black upright piano in the parlor. (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives). Figure 3-4. Willson Family, circa 1908. Left to right : (Dixie), Cedric, Rosalie, John, Meredith. Johns appearance in the background, in diffe rent shades and perspectives, suggests that the photographer may have added a pr e-existing photo to cr eate the family portrait (Courtesy of Mason City Public Library Archives).

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105 Figure 3-5. Meredith with banjo, Cedric with an instrument identified as a long-neck mandolin, and Dixie (seated), with mandolin (Courtesy of Mason City Public Library Archives). Figure 3-6. Cedric, left, and Mere dith in their Sousa uniforms (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives).

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106 Figure 3-7. Vintage postcard of the Rialto theater, demolishe d around 1932, site of one of Willsons first playing positions in New York City (public domain).

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107 Figure 3-8. Page from the scrapbook kept by Meredith and Peggy Willsons during his radio days. The two defaced entries represen t an apparent attempt by Willsons second wife to remove memorabilia associated w ith first wife, Peggy (F rom Art Fischbeck).

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108 Figure 3-9. (Josef) Wilhelm Mengelberg (1871-1 951), Willsons bogeyman (public domain).

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109 Figure 3-10. Poster for one of Willsons early films. Composers of these early talkies did all the composing and scoring, but had not yet gained enough stature for inclusion on advertisements (public domain).

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110 Figure 3-11. Poster for anothe r of Willsons early films, Peacock Alley (public domain).

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111 Figure 3-12. Meredith W ilson while directing the Carefree Carnival program, during rehearsal with the Williams Sisters: Top standing is Laura Williams, middle is Alice Sizer and sitting is Ethelyn Williams (public domain).

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112 CHAPTER 4 WILLSON AS COMPOSER AND CONDUCTOR Background Willsons rise as a pe rformer in New York coincided with a period of great flux in the symphonic world. The New York Philharmonic program of 16th October, 1924, documents the first performance of flautist R.M. Willson with the New York Philharmonic. The concert was directed by the Dutch conductor Wilhelm Van Hoogstraten, and included works by Weber, Respighi, Mozart and Wagner. Willsons tenure in the New York Philharmonic was marked in large part by the power-struggle among conductors and resulting significant public commentaries on their various conducting styles. These public arguments and merges with other orchestras resulted in the hiring and firing of many of the Philharmonic musicians during Willsons tenure, and directly impacted Willsons continued employment with the orchestra. The controversies may well have impacted his future career decision s, as well, for he would leave the Philharmonic just after its largest merger with the New York Symphony So ciety, another august musical organization. It was during this merger that more than forty musicians were released from their respective orchestras, though there is no evid ence that Willson was one of these. During Willsons years with the group, the New York Philharmonic merged with several groups. The first of these happened in 1921, before Willsons arrival, and the New York Philharmonic inherited conductor Willem Mengelb erg after its merger with the National Symphony. Mengelberg was a Dutch pianist and conductor of the Germanic post-Romantic school, a good friend and advocate of Mahler, and a well-known interpreter of the works of Richard Strauss. As a conductor he demanded a gr eat deal of personal re spect and was called a demigod. In 1924 and 1925 he was joined by co-conductor Willem Van Hoogstraten. Van Hoogstraten, also Dutch, first became a guest conductor for the New York Philharmonic summer

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113 concert series in 1922, a position he held th rough 1939. He was appointed an associate conductor of the orchestra in 1923, a post he left after the 1925 season. Both were overshadowed by the rise of Toscanini, first as a frequent guest conducto r, and finally in his 1925 appointment as sole permanent conductor. Mengelberg and Van Hoogstraten shared a predilection for romantic interpre tations, especially with regard to illustrating or illuminating a score. Toscaninis approach was less interp retive and focused more on direct and accurate playing of what was written. Toscanini was noted for his conducting crispness and clarity, a move away from the Germanic tradition. Meng elberg and Toscanini had frequent clashes over interpretations of music and rehe arsal techniques. These disagreem ents were frequently engaged in front of the instrumentalis ts and eventually resulted in Mengelbergs departure. The arguments became widely public, and the New York Times editors and readers engaged in ongoing debate about the virtues of conducting styles, the role of a conductor, his style, status, virtues, and faults. As a member of the Ne w York Philharmonic there can be no doubt that Willson was sharply aware of the debate about conductors. During his New York years, Willson perfor med under various conductors in famous New York locations, such as Carnegie Hall, th e Metropolitan Opera House, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In addition to the well-known Philharmonic conductors, Willson also played under a stellar list of guest soloists and conductors. These included Efrem Zimbalist, Pablo Casals, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, and Igor Stra vinsky, in his first appearance in the United States. A defining event of the twentieth-century took place the evening of November 15, 1926 the inaugural and well-publicized broadcast of the National Br oadcasting Company (NBC). The transmission was preceded by a September advertisement in New York newspapers, announcing

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114 that the Radio Corporation of America had purchased WEAF, New York, from the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.175 The advertisement trumpeted that the transaction cost the organizers one million dollars. The station would be incorporated as the National Broadcasting Company with the intent to br oadcast programs through WEAF, and also would make these programs available to outlets thr oughout the country. The advertisement emphasized that the time was ripe for such a venture, as already five million homes in the United States were equipped with radios and some twenty-one million homes "remain to be supplied." Set in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria, New Yorks pre-eminent hotel and social center of the era, this landmark broadcas t lasted a remarkable four and one-half hours and highlighted numerous luminaries of the day. The gala inaugural f eatured such diverse performances as the New York Oratorio Society, concert pianist Harold Bauer, Metropolitan operas baritone Tito Ruffo, Cesare Sodero's grandand light-opera ensembles, Edwin Franko Goldman's band, and the comedy team of Weber a nd Fields. Also integr ated were well-known dance orchestras of the day, incl uding those of Vincent Lopez, Ben Bernie from the Roosevelt Hotel Grill, George Olsen from the Hotel Pennsyl vania, and Ben A. Rolfe from the Palais d'Or. A remarkable feature of the broadcast was the inclusion of performers who were broadcast from locations around the country. Scottish-Ameri can soprano Mary Garden was broadcast from Chicago singing a collection of Americana songs which included Annie Laurie Little Gray Home in the West and Open Thy Blue Eyes. From Independence, Kansas, humorist Will Rogers twanged "Fifteen Minutes with a Diplomat, a droll monologue in which he mimicked President Calvin Coolidge so impeccably that many liste ners thought they were actually hearing the 175 The parent corporation was General Electric Corporation, and it was from these initials, GEC, that the famous three chimes originated, using the corresponding musical notes The network three chimes theme is used to this day.

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115 President. Also in attendance was Meredith W illson, performing on his flute as a member of the New York Symphony Orchestra under th e direction of Walter Damrosch.176 It is worth noting that the United States unde rwent a dramatic transformation in a short period of time. The early twentieth-century wa s marked by a period of interlinked explosive technological growth, expansi on of communication media, and experimentation in new art forms. The first radio broadcast occurred in November of 1920, and by the time of the NBC broadcast, some six years later, more than five million homes had purchased radios. Those six years marked the transformation of a novelty into a national medium, one that would form the backbone of telecommunications industry of to day. By 1929 Willson was integrally involved with radio, helping to define th e role of music and musicians in the medium, and carving out a significant aspect of his career in the process. Willsons presence at one of the defining moments of the era serves to illu strate his link with the foremost musical events of the time. Willsons musical paths were integrally coupled with the age and its multitudinous directions. Willson came of age with the century, and did so in its quick and eager nucleus of growth, New York City. Willsons desire to expand his musical horizons towards composition and conducting rose with his fortunes in NYC. He was youthful, talented, and exuberant and, despite a lack of formal training in either musical ar ena, felt he might make an impact. Training as a Composer As far as can be estab lished, Willson had no formal training in composition. His childhood included piano lessons an d encounters with various inst ruments, and what pedagogical instruction he did receive was based entirely in Mason City, and largel y from his mother. But there exist no childhood piano sketches, no experi ments in musical invention or mystic early 176 This ground-breaking broadcast was featured in a Library of Congress online exhibit, at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/bobhope/radio.html accessed March 12th, 2006.

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116 works of any type, lost or ex tant, from his early years. Th ere were no early lessons in composition or studies with the great compositional pedagogues of his day, and nothing in his early life indicates an early interest in com position. Willson recounted only a single early unnamed work, penned in high school, for which he did not provide a ti tle and which is not currently known to exist. This was a song fo r the Mason City high school class of 1919, about which Willson commented upon some forty years later: confidentially, just between us and the tape was possibly the worst group of notes and words ever put down on paper, and I just s hudder that somebody might dig it up and try to render it someday. I would like to go on record here: please don t do that to me, posterity! Dig up anything you like, but not my class of 1919 song!177 There is no evidence in the available informa tion on Willsons early life and career that his early career goals included composition. Indeed, while there is an abundance of evidence which supports his development as a perfor mer, there is an equal lack of indication to suggest that the young Willson ever planned a career as a composer. On one occasion Willson even mentioned his lack of interest in serious study of technique, recounting that he and his two siblings were, too filled with that native impatience to settle down and learn a few principles.178 Composition, rather, seems to have been an outgrowth of his performance career. While his formal training was limited, Willsons childhood was marked by an abundance of creativity at home, and maternal encouragement towards a spirit of experimentation. It was certainly this spirit which eventually propelled the flutist into composition. The First World War and subsequent influenza pandemic were followed by an era of prosperity and growth, and the performing arts boomed during the 1920s. Recordings were beginning to be mass-produced and better qual ity disks became available when electronic 177 New York, Columbia University, [Willson, The Remini scences of Meredith Willson, Popular Arts Project Series V, volume IX, Category IA, Or al History Research Office, 1961] 36. 178 Willson, There I Stood 45.

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117 transcriptions replaced inferior acoustic recordings. The public took to purchasing recordings in increasing numbers. Another result of the post-war boom wa s the construction of many new theaters and music halls, in pa rt to house the many new orchestras which were founded in the 1920s. New York was the epicenter of musical grow th and experimentation of the post-war era. Even during Willsons heady early years performing New York, there is no evidence that he took courses in orchestration or composition in his brief course of formal studies. It may have been that Willson later felt this omission to have been a career deficit, for in one interview he suggested that, during my time at Da mrosch I studied composition. In There I Stood with my Piccolo Willson related a story of taking over the p it piano during an interm ission at the Crescent Theatre, glad of the chance to try over an exercise in sequence I had to have ready for the next mornings class at the Institute. He goes on to note that he saved the exercise and, used it ten years later as the theme for Thoughts while Strolling,179 a movement of his O.O. McIntyre Suite While Willson implied that his initial forays in to composition dated to his student days at the Institute of Musical Art, th is study would have been indepe ndent. His course records from the Institute document courses in flute, under Georges Barrre, ear-tra ining with Helen W. Whiley, and performance in the orchestra under Frank Damrosch. Willson also studied theory with George A. Wedge, but Wedge was known as a basic theory and applied harmony teacher. Even the well-known textbooks authored by the theorist, such as Ear Training and Sight Singing Applied to Elementary Music Theory ,180 deal with applications of basic theory, and, as in the case of Applied Harmony aspects of simple harmony.181 Wedges works were fundamental in 179 Ibid, 31. 180 George A(nson). Wedge, Ear Training and Sight Singing Applied to Elementary Music Theory (New York: G. Schirmer Inc., 1921). 181 George A(nson) Wedge., Applied Harmony (New York: G. Schirmer Inc., 1930).

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118 the theoretical world, and still used today, but there is nothing which suggests Willson studied concepts of orchestration or composition with Wedge. Willsons youthful move to New York placed him in the foremost center of music in the United States. He was working in the foremost musical center in the United States, surrounded by exceptional musicians and composers, and it wa s during Willsons years in New York that his first composition was published. Many of Willsons professional instructors and acquaintances had multiple careers. Barrre, for example, was a highly-regarded flutist and pedagogue who taught at Damrosch/Juilliard for thirty-nine year s, and also edited many editions of flute music and published a landmark flute method, Flutists Formulae: A Compe ndium of Daily Studies on 6 Basic Exercises .182 Willsons theory instructor, George Wedge, established a well-regarded system for the teaching of music theory, published his own texts on written theory,183 and harmony,184 and this was in addition to serving for a tim e as the Director of Juilliard. In addition to the multi-faceted Barrre and Wedge, Willson worked alongside many musicians and pianists who also composed. Surrounded by professional musicians, many of whom had successfully published their compositions, it is no surprise that Willson turned his talents in that direction. In typical Willson fashion, though, he wrote little a bout his decision to begin composing, providing only a series of one-liners, like I had become a composer because I neve r could play the piano very well and it was embarrassing to just sit there.185 The October 1, 1999 Naxos CD release of W illsons two symphonies creates even more confusion about Willsons compositional training, fo r the jacket notes state that he studied, 182 Georges Barrre, Flutists Formulae A Compendium of Daily Studies on 6 Basic Exercises (New York: G. Schirmer Inc., 1935). 183 Wedge, Ear Training and Sight Singing. 184 George A(nson) Wedge, Advanced Ear-Training and Sight-Singing as Applied to the Study of Harmony (New York: G. Schirmer Inc., 1922). 185 Eggs I have Laid 29.

