Eastern Music Festival turns 50




Fifty years ago, Sheldon Morganstern organized a summer music festival for student musicians, and on the night of the first concert, wondered if anyone would come. They did, and in gratifying numbers. What began as the Guilford Music Camp has since been renamed the Eastern Music Festival. Despite a fundraising shortfall that almost destroyed it about ten years ago, the Eastern Music Festival celebrates the half-century mark with more than 100 concert during its five-week run this year. Morganstern’s original aim continues: to allow students a chance to study with top professional musicians for five weeks and demonstrate what they … Continue reading

Three generations of Sitkovetsky’s: a historic reunion




I recently attended a concert of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra (April 1), not knowing that it would be a historical event. Music Director Dmitri Sitkovetsky conducted only one number. Otherwise he played violin. The other soloists were his daughter, soprano Julia Sitkovetsky, and his mother, renowned piano virtuosi Bella Davidovich. That much I knew before I arrived. Guest conductor Stuart Malina announced that the concert marked Ms Sitkovetsky’s first performance with a professional orchestra and very likely Mme Davidovich’s last. Julia Sitkovetsky Ms Sitkovetsky is a second-year student at Queen’s College, Oxford. She has a very pleasant voice, which is … Continue reading

Jullien in America




Before the Civil War, at a time when the United States boasted only one financially stable concert orchestra and few native composers and solo performers of “classical” music, what taste there was for it had to be supplied by foreign visitors. In 1853 the conductor Jullien brought forty members of his London orchestra to the United States and hired sixty Americans to supplement them. Jullien had come at the invitation of P. T. Barnum, who had talents for promotion and marketing rivaling Jullien’s own. During the year, his orchestra gave 214 concerts. At least some of them were the “monster … Continue reading

A good book gaudily bound: popular conductor Jullien




Nowadays, we are accustomed to entertainers who go by only one name, but in the nineteenth century, there was only Jullien (1812-1860). LIke Madonna and so many others today, he was born with more than one name. In fact, his father conducted a French orchestra and every member became the young son’s godfather: he had 37 Christian  names! With a start in life like that, no wonder he became eccentric. His concert dress included a shirt front with diamond studs. When he conducted  Beethoven, he had a page bring him a special jeweled baton on a silver salver. He kept … Continue reading

A historical perspective on orchestra concerts: programing and ritual




Today, American orchestra concerts usually have three or four pieces. In one very typical formula, they have some kind of overture, a concerto, and a symphony. If the program should happen to include music by a living composer–or even by one who died some time after, say, 1945–it typically comes right before intermission, sandwiched between two popular standards. That way the audience will come on time to hear the opening piece and be forced to stay in their seats through the new piece in order to hear whatever delight awaits after the intermission. Certain unwritten laws dictate concert ritual, including … Continue reading