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119 composition from Mortimer Wilson and conducting from Henry Hadley.186 This assertion is not supported by other sources, nor existing evidence. It is certainly possible that Willson took a few sporadic lessons with Wilson and Hadle y, but there is no indication of sustained compositional study with either of them, or any evidence that Willson studied with other composers of the era. Willson was accurate, though, in his implication that this was the period of time during which he composed his first works, and it is relevant that this period, 1921-1923, was also the time during which the flutist performed with the Sousa band. All indications are that Willsons training in composition was self -guided and largely wrought through influential figures who Willson met in his performance career. These were the musical figures with whom Willson worked on a daily basis, and who came to play an integral role in influencing his development as a composer. First and foremost among these was John Phillip Sousa. Willson strongly admired Sousa and thought highly of the bandsmans compositions: Every part of a Sousa march (is) inspired the bass line, the woodw ind figures, the trombone countermelodies, and even the peckhorn afterbeats.187 This was a period of time in which Willson was becoming increasingly interested in score reading and composition, and the experienced Sousa assumed a fath er-like role for the young Willson: After I joined the band I used to sit on th e train every day with a pocket score of the Nutcracker Suite just to make an impre ssion on anyone who happened to walk down the aisle. Actually I had no idea how to read a score. Mr. Sousa suspected this, Im sure, as I used to stay on one page entirely too long, but instead of asking me embarrassing questions he slid into my seat one day and started giving me little hints about orchestrating and how he got so he could read a score and all.188 186 (jacket notes, Naxos CD). 187 Willson, There I Stood 35 188 Ibid, 34-35

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120 Earliest Publications Willsons first published com position was a song, Two marked as a fox-trot arranged for piano and voice and published in 1927. The publis hers were a company with the name of ProArte Producers, located at 119 West 57th Street in New York City. No trace of the company now exists, though it is possible that Pro-Arte Producers was absorbed into a large publishing company at a later date. The street address currently belongs to a multi-level building, and several of the resident businesses are arts-aff iliated. Along with the ex pected dentists, laser treatment centers, and day spas, 119 West 57th street is currently home to a number of talent agencies and arts agents. Distribution of Willsons first published work se ems to have been limited. Only a single copy is publically available, this a Xerox of an original Willson sent to his brother Cedric. The work carries a caveat at the top of the page. On the left hand side of the page is the word, Warning! followed by: PROFESSIONAL COPY This Copy is intended for the use of PR OFESSIONAL SINGERS ONLY, and any one (sic) found selling or exposing it for sale is li able to a fine or imp risonment, or both, and will be prosecuted under the copyright law by THE PUBLISHER. While impressive, the warning may have serv ed less as a deterrent and more to pique interest in the work. Two was composed during the Tin Pan Alley era, and given its popular thrust, the work was most likely composed with th e hope that it would find a large audience. At the time the music houses in lower Manhattan received a steady stream of songwriters, performers, musicians, and producers, all hoping to score a popular success. Willson did not publish his first work with a known Tin Pan Alle y publisher, or exactly in the Tin Pan Alley geographical area. While the Pr o-Arte Producers were on west 57th Street, Tin Pan Alley was centered in the area of West 28th Street, between Broadway and 6th Avenue. Small local

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121 publishers flourished throughout the city and W illson probably found it easier to be published with one of these groups than with the mo re established publishing giants. Because Two was the initial work of an composer who was not well recognized, it most likely received a limited distribution to the music houses. The professional copy probably represents the works limited distribution to music houses, perhap s the works sole distribution. Two is marked as a Fox-trot a popular song and dance id iom of the 1920s. While his first published composition seems to indicate Willson is aiming towards a career as a popular songwriter, in the following year he followed Two with three new published works, these in various idioms Parade Fantastique, film music for My Cavalier, and American Foxtrot. Willsons first few works were published while he was living in New York, but the majority of Willsons orchestral works were written during the years after he moved to the west coast. First Orchestral Publication Parade Fantastique It is noteworthy that W illsons second publication was an orchestral work, Parade Fantastique and geared towards a classical audience. Because of the limited distribution of Two the orchestral Parade Fantastique is generally considered to be Willsons first publication. Willson intended his Parade Fantastique to be a combination mix of a traditional march and macabre musical images reminiscent of the Hallo ween season. There is some suggestion that Parade Fantastique was not well-received by publishers. One story tells of Willson appearing at the publishers office to collect royalties on Parade Fantastique, being handed, pocket change and ushered unceremoniously to the door.189 Fantastique was published and distributed in 1928, Willsons final season in New York. Despite intensive searches undert aken by several different resear chers on both coasts, the score 189 Oates, Americ a s Music Man 35

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122 for this work cannot be located.190 Parade Fantastique used in two early films. ASCAP records indicate that Willsons score was first used as mood music in The Last Performance, a film made in 1927 by the Jewel division of Univ ersal pictures. The f ilm was distributed by Universal in 1929, and Willsons Parade Fantastique was probably added at that time. The second film that used the work was Love in the Desert made in 1928 and distributed in 1929 by the short-lived company Film B ooking Offices of America (FBO). While it is possible that editions of these films will someday be found and distributed, neither The Last Performance nor Love in the Desert is known to exist. A plot summary of the film Love in the Desert provides some hint of the action for which Willsons music was found suitable: An early sound film for flapper star Oliv e Borden, this low-budget effort from FBO featured the erstwhile "Joy Girl" as Zarah, "a beautiful Arabian" savi ng irrigation engineer Bob Winslow (Hugh Trevor) from being a bducted by bandit leader Abdullah (Noah Beery). The latter naturally ta kes umbrage to this and threatens a massacre if Zarah does not return as his bride. The pl ucky girl does return but is re scued in the nick of time by Bob, who kills Abdullah in a climactic fistfight.191 The sole known musical source of Parade Fantastique is a single recording made during a live performance on one of Willsons radio pr ograms, Good News, on the eleventh of May, 1939. During the program Ed Sullivan narrates a segment titled Water under the Bridge, apparently devoted to the telling of personal stor ies of success. In this segment Sullivan tells a dramatic short story of the eighteen-year old Me redith Willsons first rehearsal with the New York Philharmonic, under Von Hoogstraten. Willsons actual age is reduced by several years, and his role as the unprepared c ountry boy exaggerated. The parts of the characters are read by actors. 190 While the original publisher is unknown, the copyright, according to public record, is Transmark music. The Transmark company, however, insists that they do not hold the copyright, and asserts that they hold no scores other than Willsons popular, and frequently rented, musicals. 191 http://www.mtv.com/movies/movie/65646/moviemain.jhtml accessed 12th November, 2006.

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123 The skit includes standard Willson humor, as when the Willson character explains to another musician, Ive never ev en heard a symphony, but Ill catch on. Later in the segment Von Hoogstraten is quoted as having asked whether the young flute player has played Tschikovskys Sixth Symphony. The Willson character quips that he did not even know Tschikovsky wrote that many sy mphonies, and Von Hoogstraten to have replied, Then I hope you enjoy it. The skit goes on to inform the liste ner that a mere three years later the New York Philharmonic, again under Von Hoogstraten, pr emiered Willsons first orchestral work, the Parade Fantastique. The story is apparently just that, for the fact s do not seem to support the plot narrated by Sullivan. Von Hoogstraten left New York in 1925 to become the conductor of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra, so would not have been ea sily available for a 1928 premier on the opposite coast. While he was a frequent guest-conductor throughout the United States during his tenure in Oregon, the New York philharmonic archivists can find no record of Willsons Parade Fantastique ever having been rehearsed or performed by the group. It is also standard policy for the New York philharmonic to retain scores for every work it performs, and there is no score for Parade Fantastique in its archives. The lack of substantiating evidence renders the works reported premier with the New York Philharmonic, unlikely. On the sole existing recording, the 1939 Good News program, only three or so minutes of the work were played, barely e nough to provide a sample for aura l analysis of a work thought to have been twenty or so minutes long. The ove rall impression of the brief sample is that Parade Fantastique is melodically-centered, tuneful, and falls into the loose genre of what is now called film music. The work is in the key of A minor the main theme an ascending triad. There are a few rumbling sounds before the initial wind instru ment entrances, though it is not clear whether

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124 these are studio noises or drums. The piece be gins with a brief muted trumpet fanfare-like statement (example 4-1). Example 4-1. Trumpet fanfare which begins Parade Fantastique The quiet fanfare is followed by a motif found throughout what is known of the work. This motif is played by the woodwinds and is characterized by a descen ding pattern (example 42). The woodwind motif repeats a number of times in a simple progression largely marked by a full statement starting on different pitches. Example 4-2. Woodwind motif Played beneath the woodwind motif is an accompaniment march pa ttern which underlies the entire recorded portion of the work. This march is found in the string s ections. It is made up of arco strings, perhaps with some woodwinds, playing a basic staccato rhythmic pattern. The pattern generally consists of two measures of quarter notes, the third measure with two quarter notes, an eighth-note triplet, a nd another quarter note, varied in the subsequent measure so the triplet falls on the second beat (example 4-3). The rhythmic pattern occurs in four measure increments, each fourth measure ending on a cadence note: Example 4-3. Basic string rhythmic pattern, staccato eighth note march in the string section.

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125 The sole striking feature of the work is the inclusion of wordless male voices which help to outline the rhythmic pattern. These are syllabic and wordless (or unintelligible). Each part is added separately in additive fashion, and th e main melody enters after all the accompanying parts are in place. Example 4-4. Main theme of Parade Fantastique. The overall compositional style is uncompli cated, characterized by a combination of march-like rhythmic patterns and melodic themes. These two features would become hallmarks of Willsons compositional style. At one point Willson indicated that he had loosely based the idea for the composition on Berliozs Symphony Fantastique, though Willsons Parade Fantastique is more aurally reminiscent of a programmatic work composed fewer than thirty years earlier, Paul Dukas Sorcerers Apprentice Willson composed two other works in 1928. The first of these was the title song and accompaniment music for the film My Cavalier, written with Hugo Ries enfeld. Neither the music nor the film is available. Reisenfeld, ment ioned in chapter three, was the musical director of the Rialto and Rivoli theaters for which W illson was hired to play in the early 1920s. Riesenfeld had catalogued thousands of musical themes by their potential film use. Willson gives Riesenfeld only a passing mention in his wo rks, but it is likely the Austrian had some influence on Willsons development as a composer. Willson was in his early twenties when the two met, an impressionable age, and certainly played melodies taken from Riesenfelds extensive catalogue of silent film themes. The final piece Willson published in 1928 was a work titled

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126 American Fox Trot Because this piece has not been locate d, its scoring is unclear. It seems likely that it is a work for piano. Willsons first published compositions do not cl arify how he was trained in composition, but only add some confusion as to exactly how he composed. In 1929 Willson published a piano piece, Skyline subtitled an American Intermezzo for Piano.192 Skyline is a popular idiom piece, jazz-like in its approach. This two-page composition presents something of an enigma. An ascription in the publication states the Pia no Arrangement is by Robert Armbruster. There is no hint as to or from what instruments it is transcribed, fo r which instrument it was written, nor why Willson, a talented pianist in his own right, would need a transcriptionist. This attribution, like several found in early W illson works, inspires conjecture. Perhaps, for example, Willson composed a melody and hi red Armbruster to arrange it. Another possibility is that Willson asked for Armbrusters assistance in some way, or just for the use of his name. Armbruster was a known and frequently -used studio pianist in New York City, and Willson may have felt his chances of getting the work published were enhanced by an affiliation with a known musician. Yet a nother possible scenario is th at Willson composed both melody and harmony and had Armbruster polish the rou gh work towards a finished product. Or did Willson compose the work on another instrument, flute, perhaps, and hire Armbruster to transcribe the work for piano? In the 1920s, Armbruster was an in demand pianist who recorded piano rolls of numerous popular artists of the day. From 1915 into the 1930s he recorded numerous piano rolls for the Duo-Arts company, performing classical, popular sa lon, and ballad arrangements. He is perhaps best remembered for recording several of Gershwins works onto piano rolls, including 192 Meredith Willson, Skyline: American Intermezzo for Piano (New York: Edwin F. Kalmus, Inc, 1929).

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127 Rhapsody in Blue.193 Though Willson never mentioned Armbru ster in his writings it is likely that the two had a working relati onship which spanned many years. Nearly thirty years later, in 1964, Armbruster would serve as Musical Di rector for the film version of Willsons Unsinkable Molly Brown As radio become more widesprea d, Armbruster became a conductor. It is relevant to Willsons growth as a composer that he knew Armbruster and, presumably, Gershwin. The three of them were musically active and at the beginnings of their careers, were active during the period when jazz was undergoing a transformation from its humble origins to its emergence as a serious art form, one which would enter American concert halls. Gershwin performed with the New York Philharmonic during Willsons tenure as first flautist. The Rhapsody in Blue premiered in 1924, the same year that Willson joined the Philharmonic society. Gershwins Concerto in F was even more integrally connected to Willsons musical circle. It was commissioned by the Philharmonic-Symphony So ciety of New York, and had its first public performance with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Walter Damrosch, on Thursday afternoon, December 3, 1925, at Carnegie Hall. Ge rshwin himself was the soloist, and R. Meredith Willson one of the flutists. In his own works Willson mentions Gershw in only to provide passing admiration, and does not relate any events which mention Gers hwin. Gershwins initial reception into the classical arena was poor. Critic Winthrop Sargeant for example, related the first interaction between Gershwin and members of the New Yo rk Symphony Orchestra, an orchestra later assimilated into the New York Philharmonic: When fledgling American composer George Ge rshwin came for a specia l visit, an air of European snobbery and artistic egotism perv aded the direction. On this occasion the 193 Beginning in 1934 Armbruster served as conductor for the 60-minute Lux Radio Theatre. Some contemporary Old Time Radio analysts consider this to have the most important dramatic show in radio. The show ran a remarkable 19 years, through 1955, and during its apex was estimated to have an audience as high as forty million listeners. The 931 episodes were based on popular films of the era, with major stars playing the roles.

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128 Philharmonic was to play Gershwins Concerto in F for piano and orchestra Under the leadership of the primarily European classi cal musicians, the orchestra members rebuffed the young artists work and misplayed it at rehe arsal, feigning not to understand the new jazz patterns. Returning to ge t their haughty goats, Gershwin attended a later rehearsal not wearing traditional formal wear. Instead he played the piano sporting a derby hat, while smoking a big, fat cigar, much to the chagrin of the stuffy assemblage.194 It is important to note that during this era j azz was generally not well accepted by either the concert-going public or formally trained musician s, especially those of the Philharmonic. Dr. Frank Damrosch, director of the Institute of Mu sical Art during Willsons brief time there as a student, and closely affiliated w ith the New York Philharmonic, commented that, Jazz is to real music what the caricature is to the portrait.195 A host of popular articles from the era, such as an article in the Ladies Home Journal decry jazz as sinful,196 and suggest the genre is worthy only of being purged entirely from th e musical scene of the United States.197 Willsons affiliation with the pioneers of jazz in the conc ert hall, along with his early works in popular idioms, suggests that from his earliest compositions he was acutely attuned to the popular arena and the lucrative poten tials of his works. A Trio of works, The Tornado, The Siege, The Phenomena 1929 was also the year of publication for three m ore orchestral works, The Tornado The Siege and The Phenomena The first of Willsons extant published orchestral works, these works seem to have been composed together, al most as three movements of a single work. While a full score for the works has not survived, many of the individual instrumental parts recently appeared in the small ar chive of the Mason City Music Man Square. Their provenance is uncertain, but evidence suggests that they were given to a former director of Music Man Square by Rosemary Sullivan Willson, Willsons third, and surviving, wife. 194 Winthrop Sargeant, Genius, Goddesses and People (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1949), 212. 195 Maureen Anderson, The White Reception of Jazz in America, African American Review (Spring, 2004): 10. 196 Anne Shaw Faulkner. Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation? Ladies Home Journal (August, 1921): 16-40. 197 R. McMahon, Unspeakable Jazz Must Go. Ladies Home Journal (December, 1921): 34.

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129 The theatrical titles combine with musical evidence drawn from the available parts to indicate a programmatic direction in Willsons early compositional approach. The major features as revealed by the parts are heavy ch romaticism, numerous instrumental runs, and a good bit of musical drama in the form of varied tempo, meter changes, and dramatic dynamic shifts. The works lie squarely in the post-romant ic genre. As they were likely composed in imitation of Reisenfelds catalogued theme music, it is no surprise that ASCAP records indicate the works, sometimes in their entirety, were used in several early films. From East to West Coast The years in which his first compositions were being used as f ilm music were also the years during which Meredith and Peggy made a dr amatic relocation. As previously indicated, the Willsons departed New York and made a permanent move to the West Coast in 1929. The reasons behind this cross-country relocation remain obscure. Willson provided no single comprehensive explanation for the move, but offe red a variety of vague reasons in different sources. In And There I Stood with My Piccolo he states only that he got, spunk enough to put away the flute and piccolo and scram to Califor nia and start my second career from scratch.198 While this seems to indicate a positive choice in the move, Willson, at the same time, expresses regret at leaving New York, Just when Im gett ing used to New York in fact, beginning to consider myself a New Yorker who could never live anyplace but I find myself headin West .199 A 1938 article proclaims that Willson fe lt he was standing still in New York.200 In an 198 Willson, There I Stood 118. 199 Ibid, 119. 200 Tom Moriarty, 1938. The Young Master: Of Me redith Willson, Symbol of the New Hollywood, Unknown Newspaper ( June 18): 77/2.

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130 interview done many years later he provided a typical Willson one-liner, declaring that he had gone to Seattle to see a football game back in 1929 and stayed. 201 It is somewhat curious that Willson would leave a promising performance career and established performance contacts in New York City. As a flutist he had survived the 1928 merger of the New York Philharmonic with th e Symphonic Society of New York, during which time many musicians were let go. In 1929, when Toscanini became sole permanent conductor, he dismissed a number of musicians. It is possible that Willson was among them, though there are no definitive records of the di smissed personnel in the archives of the present-day New York Philharmonic. Comparisons of programs show that Willson left the Philharmonic during this time, but do not provide the reason. The theory that Willson was among the dismissed musicians is not necessarily borne out in his recollections for he wrote glowingly of Toscanini and fondly recalled a number of rehearsal incidents, as well as later wishing to show a score to Toscanini. These recollections provide no conclusive evidence, however, since Toscanini was a guest conductor of the New York Philharmonic and W illson would have played under the legendary conductor several times before Toscanini wa s named sole permanent conductor. This recollection of Toscanini in a positive light may also have been good politics, especially considering the high regard with which Toscanin i was viewed by the American public. On the other hand, it is possible that Willson could ha ve retained his position under Toscanini, but decided to move west for other reasons entirely. This change was intensified by the 1929 st ock market crash. Many New York music establishments suffered reduction or closure. Li ttle has been written re garding the plight of symphonic musicians during those y ears, but repercussions can be suggested. With fully one 201 Meredith Willson, A Fabulous Career that Started in San Francisco, San Francisco Examiner, Pictoral Living Section, July 22, 1962.

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131 third of Americans unemployed, there was lit tle extra cash for luxuries such as musical performances. Most professional musicians, as we have seen in Willsons case, relied on multiple positions to provide their income. Even if a single orchestra survived others would fail, resulting in partial loss of income, and musicians would have to look elsewhere for additional funds. A second major trend of these years was the growth of industry in radio and talking pictures. It seems logical to suggest that, if Willson foresaw the lo ss of opportunities for performing in New York, he was smart enough, and motivated enough, to seek new horizons in the musical fields of grow th radio and film. Willsons move may even have been related to a series of events which propelled many musicians and actors towards the We st Coast. In October of 1927 The Jazz Singer premiered, the first full-length film to use sound. The liv e productions of Broadway suddenly paled with comparison to the film possibili ties of the West Coast. Almost overnight, Hollywood was seen as the new Broadway, and a flood of talented perf ormers headed towards the West Coast. The possibility that this was the reason for Willsons move is strengthened by the brief memoir of a cousin, Jeanette Hardy Cain, who temporarily lived around the corner from Meredith and Peggy in New York. She wrote of Willsons last fe w months in New York, Meredith was very thoughtful and not talking much. Peggy said that he was trying to decide what to do, because the music world was changing, due to talking pictures and radio coming in.202 Willsons Early Vitaphone Compositions Willsons f irst position after his move to the West Coast was in composing film scores. He asserted that he simply needed a job, and took to writing film scores as mean to support himself and Peggy through their early days in California: 202 Memory book by Jeanette Hardy Cain, page 2, MCPLA.

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132 I went out there at the behest of my dear friend, who is still my dear friend through the years, Abe Myer and he immediately engage d me at Tympahny Stall (sic). He said, This is all a big fish fry out there, all youve got to do is le arn to smoke cigars and walk around looking important and I can put you on the payroll right now. So I learned to smoke cigars at $100 a week, and I scored a co uple of pictures one was something about up in the North with snow and an igloo and Conway girls and I wrote the music for it, recorded it and so on.203 The era of the 1920s and 1930s was a time durin g which film scores were increasingly composed by acknowledged classical composers. The trend was most pronounced among the French, who, it should be noted, held a strong com positional influence on U.S. composers of the era. As early as 1908 Camille Saint-Sans compos ed what may have been the very first film score, music for LAssassinat du duc de Guise. In 1924 Darius Milhaud composed a score for Marcel LHerbiers LInhumaine, 1924, and in 1927 Arthur Hone gger composed for Abel Gances Napolon Among the first instances of music composed fo r film in the United States was that of Louis F. Gottshalk204 who in 1914 composed full-length scores for the Oz Film Manufacturing Company. Perhaps the biggest landmark piece in this country was Victor Herberts 1915 score for Fall of a Nation Willson, as previously mentioned, worked with Herbert during his New York years. Willson also had direct contac t with this trend in 1928, when the New York Philharmonic recorded the music for Warner Brothers Don Juan, the discs of which were to be coordinated when the film was show n, a process known as Vitaphone. The Don Juan score was composed by the fairly unknown William Axt and David Mendoza. Many years later Willson, during a taped interview, recalle d his experience in making the Don Juan recording: the music was of course scored and s ynchronized to the scene. Henry Hadley conducted various concert pieces, as little special features that went along with the main feature, short subject (sic). They were a ll people from the Philharmonic who made these recordings. Of course, I wa s only a flute player; I knew Herman Heller because he was a 203 Columbia interview, 28. 204 Not to be confused with Louis Moreau Gottshalk, who was the great-uncle of this composer.

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133 very democratic type of a conductor.205 We made a lot of money that week, we boys in the Philharmonic. In fact it was longer than th at a month, I guess a nd we got paid overtime and everything else, because in those days the thing that happened was, the machinery would break down. We could ha ve recorded this whole thi ng in half a day, but the machinery always broke down. We would r ecord maybe a two minute sequence, and it would break down or wed start to record a two minute sequence, get into the seventh bar, and wed have to stop. Then wed go out and stand on 34th St. and smoke and eat icecream for two hours and a half wh ile they fixed the machinery.206 The Vitaphone process was used by Warner Brot hers, and the term was used as a sort of company name. Willsons Parade Fantastique has already been noted to have been used in several early films, and ASCAP records deta il many songs and melodies composed by Willson during the late 1920s and early 1930s which f ound their way into a number of early talking picture, Vitaphone scores. Though Willson was largely affili ated with the Tiffany-Stahl studios, his works were used in productions by other companies. When motion picture companies simultaneously released both sile nt and sound films, publishers pr ovided a reservoir of useful tunes to augment the storys mood. In the 1920s and 1930s, copyright laws for motion picture music were in their infancy. The composer had little or no involvement w ith the use of a work; the studio which purchased the wo rk owned it and could use it or sell it on demand. The Edward Everett Horton comedy Wide Open (Vitaphone 1929) used Willsons 1929 piano piece, Skyline, and the Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. a nd Mary Pickford adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew (United Artists 1930) incorporated his Tornado in the sound version. Other Meredith Willson works used in early sound films include The Siege (Second Floor Mystery) Vitaphone 1930, and Defiance (Czar of Broadway Universal) 1930. These film s are lost, or may exist in studio vaults. It is a virtual certainty that there are still more early films which feature Willsons compositions 205 Henry Heller was a conductor for Vitaphone. It is unclear why both Henry Hadley and Henry Heller are mentioned as conductors of this project. 206 Columbia interview, 28.

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134 and are, as yet, unrecognized. None is curren tly available to the general public, and Willsons compositional contributions are kno wn only through ASCAP records. The Lost Zeppelin of 1929 is one of the few extant films which uses Willsons music, and provides some insight into early film music. There was a general film theme, but the film itself had no background or transitional music. Music was not used to enhance or accompany certain scenes or bridge changes in scene or mood, but wa s almost incidental in application within the move. For example, an actor might enter a room and turn on a radio, at which point the composed piece would begin. After a time there w ould be some lines of dialogue which related to the music, such as, Shall I turn the radio off? and an actor would turn off the radio, at which point the music went silent until the next literal need arose. The Lost Zeppelin also provides the tantalizing possibility of Willsons first appearance on film, for there is a dance number in a nightclub scene, during which a liv e orchestra plays. The conductor has a shock of dark hair, a Willson trait, and is likely Willson himself, thoug h his firm identification is made problematic by that constant curse of a conductor; his b ack is to the audience the whole time. But Willson had his musical sights set elsewher e, and wrote film music for only two years or so. The details of his move out of film music are unclear, but it seems that radio was his decided path: This (film music) was not for me, however. I was interested in ra dio. I went up to San Francisco to see a football game, and ended up being engaged as musical director of KFRC, the CBS affiliate there, Don Lee station, and I remained there until some years later (when) I went over to NBC as their musical director, con ductor of the Western division. The headquarters were in San Franci sco. There was nothi ng in Los Angeles at that time at all, in the way of radio. Subseque ntly that headquarters moved to Los Angeles. I moved with them.207 207 Ibid, 32.

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135 Willson as Conductor Already esta blished as a fine flautist, Willson s move to the west coast also marked the launch of his career as a conductor. While he continued to play the flute and piccolo sporadically through the rest of his life, Willsons major musical focii in California became conducting, composition, and his evolution as a radio personality. As with his approach to composition, there is little which suggests an early interest in becoming a conductor, and only a few engagements as a conductor prior to the westward move. We can conjecture that, as principal fl autist in small groups, Willson would have occasionally been called upon to direct groups in which he played, both in Mason City and in New York. He references one such occurrence in And There I Stood with my Piccolo This was his 1918 summer stint with the orchestra at Lake Okoboji wher e he replaced the violinist/conductor who had been drafted. The experience was br ief and marked by his relieved collapse onto his piccolo.208 Beyond this and few more limited experiences he may have had, there is no evidence that Willson engaged in any formal training as a conductor, or had significant experience as a conduc tor, before he began studio work in California. I was not in any way disposed toward conduc ting. Every musician, I guess, wants to conduct, but I never gave that any serious thought till a friend of mine, Adolph Linden, talked me into leaving the Philharmonic, to go out to Seattle and conduct the Seattle Symphony Orchestra for one summer. I did so, and then a dear friend of mine, Abe Myer, who was Hugo Riesenfeldts (sic) secretary, wh en we were the same age back at the Rialty(sic) Theatrehe had since gone to Hollywood and become a very important executive in the Tympany-Stal l(sic) Company, that made moving pictures. He insisted that I come to Hollywood insisted wouldnt take no for an answer -said, Just come. Look, theres a big fish-fry out here. This was in 1929. Sound had just come in.209 Willsons first significant experience in conducti ng was the briefly-described summer stint in Seattle. There is little av ailable information about this e ngagement, for it was apparently a 208 Willson, There I Stood 23. 209 Columbia oral history, 27.

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136 financial failure. Willson had convinced other musicians from the New York Philharmonic to play in a Seattle concert series, and was embarrassed when funding for their payment fell through. The following season in New York was hi s last, and at its conclusion he made the permanent move to California. Willson learned the art of conducting largely by way of his work in early radio. With only a few weeks experience as a conductor, but with plenty of zeal and confidence, he somehow acquired a job coordinating music for a radio st ation. This was a fairly new concept, and Willson largely defined the role through his ow n trials and errors. Soon he found himself conducting radio studio orchestras in situations which required that he perfect his conducting skills quickly and quietly. In early radio a nd recording studios there was no way to keep instruments or voices from being heard. Warm-u ps were nearly impossible for one show would immediately follow another in the same studio. There was generally only a single rehearsal before a broadcast. In early radio the need for absolute silence while on air was vitally important. Lack of clarity of broadcast equipm ent meant that ambient noise would be amplified and transmitted, distorting whatever intended voices and sounds might be being broadcast at the time. This was especially true in the earliest y ears of radio transmission, the very years in which Willson developed as a conductor. Early radio studios necessitated the development of certain hand signals, as there was no way to orally co mmunicate without being br oadcast. It would seem to follow that clarity in conducting style woul d be a valuable asset, as this would improve the ability to communicate silently. One significant difference in studio and public conducting was the lack of a visual audience. Where symphonic conductors woul d draw critics and public opinion, studio conductors were not seen, and their work re mained generally uncommented upon. Indeed, it

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137 seems that public appeal, measured in the ability to engage orally a distant audience, was likely to indicate greater success than fine conducting skills. Still, despite his lack of formal training, all evidence points towards Willson being a skilled, demanding, and generally excellent conductor. What Willson did possess was the experience of playing under several of the bestregarded conductors of his era; Mengelberg, Furtwngler, Von Hoogenstraten, and Toscanini, during the remarkable period of New York public argument about conducti ng styles. In that vein, a 1936 article suggests Willson was a de manding conductor, that, no matter what style Meredith Willson is called upon to direct, he in sists upon accuracy, brillian ce, finish. Perfection is not enough. He seeks something even higher. And some day hell find it.210 In the style of his former conductors Willson had a dramatic conducting presence, using large hand and body gestures as he directed, an effect which elicit ed the observation that, His dark hair, usually neatly parted, becomes a waving mass as he lean s from the podium and implores his musicians to Give! Give!211 A series of studio photos from the era portray a youthful Willson in trendy clothing and positions which seem to have been staged to look casual (figure 4-1). He was in some way unprepared for the photo session, for he is waving a pencil, ra ther than a baton. One of Willsons conducting trademarks was a temperamental use of conducting batons. His loss of batons, usually via throwing them acr oss the room, was legendary in the studio world, and Willson was said to have brought, at least a dozen batons to the studio for each broadcast, and their mortality rate is high, so high, in fact, that he keeps a stock of 25 extras always on hand.212 The observation was made by an unknown staff reporter who was probably not a trained musician. The reporter went on to comment about Willsons conducting style, 210 Herb Caen, 1936. Prying Meredith Willson Apar t, Discovering What Makes Him Tick So Fast, San Francisco Chronicle 77/2 (Sunday, 2 August), 37. 211 Ibid. 212 Ibid.

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138 noting that, Each wave of his baton, each gestur e of his left hand means something as he seeks to draw the utmost from the orch estra. And if he doesnt like someones performance, he isnt hesitant in expressing his views.213 Willsons conducting skills also received high marks from well-known critics such as Alfred Frankenstein of the San Francisco Chronicle After issuing a mediocre review for the premier of Willsons First Symphony critic Alfred Frankenstein tempered the remarks by adding, Willsons talents as a conductor of other mens mu sic were neatly and positively displayed in well rounded performances of the overture to Glinkas Russlan and Ludmilla. Mozarts Nachtmusik and the Spanish Caprice of Rimsky-Korsakoff.214 Frankenstein also critiqued Willsons Second Symphony several years later. The review was similar, featuring tepid comments about W illsons work, with more complimentary remarks about Willsons interpretation of Mendelssohns Italian Symphony the ...one true masterpiece among that composers symphonies, and its performance was completely admirable both for the spurting virility of its dance movements and the delicacy with which its more graciously tinted pictures were projected.215 A further note about Willsons conducting was that he seems to have been highly regarded by the musicians who played under him. One article touted that, Musicians like Willson. We mean all types of musicians, from the most finished symphony soloist to the hottest jam trumpeter.216 Film Scores Willson m aintained his conducting and compos ing careers simultaneously, and was once again approached to compose for film in 1938. As previously mentioned, Willson collaborated 213 Ibid. 214 Alfred Frankenstein, 1936. Symphony Introduced by Willson, San Francisco Chronicle (Monday, 20 April), 77/2. 215 Alfred Frankenstein, 1942. Willson and Francescatti Share Bows, San Francisco Chronicle (February 7), 11/4. 216 Caen, Prying Meredith Willson Apart 77/3.

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139 with Charlie Chaplin for music to the movie The Great Dictator In directing Willsons composition, Chaplin indeed served as a Great Dictator, and it is impossible to determine the extent of acknowledgement which should be given to Willson or Chaplin for the resulting score. In August of 1940 the prelude of The Great Dictator was given a premier by the San Francisco Symphony orchestra with Willson as guest conductor. A notice in the San Francisco Chronicle states, Chaplin himself composed the entire score to the picture, although Willson did the orchestrating.217 It is probably accurate to say that Chaplin provided some ideas, and Willson was responsible for most of everything else, in cluding new composition and scoring. Willson provided only a tantalizing hint of how the two worked together: Ive seen him (Chaplin) take a sound track and cut it all up and past it back together and come up with some of the dangedest effect s you ever heard effects a composer would never think of. Dont kid yourself about that one. He would have been great at anything music, law, ballet dancing, or painting house, sign, or portrait. I got the screen credit for The Great Dictator Music score, but the best parts of it were all Charlies ideas, like using the Lohengrin Prelude in the famous ba lloon-dance scene. I cant say I see eye to eye with Mr. Chaplin about a lot of things, incl uding his politics, and I think he is a very selfish and in many ways inconsiderate man, but I also think he is a great artist and I will certainly say that it was a real pleasure to watch him day after day and see him tick.218 Willsons comment about who received compositional credit is noteworthy. In Chaplins writings and casual conversations he frequently claimed that he, Ch aplin, wrote the score. While he obviously impacted the creation of the musi c, it was Willson who was given official credit and certainly did the bulk of the musical wo rk. Willsons contributions included original composition, scoring, conducting, and serving as musi cal director during recording sessions. As with other early film scores, no written score can be located. The Acad emy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences nominated Willson for a Music Scoring award. He wa s in excellent company, 217 Music Programs, San Francisco Chronicle August 25th, 1940, 22. 218 Willson, And There I Stood, 166-167.

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140 for this was also the year that Aaron Copland was nominated in the same category for the score of Our Town. In The Great Dictator there are a few scenes known to have been entirely composed by Willson. In the only interview in which he addressed his actual compositional input to The Great Dictator Willson noted that he had to have working titles for his works. He recalled telling Time Magazine that, Youve gotta have titles so you know where youre at, and these are all filed away and cleared, regist ered, and youve got to have a ti tle. One example Willson gave was a ... tender scene where hes in the barb er shop shaving somebody. Willson named this the Barber Shop Appassionato. Another example is related with regard to a scene Willson refers to as the pudding scene. In this scene a coin is in pudding and characters are eating the pudding with the understanding that whoever fi nds the coin must go and kill the Schicklegrubber. Willson recollected, I wrote for that, the Pudding Scherzo Willson compared this with a similar scene, in which the main character shaves himself, which was sychronized to the Brahms Hungarian Dance Number Five. Willson gave credit to Chaplin for tying the Brahms piece to the scene. A similar scene was one where Chaplins character plays with a globe as though it is a balloon. Chaplin set this to Wagners Lohengrin Prelude. Willson concluded that most of the origin al music was his, but that, wherever you heard a recognizable tune, that is all Chaplin. I had many scenes I had the love scene the dominant scene was Austerlitz scene, where the Pualette Goddard scene moved over to Aust erlitz across this beau tiful bridge, and this is also a love scene. I did the music for that. Kind of a popular song in the Rachmaninoff harmony period style.219 (regarding Great Dictator and Lit tle Foxes) I wasnt interested in scoring pictures. I was interested in radio then, and had my own program, and was very happy with that.220 219 Columbia interview, 36-37. 220 Ibid., 33.

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141 When pressed about his point of view on writing for film, Willson finally provided an illuminating view about writing for early film: My point of view that I had at the time of c ourse is antiquated completely. There were the general theories about such things as, if you heard the music it was going to be wrong, if you didnt know there as any music in it then it was going to be a good score all those clichs. Views have changed. We used to do quite a little bit of Mickey-Mousing in those days. If somebody would fall down the stairs, or it was dramatic or tragic or what, wed maybe do falling-down-stairs music. Nowadays they dont do that. They get a more general atmosphere of the vibrations in th e room, rather than this kind of thing.221 What Every Young Musician Should Know During the radio years W illson was conducting nearly every day. As a public figure he was also frequently asked questions by wouldbe musicians, received unsolicited manuscripts, and generally became accustomed to proffering advice about how to succeed as a modern musician. Eventually he codified and published this advice in an inst ructional guide entitled What Every Young Musician Should Know with the subtitle A Concise and Modern Volume Revealing the Inside of Radio Musical Technique (figure 4-2) The forty-page work was published by the Robbins Music Corporation in 1938, just two years after the premier of his First Symphony The publication provides important insight to Willson and New York musical life in the early twentieth-century. Wilson uses a great deal of popular humor and language of the era, some of which is self-directed, and calls his approach to the writing, . a sort of casual every day discussion that should be easily read and understood.222 The previously given caution of trusting Willsons facts comes into focus in the Biographical Note. Here Willson relates that he, directed the local orchestra when he was twel ve, and goes on to tell of purchasing a silver 221 Ibid., 35-36. 222 Willson, What Every Young Musician, 2.

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142 piccolo with the profits, a tale which contrasts the reality of his first conducting experience at age seventeen, for which he had purchased the piccolo just previous to the job. In this, as with others of his published work, Willson expresses an aversion to formal textbook style and language. He presents answer s to musical questions in what he called a casual every day discussion that should be easily read and understood. His language was that of the popular, rife with radio slang, and intended to seize reader interest. In his foreword Willson sets forth his idea of several practical problems of current music which the work will address: How can you make a printed a rrangement sound like a special? What are some simple rules for segueing from one chorus to another? With the modern instrumentation consisting so larg ely of brass, how can the strings be used most effectively to blend with saxophones, trumpets and trombones How do you write a drum part? What are the signs used in a radio studio? What are the definitions of some of the new musical terms which have been born in the popul ar orchestras of the day?223 These posed questions suggest that the intended audience is pe ople hoping to become composers in the popular idioms of the day, studio and dance band orchestrations. For the purchasing public the single page B iographical Note is both humorous and exaggerated, and seems more designed to impress a reader than provide accurate information. Willson cannot be held entirely to account for th e inaccuracies, for it seems equally possible that the publishers helped to embroide r his early years in an attempt to help sales. The embroidery begins with Willson claiming that by the age of four weeks, he was able to hum a rather pleasing obilgato to his nurses cont ralto rendition of Sweet and Low.224 A curious tendency to loosely apply musical terms, found throughout Willsons works, is demonstrated through his 223 Ibid. 224 Ibid. 3.

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143 self-description of his ability, at age five, to improvise agitatos and mysteriosos His exact performance meaning is unclear, but seems to suggest a child pounding a t hunderstorm or gently picking pleasant sounds on his pi ano keys, rather than applying a specific musical technique. Equally vague is what musical style or appr oach Willson indicates through his use of the terms agitato and mysterioso. This loose application of terms is part of Willsons attempt to make his work non-text like. In the Foreword Willson apologizes for even attempting to write the forty page booklet, because there are many ot her writings available on the same subject. But, he explained, sometimes the youthful American mind has absorbing solutions to practical problems that differ from the standard music textbooks.225 On page four Willson writes a brief Preface, which is worth reproducing in its entirety: The purpose of this preface is to enable me to state clearly my loathing for a certain device that frequently clutters up many otherwise lucid books about mu sic. I refer to that rude, impudent, interrupting, irritating thought breaker-upper known as the footnote.* As a matter of fact I have the sneaking su spicion that nobody reads prefaces anyhow so I will throw you a curve and discuss my preface unde r the heading of (at this point the text stops abruptly, and the reader turns the pa ge to find the heading for CHAPTER ONE.)226 Note the insertion of the asterisk, then a standa rd indication of a footnote. When the reader jumps to the matching asterisked text at th e bottom of the page, said reader finds, This is the first and last footnote you will encounter in this book Chapter one begins with another unrelated passage designed for humor, A blood curdling scream escaped the white lips of voluptuous you ng Amanda Whittlebottom. Before the scream dies away, I will hurry into my reasons for writing this book and what I hope to accomplish thereby. You may now forget about Miss Whittlebottom, as she occurred in the foregoing lines 225 Ibid. 226 Ibid. 4.

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144 merely to trap you into actually starting to read this short volume227 Willson goes on to state a more serious purpose of the book, to put down some practical information referring to the popular studio and dance band combination of to day, that to my knowledge has not previously been set forth.228 Chapter Two is titled Have A Baton and prov ides basic instruction in the techniques of conducting. Willson begins with details of how to hold a baton, and provides diagrams of conducting patterns. While basic patterns are presented, the art of embellishment with the baton is stressed. The idea of clarity fo r the sake of the musicians seem s to be secondary to the need for aggrandizement of the conductor. In this section Willsons legendary fondness for batons is once again apparent, for he includ es four full pages of specific directions on how to wield a baton, including a caution about one thing novi ce conductors would discover: they are not leading the orchestra; its th e other way around. The most impor tant thing about the technique of the stick, as Willson called it, was that it must never be stationary. Once the music starts, the stick must move constantly. Willson also descri bed various hand signals and explained why they were necessary in radio studios. Chapter Three carries a title, Meet the Orchestra As the heading title suggests, this is an introduction to the orchestra of the early twen tieth-century, a valuable insight into changing instrumental times. Willson discusses what he refers to as the modern orchestra, though his meaning is unclear. It is likely he was referring to an orchestra designed for radio and/or a dance band. Willson suggests that a primary difference is that the modern grouping is, in fact, more band than orchestra. He attributes this to a dearth of strings and the pr eponderance of brass and woodwinds, an instrumentation heavily dominat ed by saxophones, usually two tenors and an 227 Ibid. 5. 228 Ibid. 5.

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145 alto, or two altos and a tenor, two trumpets a nd one trombone, and a rhythm section comprising piano, drums, guitar and bass.229 Willson instructs that the saxophones and brass blend perfectly together in almost any combination. He gives examples of a duet of tenor saxophone and trombone, a tenor saxophone playing melody w ith harmonic brass support, and a trumpet playing lead and harmonically s upported by saxophones. He also provides definitions for what he calls the modern vernacular of the musician, a series of musical terms which originated almost as slang, and soon became accepted terms: Rip several anticipated grace notes from the brass section Sock exaggerating the rhythm tempo Bend saxophones, brass and st rings smearing a sustained note Button the final chord Spat the shortest possible cymbal crash Jig or Bounce a tempo indication usually concerning tunes of a dotted eighth and sixteenth nature Lick referring to any ad lib solo passage Riff exactly the same thing as a lick Slurp: the tying of two or more no tes together by means of a glissando Suites: O.O. McIntyre and Jervis Bay As did many com posers, Willson sometimes recy cled his works. Parts of pieces appeared on his radio programs, sometimes using part of one piece as a basis for another. This practice had the unintentional results of pr oducing a certain difficulty in trac ing individual works. One of the most difficult pieces to pin down is an orchestral work he complete d in its entirety in 1934, the O.O. McIntyre Suite. During his brief time at Damros ch, Willson, then playing in numerous venues, wrote an exercise for a class. He saved it, and years later modified it for the theme of one movement of the O.O. McIntyre Suite, Thoughts while Strolling. 229 Willson, What Every Young Musician, 10.

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146 The work was titled after, and dedicated to newspaper columnist O.O. McIntyre. Willson spoke of McIntyre as a, remarkable man I was proud to know.230 He went on to provide only the most superficial reasons for hi s fondness, that, McIntyre always wore purple pajamas, and Mrs. McIntyre is a wonderful woman and sends me post cards from places like the deck of the Empress of India every once in a while.231 O.O. McIntyre (1884-1938) was born Oscar Odd McIntyre in Plattsbur g, Missouri. He started a journali sm career at Gallipolis, Ohio but before long he was writing a syndicated column "New York Day by Day" which would eventually appear in over 500 newspapers, a rema rkable distribution for the 1930s. No score to the Willsons Suite is known to exist, though a transcripti on for solo piano has recently come to light for a single movement, the afore-mentioned Thoughts while Strolling. The second of Willsons two suites was composed some years later, around 1941. This was the Jervis Bay Suite so titled in honor of a British ship which sank in the early days of the Second World War.232 The Jervis Bay had been a passenger ship, but was converted to a cruiser for use in wartime. In November of 1940 the Jervis Bay was the sole escort for Convoy of thirty-seven freighters headed towards Britai n. Before the United States entered the war freighters transported munitions to England, and in that capacity were vital to the British war effort and a frequent target for German attacks. On November 5th the convoy was attacked by a German battleship, the Admiral Scheer Captain Fegen of the Jervis Bay immediately realized he was significantly outgunned by the battleship, but ordered the convoy to scatter. This move was a standard defense against German warships, to provide ships in the convoy the chance to escape, and to offer the attacker with fewer imme diate targets. What wa s especially heroic in 230 Willson, There I stood 32 231 Ibid., 32. 232 Some sources list the ship as having a British registration, while other sources name the registration as Irish. The ship was British. The confusion probably arises from the nationalities of th e men aboard, for th e officers were mostly Irish and the crew, English.

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147 this instance is that Captain Fegen steered the Jervis Bay directly towards the battleship, drawing the German ship into a one-sided, hopeless enga gement. The bridge and gunnery control center were seriously damaged almost immediately, and Captain Fegen shouted or ders to continue the fight. Shortly thereafter he was hit by a shell an d lost an arm, only to be killed a few moments later by another shell. Various reports say the ba ttle lasted from only twenty-four minutes to two hours. Of the 255 men on the Jervis Bay only sixty-five were rescued. Captain Fegen was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for valor. The citation that accompanies the award is as follows: For valour in challenging hopeless odds and gi ving his life to save the many ships it was his duty to protect. On the 5th of November 1940, in heavy seas, Captain Fegen, in His Majesty's Armed Merchant Cruiser Jervis Ba y, was escorting thirty-eight Merchantmen. Sighting a powerful German warship he at once drew clear of th e Convoy, made straight for the enemy and brought his ship between th e raider and her prey, so that they might scatter and escape. Crippled, in flames, unable to reply, for nearly an hour the Jervis Bay held the German's fire. So she went down; but of the Merchantmen all but four or five were saved.233 The actions of Captain Fegen and the Jervis Bay heroic by any standard, inspired at least three narrative poems, a book, and a memorial. Willson read an account of the action and a narrative poems authored by Gene Fowler. So m oved was he by the story that he composed a symphonic poem, with narrati on, based on the events. Both of Willsons suites bear programmatic titles. The O.O. McIntyre Suite has a loose association with the columnist, and the Jervis Bay Suite a close tie to the event, as well as to the subsequently written poem which inspired its co mposition. Without scores it is impossible to classify these works, though Willsons other output and the programmatic titles suggest they were likely musically romantic in nature. 233 The National Archives of the United Kingdom, Victoria Cross Recipients: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/detailsresult.asp?Edoc_Id=7500237&queryType=1&resultcount=1 Accessed 12th May, 2007.

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148 Figure 4-1. Willson conducting, c. 1938. This phot o was autographed for Dixie, with whom Meredith still maintained good relations (Courtesy Mason City Public Library Archives).

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149 Figure 4-2. Advertisement for What Every Musician Should Know.

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150 CHAPTER 5 SYMPHONY NUMBER ONE IN F MINOR: A DELINEATION OF T HE SPIRITUAL PERSONALITY THAT IS SAN FRANCISCO Background Meredith and Peggy W illson moved to San Fr ancisco in late 1929 or early 1930, and quickly developed a deep and abiding affection for the city. Willson had quickly moved up to the position of Program Director for NBCs western division, in charge of programming for NBC radio for the entire west coast. At the sa me time he continued conducting radio orchestras and composing songs. In these varied guises affiliated with musicians of all sorts, from dance bands to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Willson called San Francisco a city with, more personality than any othe r city Ive ever been in: bi g, good, kind, friendly, the golden gate, the food, the people, their a ppreciation of music and sculpture and honest art, hills, the fine musicians, the symphony, and Pierre Monteux.234 From Willsons NBC studio office he could view the erection of San Franciscos Gold en Gate Bridge. This construction, in part, inspired the composition of his First Symphony : it was pretty inspiring to look out of the windows and watch the beginning of the worlds greatest bridge, and it finally gna wed at me to the extent that I started to write a symphony (appropr iately titled Symphony Number One also known as The San Francisco Symphony) measur e for cable, note for rivet and what surprised me even more, I finished it neck and neck with the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The bridge, however, made more money.235 The original scores of both of Willsons symphonies are in the Fleischer Collection of the Philadelphia Free Library, and copies were recen tly made for the Mason City Public Library Archives. Beyond the score itself, though, Willson left little to suggest his musical inspirations or compositional direction other than his program notes, very br ief comments in his memoirs, and a few newspaper interviews. A full month before the premier the San Francisco Chronicle 234 Willson, There I Stood 141. 235 Ibid., 140.

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151 newspaper bragged that, The youngest ever to direct the San Francisc o symphony orchestra, 33 year old Meredith Willson will lead the 85 piece organization here Sunday afternoon, April 19, in his own Symphony No.1 in F Minor a Symphony of San Francisco.236 The San Francisco Chronicle also trumpeted the composers personal appeal, Willson, who is handsome and charming and enormously gifted, will conduct hi s symphony at a special concert to be given by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra next Sund ay afternoon at the War Memorial Opera House.237 The previews were tantalizing, suggesting a great future for Willsons symphony and encouraging San Franciscans to attend the premier: Ernest Bloch tried to put all America into a symphony. That was a large order, which is perhaps why his America Symphony, after being played by many orchestras in its first year, has not been heard since. Now Meredith Willson has tried to put his city of San Francisco into a symphony. How well he has succeeded we may judge Sunday afternoon, when the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra plays the San Francisco Symphony under the leadership of the composer himself. A city seems a much more reasonable orde r for a symphony. And for such an order where could a better subject be found than Sa n Francisco? The elements of a dramatic musical piece are all here. The city has color. Its character is individual. Its life has been dramatic indeed. It has had its idylls and its tragedies. It has felt the force of suspense and has knows striking contrasts. There have been strong dissonances mingled with its harmonies. A direct continuity runs through its history and the direction for its performance has always been con brio As a composer, Meredith Willson has paid the greatest compliment in his power to the city of his home. The city should give hi m the appreciative return of attendance on and attention to the compliment he pays it.238 Meredith Willsons First Symphony, in F minor, received its premier at an afternoon concert on the 19th of April 1936, in the War Me morial Opera House in San Francisco. The symphony is composed in the traditional four movements, and takes approximately forty-two 236 Meredith Willson Will Direct Own Symphony: Form er Mason Cityan Will Lead Frisco Orchestra, San Francisco Chronicle March 31, 1936, 1 237 Carolyn Anspacher, S.F. Lives in Music: Spirit of Great City Caught by Willson, San Francisco Chronicle Sunday, April 12, 1936, 12. 238 San Francisco in a Symphony, San Francisco Chronicle April 17, 1936, 12.

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152 minutes to perform. This was a special perfor mance of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, a concert to mark the thirtieth a nniversary of the great earthquake and subsequent fires, which had nearly leveled the city on April 18th, 1906. On the score Willson subtitled the work A Delineation of the Spiritual Pers onality that is San Francisc o, though for its premier Willson shortened the subtitle to A Symphony of San Francisco Willson expanded on the subtitle in the program notes: The Symphony in F minor, which is specifically dedicated to Frederick Winfield Pabst and Lewis Scott Frost, was inspired by the inco mparable traditions of San Francisco. It is not an attempt at specific or program writing but rather a delinea tion of the spiritual personality that is San Francisco.239 The score includes a dedication page, which r eads, Dedicated to Frederick Winfield Pabst and Lewis Scott Frost. The two subjects of the dedication are not known to have been significant public figures, and thei r identities remain elusive. It is possible that Pabst was a descendant of the Pabst brewery family; the name Frederick was common in the Pabst family. Lewis Scott Frost has yet to be identified. W illson had significant corporate contacts through his radio work, as his shows received substantial sponsorship from major corporations. The Pabst name seems to suggest that the dedi cations were to business connections. Willsons composition was the second item on a program of standard orchestral fare. The concert opened with Glinkas Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla and Willsons symphony followed, to complete the first part of the concer t. A footnote in the program notes informed the audience that this was the World Premiere of the symphony. After the intermission, Mozarts Eine Kleine Nachtmusic was presented, and the concert concluded with Rimsky-Korsakovs Capriccio Espagnole. Willson conducted the concert and, at age thirty-three, became the youngest person to conduct the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. 239 Bruno David Usher, Program notes, premier performances, April 4th and 5th, 1940, 158.

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153 First Movement, Andante--Allegro, Ma Molto Mode rato-Allegro Moderato--Vivace Willson himself penned the program notes for th e premier, providing little in the way of substantive musical ties to the programmatic title or musical themes. Willson gave his First Symphony a programmatic title and went so far as to ti e musical themes to certain elements of a loose program. His programmatic ties, however, were distant. The first movement begins with a br ief Andante introducing the fundamental accompaniment motive. This motive is developed slightly in an Allegro Ma Molto Moderato which leads into a furt her short development, Allegro molto, which in turn leads directly to the first theme which is definitely of masculine character. The second theme in contrast, is a simple melody that sounds almost like an old hymn tune. Generally speaking, the first movement is intended to convey pioneer courage, loyalty, strength of purpose and freedom.240 In an interview published one week before the premier, Wilson illuminated some of the programmatic intent of the music, noting, In the fi rst movement I have tried to catch the virility of San Franciscos past.... There are sweeping plains and galloping herds.241 He even played certain themes for the interviewer, loosely ty ing them to his program. Unfortunately, little remains to suggest what themes were tied to wh ich ideas. About the first movement he said only, Listenheres a feminine theme. Its a little hymn. Its simple and foursquare.242 We are left to guess to which of the many themes he was referring. Meredith Willsons First Symphony begins with an introductory section in F minor, an Andante with a 4/4 time signature. There is a rumb le of introductory material in the basses. Willson referred to this as the fundamental accompaniment motive.243 While it seems transitory and insignificant, this material is found in several places in the score, in one instance, augmented. It is characterized by an upwards arpeggio and downwards jumps ((Example 5-1). 240 Ibid. 241 Anspacher, S.F. Lives in Music 11. 242 Ibid. 243 Usher, Program notes, 158.

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154 Example 5-1. Introductory musical materials which, on first appearance, seem to be transitory, mm. 1-4. In measure 9 the tempo shifts to Allegro ma molto moderato and new material is introduced in the string section. This is not clearly defined enough to be labeled as Theme 1, but has strong characteristics of the in troductory material (Example 52). The triplet motion helps to characterize this material, and r eappears later in the piece. The same material is presented in measure 13 by a bassoon and the clarinet section. In the program notes Willson referred to this as the slight development of the introductory materials. Example 5-2. Introductory material development, mm. 9-12. The introductory section ends at measure 17 with a shift to 6/8 meter with an Allegro Moderato tempo. The key remains in F minor, and th e first truly identif iable theme of the movement is stated. This is Theme 1, presented in the piccolo, flutes, and first violin (Example

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155 5-3). Theme 1 is the one Willson defines as, definitely of masculine character.244 Willsons flute background is apparent, as he places the most virtuosic busy notes in the flute and piccolo parts. Theme 1 is characterized by ascending jumps of thirds, and moves from triplet eighth notes into sixteenth notes. These characterist ics provide the theme with a forward momentum, part of the . strength of purpose and freedom, Willson referred to in the program notes.245 Example 5-3. Initial Theme 1 statement, mm. 17-22. After a remarkably short passage of the firs t statement of the Theme 1 and some general chordal material, a second theme, Theme 2, is pr esented in measure 27 (Example 5-4). It has been only ten measures since Theme 1 was introd uced, and in this we see one of the defining characteristics of Willsons symphonic writing; he does not wait to develop his themes, but presents theme immediately after theme. The second theme is more lyric and slower moving than the first theme. The key remains F minor, and Theme 2 is stated in the saxophones, horns, trumpets, trombones, and tubas, a presentation wh ich makes it loud and dramatic. This is most 244 Ibid. 245 Ibid.

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156 likely the theme Willson referred to as hymn-like in the program notes, defining the music as, . a simple melody that sounds almost like an old hymn tune.246 Example 5-4. Introduction of Theme 2, mm. 27-41. Of significance in this Theme 2 statement is the scoring for four saxophones, two E flat altos, a tenor, and a baritone saxophone. This is quite unusual in symphonic writing, and particularly striking for Willson. Willson was no t an advocate of the saxophone, and generally did not write for the instrument, even in his popu lar compositions. His creation of what he called Chiffon Swing was jazz a nd swing music actually rearra nged with the saxophone parts replaced by woodwinds and violins. In th is period of time, the 1930s, the saxophone was popular in only a few musical genres, and gene rally not particularly well appreciated by the general listening public. W illsons Chiffon Swing, jazz sans saxophones, actually made the genre more palatable for public consumption. Thes e factors give signific ant weight to Willsons 246 Ibid.

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157 heavy use of the instrument in its various si zes in this symphony. It is likely the saxophone represented modernity, and Willson used the instrume nt heavily in a musical effort to represent the modern nature of the city of San Francisco. At measure 44 the meter changes to 9/8, with a presentation of a derivation of Theme 1 (Example 5-5). The section which follows features the same theme sequenced in different keys and meters, evidently Willsons version of thematic development. It is noteworthy that the Theme 5aries little, is only restated in a differe nt key or varied rhythm. Throughout this section, which lasts for several pages, the basses and tymp ani play a driving rhythm on a single note, C. Example 5-5. Theme 1 derivative, with key and meter modulations, mm. 44-49. Willson uses this sort of development throughout the symphony, occasionally ending in an unsuitable key which necessitates having to move by half steps to find a more functional key. This is the case at measure 51, where he spends several measures modula ting back to F minor. The material here is transitional, serving essentia lly as filler material. In measure 55 the original Theme 1 is restated in its original key, this time at a fortissimo dynamic level. At measure 62, Theme 1 is restated, this time in the key of C minor. The theme is preceded by a brief flourish in the saxophone section, another unc onventional presentation by the saxophone (Example 5-6).

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158 Example 5-6. Presentation of Theme I in C minor, mm. 62-65. This statement is followed by a section of development of Theme 1 in C minor. At measure 72, page twenty, the development of Theme 1 continues, this time in D minor. The modulation is almost an exact imitation of the earlier development in C minor; the only significant change is the key. Willson uses D minor as a developing point for both themes, reintroducing the second theme in measure 79. This time Theme 2 is varied, and very fragmented. The composer apparently has a preference for use of the fully diminished 7th chord at the same time. He utilizes it here and throughout the piece. This is too deliberate to be accidental and suggests Willson is paying homage, giving a musical hats off, to another composer, perhaps Beethoven. In measure 83, again after only a brief secti on of development, Theme 1 returns and is developed in the key of A minor. The developmen tal technique is classic, for Willson takes the theme through an extended circle of 5ths sequen ce, one which continues for several pages. Once again the key changes are rapid, ev ery two to four measures. The harmonic progressions begin in D major in measure 77, move to D minor in measure 79, G major in measure 84, then to G minor

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159 two measures later. In measure 99 the key is C major, and only one measure later shifts to C minor, where it settles for two pages. One of the high points of the movement is found on page twenty-five, at measure 109 (Example 5-7). Here Willson combines derive d versions of both Theme 1 and Theme 2 in a Bravura section. This thematic conglomeration is presaged by the movements Theme 1 derived material augmented in the bass lines bassoon, bari tone saxophone, tuba, and string bass. This is the culmination of the Theme 1 in the work. Th eme 2, expanded, is presented in upper voices in clarinets, all the saxophones, and violins. The key remains, technically, F minor, as there are no cadences to truly establish another key. This is well written, perhaps the best-written section of the entire symphony. Example 5-9. Theme 1 derived material augmen ted and presented in the bass lines, mm. 109115. The presentation of these themes continues until measure 137, a point which represents the B section of the movement. Here the thematic material is reminiscent of the Theme 1, thus is another derivative, and the work remains in F minor. The pace of the work increases considerably with a new Listesso note and a move to 4/2 time. Here, too, solo timpani establish a rhythmic pedal point on the 5th scale degree while other instruments move chromatically in series of long chords. The timpani line is signif icant, for solo triplet patterns in the timpani appear several times in the work. Though not particularly important material, the chordal

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160 material and its descending motion has just enou gh character that is might be called, weakly, Theme 3 (Example 5-10). Example 5-10. Chordal movement in the woodw ind parts, accompanied by driving tympani triplets, mm. 137-138. The material loosel y resembles Theme 1, but is separate enough to be labeled Theme 3. The pedal point in the tympani continues on the 5th scale degree for the next twenty or so measures, while other instruments, genera lly the woodwinds and French horns, move chromatically. This is reminiscent of Wagner, as are other elements in the symphony. Two pages later, on page thirty-thr ee, is a strange jump of meas ures to 209; quite a number of measures have been removed, or the composer has forgotten what measure number he was writing. The sostenuto section, which began at measure 137, is thirty-three measures long, followed by a four measure tympani solo, and su ddenly a new measure marking of 209. It seems reasonable to suggest that a number of pages were removed from this handwritten score, and the work rescored on page thirty-three. The four m easure tympani solo which leads into measure 209 is a continuation of the rhythmic pattern that has been played since measure 137, only now on an F. Four measures before 209, measure 205 or 164 depending on from whence one is counting, the meter settles in 6/8. The tympani solo suggests, and even cadences into what appears to be an F key, but actually resolves into B-flat minor (Example 5-11). Example 5-11. Measure 205 or 164, tympan i solo leading to B-flat minor.

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161 This effectively helps introduce the sostenuto at 209, where Theme 2 is presented in Bflat minor by, oddly, the saxophones, and paralleled in part by the trombones. The presentation is unusual, and the chromatic movement a dds tension to the saxophones (Example 5-12): Example 5-12. Theme 2 in saxophones, mm. 209-217. In measure 223 the Theme 1 derived development material is presented, this time in Bflat minor. Five measures into the presentati on the chords loosely associated with a Theme 3 appear. Between measures 223 and 231 the work modulates to C minor. In measure 231 Theme 1 returns in the clarinets and violins, this time in C minor, and goes through some development. In measure 239 the first movement reaches a cl imactic fortissimo G minor chord. Here a fragmented Theme 2 is worked out in G minor. Other fragments, which previously appeared as developmental materials, begin to return and this reappearance provides th ese materials with an almost independent character; these could almost be themes in their own right. In measure 243 the key is still G minor when a Theme 1 derivative is restated in the violins. Its length here is extended, compared to its presentation in m easure 231. The theme drifts away and by measure 247 the piece grows quiet except for Theme 1 materi al in the basses, somewhat reminiscent of the opening of the movement. The quiet bass movement plays an almost introductory role, for measure 249 holds the surprise of a baritone saxophone solo (Example 5-13). While the use of the instrument here is

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162 striking, the music is not. The material has been presented before, usually in basses as general movement under thematic presentation. This se ction is not harmonically well supported. The key could be G minor or B-flat major, but is never truly determined. Aurally it sounds like the minor due to the previously established tonality. Example 5-13. Baritone saxophone solo, mm. 249-253. The baritone saxophone solo introduces a se ction of chordal developmental material which continues until measure 279. Here Theme 4 is presented, in the key of E-flat major, the key traditionally associat ed with works labeled triumphant or happy (Example 5-14). Again, the possibility of homage to Beethoven is suggest ed, as most of the Beethoven works generally considered to be happy, are set in E-flat ma jor. This theme is hyper-expressive and even somewhat reminiscent of popular piano pa rlor music of the previous century. Example 5-14. Theme 4 as introduced in mm. 279-287. The thick chordal figures and chromaticism combine to make this a hype r-expressive thema tic presentation. Theme 4 continues through measure 308, and th is is another area of missing measures. The measure numbers in this symphony are handwritten, and Willson, or whoever inserted the measure numbers, has seriously miscounted this sect ion. On one page of the score, page fortytwo, there are three different measure number markings, 274, 279, and 295. The markings for measures 274 and 279 are actually seven measures apart. Score note 279 lies only three or so

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163 inches above score note 295, yet only eight measures separate these marked numbers. Between measure 274, on page forty-two, and measure marki ng 309, on page forty-three, lie only twentytwo measures, not the indicated thirty-five. Two measures before score marking 309, duri ng the final two measures of Theme 4, the Theme 1 derivative reappears, first in the cellos and ba sses, and begins to be developed (Example 5-15). Example 5-15. Entrance of Theme 1 deve lopment, mm. 307-311, page forty-three. In the same measure the meter shifts back to 6/8. Two measures later, in measure 311, a solo clarinet and bassoon interj ect a brief variant of Theme 4 (Example 5-16). Example 5-16. Theme 4 materials, mm. 311-315. As the clarinet and bassoon solos caden ce into measure 315, the Theme 1 derivative enters again, with more insistence, this time stated forte, in bassoons, baritone, and cello. As the statement cadences into measure 319 a fanfare-like flourish is st ated in the French horns and trumpets (Example 5-17).247 The flourish may be derived from Theme 4 materials. 247 Willson has sometimes not transposed the horn parts in this score, and sometimes forgotten to write in a key signature for them, so the horns consistently appear in C major. The figures which follow have all been transposed in order to better display the correct tonalities.

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164 Example 5-17. Fanfare-like interjection, mm. 319-323. As with the interjection of Theme 2 materials in measure 311, this flourish anticipates, and then coincides with, yet anot her entrance of the introductory thematic materials (Example 518). This time the presentation is in low woodwinds and low strings, and sim ilar to that seen in measure 249, example 5-15. Example 5-18. Introductory thematic ma terials restated at measure 321. Almost predictably the flourish recurs in measure 323, and the key modulates to E-flat minor. Example 5-19. More flourishes, mm. 323-326. From the modulation to E-flat minor in measure 323 the work enters a section of transitional material, a transition towards the fi rst section, in measure 328. Not truly thematic, this material seems to facilitate another key chan ge, this time to F major, the parallel major, in measure 332. Here occurs an a tempo and the first statement of the Theme 1 in a major key. This is a new Theme 1 derivative at triple fortissimo, and one of the high points of the first movement. The theme is stated in the bassoons, baritones, and low strings, and the remainder of the orchestra plays a chordal outline (Example 5-20).

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165 Example 5-20. Return to Theme 1 derivative materials, mm. 332-336. The conclusion of the Theme 1 derivative statem ent is also the beginning of development of the introductory material, still augmented. Here, yet again, Willson writes for the instruments he seems to prefer for the introductory materi als the bassoons, bari tone saxophones, trombones, and low strings. This section begi ns at measure 340 and is marked Bravura (Example 5-21). Example 5-21. Development of augmented introductory material, mm. 340-347. The development of the introductory material continues for severa l pages, moving around harmonically. In measure 356 the work arrives at a first ending, with a return to Theme 1 in F minor in the clarinets. The work repeats to the B section, an d goes to the second ending on its return to measure 366. Transitional materials appear at measure 367 in the form of sustained chords. These seem developmental but are shor t lived. Instead Willson introduces a new theme, Theme 4, which is rather loosely based on Theme 1. Like Theme 1 it is an arpeggio, and the upwards melodic direction, along with downwards ju mps, parallels that of Theme 1. The first presentation of Theme 4 in measure 374 is in F minor (Example 5-22). Immediately upon completion of the initial statement Willson begins to restate Theme 4, always in the flute, in different keys. There is no variation of the th eme, but direct repetiti on in a procession of different keys.

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166 Example 5-22. Introduction of Theme 4 as flut e solo, mm. 374-382. The first modulation and restatement of the theme begins in the last measure of this example. In measure 382 Theme 4 is presented in D mi nor, in measure 390 in appears in B-flat minor, and in measure 400 the motive is reduced to its sixteenth-note runs as transitional materials. Here the key shifts to D major, a key related to the F minor in which the theme was first presented. As this plays, at measure 402, the tympani and low strings play a flourish-like heraldic figure, similar to those previously presented (Example 5-23). This is very much like the figure stated in measure 319, and previously presented in Example 5-17. Example 5-23. Flourish, mm. 402-403. The flourish leads to measure 404, where Theme 2 returns in B minor (Example 5-24). This Tempo commodo section marks development of Theme 2.

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167 Example 5-23. Hyper-expressive development of Th eme 2 material in the key of B minor, in which Theme 1 forms the basis for the accompaniment, mm. 404-411. In this presentation of Theme 2, the accompaniment material is reminiscent of Theme 1 in its scale-like movement. Willson does litt le in the way of development beyond restating Theme 2 in different keys. This passage is hype r-expressive, decidedly influenced by the late romantics, and especially reminiscent of the works of Tchaikovsky. The Theme 2 statement ends in measure 418, and the next few measures ar e transitional materials. The frequently used flourish reappears in measure 424, and announces th e onset of a recapitulation of sorts (Example 5-24). This time the flourish sounds in the low strings, tuba, and bassoons. Example 5-24. Return of the flourish, mm. 424-425. Measure 426 marks a recapitulati on of sorts. This is an unus ual recapitulation in that it features Theme 2, making it almost a replacement of Theme 1, which is scarcely in evidence. The only change is a key change; this statem ent of Theme 2 is in C minor. Theme 2 is recapitulated in a verbatim repeat of measure tw enty-seven. This recapitulation continues until

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168 measure 466, where variants of the introductory materials reappear, much like the previous restatements in measures 240 and 349. Here the entrances are stretto in C major, and like the introduction at the beginning of the symphony, move towards a marcato presentation of a Theme 1 derivative in measure 470 (Example 5-25). Example 5-25. M arcato Theme 1, mm. 470-474. These entrances are moving towards E-flat ma jor, which arrives in measure 474. Here Theme 1 concludes its stretto entrances and is stated in a unison sostenuto fortissimo by the violins. The statement comes to a quiet ca dence on a sustained A-fl at in measure 481. In measure 482 Theme 3, after making only a si ngle previous appearance in measure 137, is reintroduced as a derived Theme 3 in A-flat major. In its initial statement the timpani solo provided both a rhythmic intensity and a pedal point. In this cu rrent statement of Theme 3 there is no timpani and no driving rhythmic pattern, but a bassoon which serves to provide a pedal point. The melodic progression is characte rized by its descending motion in the upper instruments, which move chromatically in series of long chords. As in the first presentation the thematic material is not particularly striking (Example 5-26).

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169 Example 5-26. Theme 3, mm. 482-489. At measure 510 the introductory material returns again, this time in A-flat major (Example 5-27). At last this seemingly insignifi cant motif has emerged as being more important than its brief statement at the beginning would indicate. This statement is marcato and stated in the low instruments, bassoon, baritone saxophone, viola, cello, and bass. Example 5-27. Development of introductory motif, mm. 510-516.

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170 In measure 514 the introductory theme joins with the flourish in a series of stretto entrances. The flourish ends on a cluster of notes that do not truly form a chord, a presentation which heralds a section of tonal ambiguity. The introductory theme is stated again, starting on a D sharp, and the flourish is presen ted several times in an ascending pattern. The theme has an apex in measure 522, with a fortissimo statemen t of the flourish and woodwinds and violins and, one measure later, the entrance of a derived Theme 1 in trumpets and tenor saxophone (Example 5-28). Example 5-28. Theme 1 derivative development and flourish in stretto, mm. 522-526. The trumpet statement of the Theme 1 derivative is doubled in the tenor saxophone. This is a technique Willson uses frequently in this symphony, doubling standard orchestral instruments with one of the four saxophones. In measure 531 he makes the Theme 1 derivative even more important, moving to an a tempo A-flat major, the relative major of the original theme, and stating the theme in a high pitched fortissimo in nearly every instrument. Only four measures later, in measure 535, the movement lands on a five chord in A-flat major, and progresses using diminished sonorities. In measure 539 the introductory theme returns, now in A-flat major. In measure 545 the work enters another transition, again using diminished sonorities. Here Willson is beginning to move towards F major; the melodic material is largely drawn from the introductory motif. The

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171 piece arrives in measure 555 with a statement of the Theme 1 and a written key change to F major. Also at measure 555 occurs the first ap pearance of a set of chords which constitute a coda theme. This section makes a crescendo towards measure 563, the first push towards the end of the first movement. Here the key changes to A major; the coda theme is stated in an augmented poco largo at a quadruple fortissimo dynamic level. In measure 568 the flourish reappears as a brassy fanfare in a prolongated form The coda begins in measure 579. It is in the key of A major and utilizes both Themes 1 and II (Example 5-29). Example 5-29. Beginning of coda, mm. 579-584. As the work moves towards measure 589, theme fragments begin to appear in different keys, though without ever making a cadence in a particular key. This sort of chromatic manipulations without ever establishing a key was a technique used by nineteenth-century composers. The motion eventually resolves in F major, in measure 595, with a sudden vivace This is also the beginning of an eight measure repeated passage. Willson has added a handwritten note to the score, X only. Theme 1 is brought back in its original instruments bassoon, baritone saxophone, and low strings. Th e melodic material of this section is unremarkable, consisting of fragments from various themes. In the second ending of the passage, measur e 610, the piece goes to the key of A major, again moving through chromatic manipulation. As in the previous section of chromatic

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172 movement, the resolution is in F major, with the Theme 1. This occurs in measure 631, the beginning of the last small section of the fi rst movement, a codetta making use of Theme 1 material in F major. At only fourteen measures this small section is not big enough to constitute a full coda. The final six measures consist of a sustained three measure antecedent chord, answered by a subsequent chord in a rhythmic pattern, and the first movement ends with a bump, reminiscent of show tunes (Example 5-30). Example 5-30. Conclusion of first movement, mm. 639-543. Second Movement, Andante W illson called the second movement of his Symphony of San Francisco a passacaglia. Programmatically the movement is meant to reflect the desolation in the city as a result of the great earthquake of 1906. The variations are pr esented in a gradually ascending order, which Willson intended to represent a ci vic renaissance. About this movement the composer wrote:

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173 The second movement is an Andante in Pa ssacaglia form, and here I have tried to express in music the rebirth of a great ci ty from smouldering ruins and ashes. The theme of this movement begins in a scarcely audible thread of sound from muted violi, celli and harp, and w ith each subsequent variation on the theme hope rises higher and higher.248 The piccolo plays a major melodic role here, buoying the more somber instrumentation in the lower instruments. The second movement, he said, shows desolation. It shows ashes and destruction and trailing wisps of smoke. San Francisco in April of 1906. Hope is dead. People are lost, destitute. You hear their co mplete despondency. But not for long. 249 The actual form of this movement is somewh at problematic. There is virtually no fixed or consistent bass pattern and the work is in 4/8 w ith a sort of overall trip le feel, rather than a triple meter. In a more hist orically typical aspect of a passacaglia the character of the movement does remain essentially grave, in minor keys. Analysis reveals a formal character which better fits a concept of a mix of passacaglia with Theme and variation structure. The movement begins with a statement of the passacaglia theme, a chromatic descending melody presented in the viola, cello, and harp, in A minor (Example 5-31). Example 5-31. Statement of passacaglia theme, mm. 1-8 of second movement. 248 Program notes from first performance, War Memorial Opera House, April 19, 1936. 249 Anspacher, S.F. Lives in Music, 11.

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174 The first variation is presented in measure 25. The work is still in the key of A minor (Example 5-32). Example 5-32. First variation, mm. 25-30. The second variation occurs at measure 41, in D minor. This presentation is dominated by the double reed instruments, with flute added on top (Example 5-33). Example 5-33. Second vari ation, D minor, mm. 41-46. The theme and filler material continue until measure 49 where the musical materials become transitional. The third variation is found in measure 57, a variation more diverse than the others (Example 5-34). It is so removed fr om the original thematic idea that it almost appears as a second theme. Example 5-34. Third variation, mm. 57-62.

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175 Beginning at measure 81 a fourth variation s eems to begin emerging, in D minor. This is not a true statement, but rather introductory or transitional. This c ontinues until the fourth variation fully emerges in measur e 89, in D minor (Example 5-35). Example 5-35. Fourth variation, mm. 89-97. The orchestration of the fourth variation is surpri sing. The theme is played fortissimo by the first and second horns, but they must pr oject over a host of instruments playing a simultaneous forte The full saxophone quart et is playing, along w ith the first and second trumpets, all the trombones and tuba. At measur e 97 there is a large restatement of the first variation in all the winds. Th e string section reenters in measure 104 and presents general transitional material until measure 111. Here th e movement begins modulating towards its home key. Measure 114 represents the apex of the second movement. The movement has undergone a gradual crescendo to this point, about which Willson wrot e, San Franciscans dont stay lost, they find their way back always. Li sten to them rebuilding their city.250 The person interviewing Willson for an article on the sym phony in the San Francisc o Chronicle related a trumpet call to, the song of San Francisc os reclamation, which, went on and up.251 That statement is not known to have come from Willson and cannot directly be tied to the work. At measure 114 the original theme restated sostenuto in the violins, in the original key of A minor. This statement is declamatory, played by most of the instruments. At measure 130 is a restatement of the original thematic material, but in a very slight variation, not distinct enough to be called a separate variation. This seems to reset the listeners ear to the original theme, 250 Ibid. 251 Ibid.

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176 perhaps to provide more marked contrast for the next presentation of a ne w variation. Only eight measures later comes the statement of a true new va riation, the fifth. This variant is stated in A major, though subtly, as a lot of E minor tonality is suggested (Example 5-36). Example 5-36. Fifth variation, mm. 138-144. At measure 138 the original theme is restated in the flutes in A minor, and at measure 146 the theme is outlined by the horns in D minor. From here the work modulates to A minor in measure 149, then back to D minor in measur e 153, in which key the movement concludes. Third Movement, Presto The next m ovement of the symphony, the th ird movement, begins in A major. This movement is a presto a tribute to the citys diverse popul ation. In the program notes for the premier performance Willson described the movement as: a happy little piece picturing the almost childish delight of a people who have a continental love for artistic pursuits; a music loving sincerity that thronged the streets on Christmas eve to hear Tetrazzinis Caro Nome at Lottas Fountain. The two themes in this Scherzo are introductory to the fourth movement, which follows without pause.252 In this statement Willson is referring to soprano Luisa Tetrazzini (1871-1941), famed for her vocal technique. Tetrazzini had been schedu led to sing in San Francisco, but was blocked by legal issues about who owned her contract. Attempts were made to secure an injunction from singing in any theater until the issue could be legally resolved. On her trip to San Francisco she was queried about the injunction and responded, "I will sing in San Francisco if I have to sing 252 Usher, Program notes, 158.

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177 there in the streets, for I know th e streets of San Francisco are fr ee." This statement has become almost legendary among opera aficionados. Though an injunction was never issued and Tetrazzini was free to sing in the theaters, sh e announced through her agent that she would still sing in the streets of San Francisco. On Christmas Eve, 1910, at the corner of Market and Kearney, near the city landmar k, Lottas Fountain, Tetrazzini c limbed a stage platform. She serenaded a crowd of an estimated twoto three-hundred thousa nd San Franciscans. Willson was moved by the Tetrazzini incide nt, referring to it again in a newspaper interview just after the premier. The reporter noted that Willson specified themes for various images, and that the composer called the movement, . a delineation of the spirit of the people, their laughter, their naivet. The interviewer went on to relate Willsons musings, describing that, Willsons fingers played laughter. They played the song of the beloved Tetrazzini as she sang at the base of Lottas Fountain and the song of the thousands who thronged to hear her. They played the continental charm of the city and of the fusion of its peoples.253 Willson begins this presto movement by stating functional th ematic materials right away. It would be a valid position to argue that these are not a true theme, but transitory materials. In this movement, though, the materials are used freque ntly enough that they will be referred to as the Theme 1 for the purposes of this analysis. Almost certainly Willson was thinking of Tetrazzini and Italian opera when he composed this theme, for it is opera music, the sort frequently used in Italian opera. The Theme 1 c ould even be used to introduce an aria, perhaps the scene Willson intends to set here. It is set in A major, played exclusively and lightly by the woodwinds. This movement calls for clarinet in A, while the first movement used a B-flat clarinet, and the second movement used no clarinets at all. Becau se of its nod to opera, the entire scoring is worth reproducing in its entirety (Example 5-37). 253 Anspacher, S.F. Lives in Music, 11.

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178 Example 5-37. Theme 1 of movement 3, mm. 1-8. The rapid sixteenth-note runs and busy accompaniment parts are reminiscent of Italian opera music. Just as the bassoon completes the downwards r un, Theme 1 is restated in a modal fashion (Example 5-38). This mode is not exactly Ph rygian, but similar enough to present and sound like the Phrygian mode. As a composer Willson seem s to have a fondness for this pseudo Phrygian tonality. In addition to its us e here, the composer makes fre quent use of the device in his Second Symphony He generally makes use of the Phrygianlike tonality when making musical reference to something historical. It is also noteworthy that the Phrygian mode is commonly found in his symphonies at the same time a double reed instru ments are being utilized, in this case the bassoon.

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179 Example 5-38. Theme 1 restated in a modal fashion, mm. 9-16. Immediately at the end of this modular echo of Theme 1, a new theme is introduced in measure 17 (Example 5-39). Theme 2 is lyrical, with a touch of ethnicity to it, perhaps a gypsylike flare. While not a quote from the Caro Nome which Tetrazzini sang at the fountain, this melodic theme is certainly meant to evoke the spirit of an Italian aria. It is also reminiscent of the motive played by clarinets in the third movement of Mahlers First Symphony Example 5-39. Lyrical Theme 2, mm. 17-24.

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180 Theme 2 is repeated four times, with small variants the third time. This pattern is intriguing for its modernity, as it is the standard blues form. Willson may or may not have been aware of his utilization of this modern form, but it is an influence, bi dden or unbidden, of the twentieth-century. In measure 48 the work ente rs a transitional section (Example 5-40): Example 5-40. Transitional materials, mm. 48-53. A solo oboe sustains the root of A major, while the strings play upwards patterns below it. From the transition the work goes to th e materials stated at the beginning, theme A. At the end of the two Theme 1 statements is materi al based on Theme 2 which, at measure 71, marks the beginning of a codetta (Example 5-41). Theme 2 fragments are inte rrupted by a brief horn solo, the pattern of three notes which Willson favors throughout the symphony. Example 5-41. Transitional materials with Theme 2 fragments, mm. 71-75.

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181 The transition leads into a first ending at measure 78. The triplet rhythmic motif just played by the horns is taken up by the flutes, and the work returns to its beginning at measure 85. The second ending is found on page 133, and uses si mple transitional material to introduce the next section, as well as a modula tion to F-sharp minor. Here the tr iplet motif is in the violas. The second section of this quick-moving presto begins in measure 95. A new theme is introduced at the onset of this section, Theme 3, in F-sharp minor (Example 5-42). Example 5-42. Theme 3, with a significant nod to Italian opera, mm. 95-102.

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182 Theme 3 is expressive and lyrical. Like the other themes thus far introduced, this theme is quite reminiscent of opera. Here the flutes, vi olins, and clarinets play the melody. In a sense they are taking over the role of a vocalist, while the rest of the orchestra provides an accompaniment. The tunefulness, lyricism, acco mpaniment movement, and bassoon outlines all indicate a nod to Tettrazini and Italian opera. Just a few measures later, in measure 110, the theme continues with a short flirt in A-flat major. Beginning in measure 115 a Theme 3 derivative is stated again, up a third, but still in F-sharp minor (Example 5-43). Example 5-43. Modulation of Theme 3 fragment, mm. 115-119. At the end of this Theme 3 fragment, on page 136, in measure 122, another theme appears (Example 5-44). This is a dolce lyric theme presented in D minor and distantly related to Theme 3. Once again the salient features of the theme center around an upwards arpeggio. While it is possible that this them e could be considered a Theme 3 derivative, it is different enough that it will be labeled Theme 4 for purposes of this analysis. This similarity of themes, a technique frequently adopted by Willson, se rves to tie the work together.

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183 Example 5-44. Theme 4, loosely derived from Theme 3, mm. 122-128. At this point Theme 3 and Theme 4 begin to be applied quickly. In measure 134 Theme 3 returns in G-sharp minor and in measure 138 is a short presentation of Theme 4, this time as a derivative. This plays out for several measures, until Theme 4 begins a restatement in measure 150, and in measure 154 Theme 3 returns in D-sharp minor. The section ends with a restatement of Theme 4 in measure 162, and a ritardando into measure 167. Measure 168 is an a tempo and restatement of the beginning of Theme 1 in A major. This opera-like sixteenth-note passage begins and presents like a recapitulation, but ends in a tympani roll which crescendos and segues to the fourth movement of the symphony. This makes the final seven-measure Theme 1 statement a tag, codetta or possibly a false recapitulation. The two main themes in this Scherzo movement are introductory to the fourth movement, which follows without pause. Fourth Movement, Allegro The fourth movem ent begins with an orgy of thematic material found in multiple instruments -saxophones, bassoons, horns, trombones, and tuba. Theme 1 is stated in F major in the first measure, in low instrume nts and saxophones. (Example 5-45)

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184 Example 5-45. Theme 1 introduction in F ma jor, mm.1-7 of the Fourth Movement. As the first theme cadences, materials which seem to be transitional are introduced. The most striking feature is a triplet pattern wh ich begins in measure 11 (Example 5-46). The materials are more substantive than they initially appear to be, as they reappear as closing material for the section. The in strumentation is unique, for the triplet figures are presented by cellos and three baritone saxophones, with a slight boost from the bassoons. The heavy scoring of the baritone saxophones is noteworthy, for they can easily overwhelm other instruments. Example 5-46. Seemingly transitory triplet figures, mm. 11-15. Derived Theme 1 is presented immediately af ter the first statement of Theme 1. This variant is in a somewhat ambiguous key (Example 5-47). The basses play a pedal point on a C, which serves as the fifth of the chord, and helps to establish the key as F major. The theme is also somewhat transitional, ne ither extended nor developed.

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185 Example 5-47. Theme 1 with transitional material, mm.17-23. During this presentation of Theme 1 there is a brief flirt with F minor in measure 20, with a return to the ambiguous F major in measure 2 1. In measure 25 yet another variant of Theme 1 appears, this time fully transitional and movi ng downwards by half steps. This Theme 1 derivative is somewhat sequential and becomes more so as the section progresses. This statement also hints at D major, the V/V chord of C major. At meas ure 29 Theme 1 fragments begin a crescendo poco a poco, a notation Willson has written in capital underlined letters spread across two measures. This begins a long section where there is frequent fragmented chromatic movement of a Theme 1 derivative. In measure 36 the pace of the chromatic changes speeds up, with the key modulating every two beats. In measure 46 the fragmented Theme 1 derivative begins again, and lands in C major in measure 54, fulfilling the tonality suggested in measure 25. It is here, in measure 54, that Theme 2 is firs t stated (Example 5-48). The fact that only a single theme has been used for fifty-four measures is significant, as Willson typically states both the first and second themes early in every othe r movement of both of his symphonies. Theme 2 is a grandiose statement in C major, notewort hy for its ascending half notes. Immediately following the initial completed statement, Them e 2 begins to undergo a brief development, which begins in measure 62. As with the development of Theme 1, this development is characterized by the introduction of brief fragments of the theme and ambiguous tonality. In the development of Theme 2 Willson also uses many stretto entrances of the dotted-eighth to sixteenth-note followed by a sustained chord pattern.

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186 Example 5-48. Presentation of four th movement Theme 2, mm. 54-62. Of note here is an indicated fast instrument switch between alto a nd baritone sax. In cut time, the two alto saxophone players are given the instruction to ( Change to Baritone saxophone ) and less than a complete measure to complete the required instrument switch. Four measures later, in measure 66, the players are instructed to Change to Alto and this time given two measures to complete the change. The like lihood was that Willson was unfamiliar with how much time it would take to change instruments. It is unreasonable to expect the players to make the change in the limited amount of time provided. The heavy use of saxophones also has a tendency to overwhelm the orchestration. In the sole recording of the work only a single alto saxophone usually plays in place of three scored instruments, the two altos and one tenor saxophone. Fragments of Theme 2 continue to be developed through measure 78, at which point transitional material enters in C minor (Example 5-49). This material is characterized by its triplet pattern, and is similar to the transitional material found in measure 11 (Example 5-46).

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187 Example 5-49. Transitiona l material, mm.78-83. The transitional material c ontinues in measure 86, and at th at point shifts to a downward sequence with planing in the strings. This se quence reappears and is distinct enough to be called Theme 3 (Example 5-50). The key modulates to an indeterminate flat key, centering on E-flat major, with a planing progression of dominant 7th chords. Since the sequence never truly cadences, a key center is never established. Example 5-50. Transitional material presented as a planing progression of dominant 7th chords, mm.86-90.

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188 The chordal movement continues for several pages, centering most frequently on B-flat and E-flat major. In measure 118 are found a set of features similar to those found in measure 86. The thematic material is defined enough to be called Theme 4, though it does not reappear and is not an important theme. At the same time the musical materials are transitional and marked by chromatic sequences and frequent modulations, creating an ambiguous tonality. Again, triplet figures are significant features in the theme, and occur in both ascending and descending patterns (Example 5-51). Example 5-51. Theme 4, mm. 118-121. The pace of the theme increases in measur e 124. This quicker pace is not achieved through a tempo change, but through rhythmic dimi nution. Here the thematic material stays in the flutes and violins, with the other instru ments playing sustained chords. Once again the movement is chromatic. This continues through measure 127, where the score notes a crescendo poco a poco. The first section of the fourth movement begins to push towards its end in measure 132, where the key lands in C minor (Example 5-52). Here is another presentation of the triplet figure similar to the A transitional material whic h first appeared in measure 25, this time at a fortissimo dynamic level.

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189 Example 5-52. Closing them e in C minor, mm. 132-135. At measure 139 the first sect ion ends with a diminuendo in a series of V7/B9 chords. There is a repeat to the beginning of the move ment in measure 143, and the B section of the movement begins in measure 144 (Example 5-53). The B section is in F major and is clearly the developmental section. It begins wi th a statement of Theme 2 variant. Example 5-53. Theme 1 development, mm. 144-148. A few measures later, in measure 150, a transi tion begins and the triplet closing materials from the first section return. Here the key is E-fl at minor, and the triplet motif is largely used in the role of transitional material. The same materials reappear in measure 165. This small triplet theme also appears later in the m ovement. At measure 171 there is a poco ritardano and a new theme, Theme 5, is stated at measure 172. Them e 5 is characterized by sequences of triplet figures in a meno presentation marked in 4 and meant to be played slowly and broadly. The theme makes a crescendo throughout its presentation (Example 5-54).

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190 Example 5-54. Theme 5, mm. 172-175. Like Theme 3 and Theme 4 this new theme is transitional and highly chromatic in nature. Theme 5 is stated largely in the oboe and tenor saxophone. It is more a texture than a motif. Triplet figures are the most id entifying feature of this theme, and continue throughout the section. At measure 180 the tonality settles in B-flat minor, and Theme 5 is stated again in an abundance of developmental materials. Here, too, the materials begin a gradual crescendo. By measure 183 the score notes a molto crescendo and the tonality briefl y focuses around a V/B-flat minor, then lands in B-flat minor in the next measure, 184. Measure 187 closes with a double bar, and measure 188 initiates a new section of the movement. A the beginning of this new section, measure 188, Theme 1 is restated in D minor at a triple fortissimo marcato with a tempo 1 marking. This Theme 1 pres entation is significant for its inclusion of the A lto, Tenor, and Baritone saxophones, which present the theme along with the flute and oboe (Example 5-55). While this statement begins in the key of D mi nor, it quickly becomes highly chromatic.

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191 Example 5-55. Tempo1 marcato statement of Theme 1 derivation, mm. 188-191. This continues through measure 196, where fragments of the theme evolve into transitional material. The sequence ends abrup tly in measure 204, where all instruments drop out to highlight a tympani solo (Example 5-56). The so lo on the same note, C, as the tympani solo in the first movement, and is reminiscent of that solo. Willson is either referencing that movement or using the same musical device. Example 5-56. Tympani solo, referen ce to first movement, mm. 204-209.

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192 As the tympani strikes the first of the tied whole notes in measure 208, a Theme 1 derivative is stated by the rest of the orchestra, this time in F major (Example 5-57). Example 5-57. Restatement of Th eme 1 in F major, mm. 208-210. The statement of the Theme 1 initiates a rep eat, nearly direct, from the beginning of the piece. The first part of the movement is repeated until measure 251, where Willson labels a coda. What Willson calls a coda is not truly a coda, as he changes the key from the exposition, and transposes the material up a fourth. In m easure 253 a Theme 1 derivative appears again, this time in the cellos, and also transposed (Example 5-58). Example 5-58. Theme 5, presented in E minor, mm. 273-276. The material which follows continues to be unremarkable, and is a simple restatement of much of the material at the beginning of the mo vement. In measure 261 Theme 2 is restated in F

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193 major, and in measure 269 undergoes some development. In measure 273 a Theme 5 derivative is presented in E minor. As in its first statement the theme is more textural than melodic, defined by its triplet figures. The Theme 5 sequence c ontinues until measure 280, when it begins to repeat in E minor. This statement features more layered inst ruments and a notated crescendo molto in measure 282. The pace begins to push towards the finale. In measure 284 the tempo is marked in 2, suggesting the conductor should push the tempo. Another herald of the finale is the return of the closing material previously se en earlier in the movement (Example 5-52). The closing material enters in C major as a slight variant of the original, in measure 288. Four measures later the closing theme converts to transitional material, at a triple forte, in measure 292. This builds to an enormous climactic two-measure chord in measure 298. Like compositions of the romantic composers whom his music frequently emulates, Willsons work does not end here. A codetta begins in measure 300, in F major, and based on the same tripletbased closing material. The fi nal few measures delineate a plagal cadence, rather than the authentic cadence usually expected at symphoni c conclusions in traditional symphonic writing. The fourth movement of Willsons First Symphony ends with a sustained large F chord in measure 306. General Analytic Summary Willsons Symphony of San Francisco displays challenges that m i ght be expected in a first symphony. The most obvious of these is with the orchestration. In his ro le as a composer for radio he was composing and scori ng on a weekly basis. He was experienced with orchestration, though his experience was in scoring for studi o orchestras. Still, he scored the First Symphony himself. In a studio environment he no doubt ha d far more rehearsal opp ortunities, and could easily have instruments drop out if they covered other parts. This was not an option with a symphony Willson likely heard for the first time at the dress rehearsal. The saxophone quartet is

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194 somewhat novel, but is used frequently and scored so heavily that the saxophones easily overwhelm other instruments. As previously noted, in the sole professional recording made of this symphony, conducted by William Stromberg the saxophone quartet is replaced by a single alto saxophone. The saxophone quartet is unique, though, and its inclusion provides some insight into possible sources of influence. George Gershw in utilized a similar orchestration in his Rhapsody in Blue first played by piano in 1924. Rhapsody in Blue was orchestrated by composer Ferde Grof in 1924. Grof was orchestrating for a specific performing group, the Paul Whiteman band, and included five saxophones; sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone. A reorchestration done in 1926, again by Grof, reduced the number of saxophones to three, two altos and a tenor. Wh itemans band, however, was a small jazz band, not a major symphony orchestra with full instrumentation. Whitemans musicians also doubled instruments, and there were seldom more than two sa xophones playing at a single time. There are other aspects of Willsons orchestration which lack practicality. In several places the melodies played by solo woodwinds are covered by brass parts scored at a forte dynamic level. The second movement provides a si milar example, in the fourth variation. The theme is played fortissimo in two horns, but they must projec t over a host of instruments playing a simultaneous forte The full saxophone quartet is playing, along with th e entire brass section. The French horns are easily buried in the mix. The Symphony of San Francisco is marked by quick transiti ons, expressive melodies presented in episodic fashions, and narrow develo pment sections. There is a certain lack of depth, not necessarily a surprise to find in a composers first attempt at composing a major symphony. The application of musi cal elements prompt thoughts of a film score, and that is how

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195 the work presents to an audience. The Symphony of San Francisco seemed a good fit for the anniversary remembrance of th e great earthquake. The work was well enough received that Willson conducted the work again the following year with the same orchestra, on 20 April 1937.

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196 CHAPTER 6 SYMPHONY NUMBER II, THE MISSIONS OF CALIFORNIA Background W illson began work on his Second Symphony soon after the premier of his First probably sometime in 1936. Despite the critical comments which followed his First Symphony and advised that he dispense with symphonic programs, the composer included a programmatic slant from the inception of the Second Symphony. Willson was always a composer who imitated his own success, thus the pr ogrammatic direction of the Second Symphony emulated the First centering on a CaliforniTheme 1. Rather than representing a si ngle modern city, this symphony presents multiple small communities, the early mission settlements of California. The work was well underway when the compos er showed the score to conductor Albert Coates (1882-1957), conductor of the Los Angele s Philharmonic. Coates was an Englishman, born in Russia, who had a propensity for interpreti ng romantic scores. He was also a prolific composer who had had varied success in getting his own works performed. Perhaps these factors influenced his conducting decisions, for he was generous in helping new works gain performance, and displayed a preference towards pr ogrammatic works. Coates suggested that if Willson were to complete the work, Coates would have the Los Angeles Philharmonic premier it. One article states that it took Willson four years of effort to write his Second Symphony.254 The completed symphony was titled Symphony No. II in E Minor and included the programmatic subtitle, The Missions of California. For unknown reasons Willson chose to write this work on oversize score pape r. Each sheet measures 20 inch es high and nearly 13 inches wide, making the score quite large, bulky, and di fficult to handle. The second page is titled Part One and followed by the subtitle of the first movement, Junipero Serra. The bottom of the page 254 Meredith Willsons Work on Sunday KGLO Concert, Mason City Globe Gazette August 9th, 1941.

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197 displays Willsons gratitude to Coates with th e proclamation, Dedicated to Albert Coates and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Los Angeles. True to form, Willson related his own highl y entertaining version of how he came to write the Second Symphony, this one a tale about mee ting Coates at a luncheon: I got up the nerve to ask him if he would care to play my First Symphony at any time in the near future, and he said, Id rather play your Second Symphony and I said, I havent written any Second Symphony, and he said, Exactly. However, I preferred to take the kind lier interpretation of his remark, so I immediately started writing a Second Symphony. It was about the missions of California, and when I finished it Mr Coates said, Bully, Ill play it.255 Despite the dubiousness of th e proper English conductor usin g an exclamation such as Bully, and regardless of which account most auth entically relates the ac tual circumstances of the composition, Coates conducted the premier of Willsons Second Symphony with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on April 4th, 1940. The program notes for the premier included descriptions of each of the California Missions on which Willson based the movements. Part One: Junipero Serra The first mo vement of the Missions Symphony which Willson curiously called Part One, rather than movement one, is based not on a mi ssion settlement, but on Father Junipero Serra, a priest who lived from 1713-1784. Serra is rememb ered as an icon of Californias colonial era.256 A member of the Franciscan order, the priest be came a driving force in the Spanish conquest and colonization of the Pacific coast. Serra remains a well-known figure in California. Statues of him 255 There I Stood, 165. 256 Padre Junipero Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987, the first step in the process towards sainthood which, thus far, has not continued. The beatification was condemned by Indians and civil rights groups who particularly objected to Serras hard-handed treatment of the natives, a treatment which included frequent beatings. In 1780 Serra wrote, spiritual fathers should punish their sons, the Indians, with blows appears to be as old as the conquest of [the Americas]. Defender s of Serra cite exonerating factors such as the context of his times, his enormous personal sacrifices and religious zeal, and his op position to military expeditions against the Indians. Serra continues to be a pivotal figure in California history, most currently as a flashpoint for controversy over European treatment of Indians.

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198 can be found in San Franciscos Golden Gate Park and in the U.S. Capital.257 Willson declared that Serra had been the inspir ation for the entire symphony, prai sing the priest as a padrepioneer a true philanthropist and an earnest soul without peer among the disciples of his order.258 Willson seized upon a description of Serra written by an unknown Protestant biographer and published in one of the works of pi oneer-activist Helen Hunt Jackson. So far as can be made out, he (Serra) thought l ittle of himself, even of his own soul to be saved, all his life. The trouble had been on his mind how sufficien tly to work for God and to help men.259 The first movement opens with a four-measur e declarative motif which recurs throughout the symphony, a motif which Willson described as the Serra theme. This is the Theme 1, played by clarinets, bassoon and double bassoon, hor ns, chimes, piano, harp, violas, cellos, and bass, and characterized by an upwards motion: Example 6-1. Serra theme, mm. 1-4. In the program notes for his Second Symphony, Willson wrote that this first Lento Allegro movement was a musical effort to convey the stre ngth of this steadfast soul [Serra], who so completely conquered physical hardships, ignorance and pagan superstition against overwhelming odds.260 This is achieved thr