Roy Harris’ Connection to Louisville

Roy Harris: used with permission from Ruth French

The myth that surrounds the person of Roy Harris is indicative of the effectiveness of modern publicity methods and the American desire for perpetuation of the age- old “rags to riches” story. In Harris’ case it is the rise from truck driver to “America’s Composer no. 1.”

-from writings of Robert French

Robert French teaching theory at the Louisville Academy of Music Robert French teaching theory at the Louisville Academy of Music.

Roy Harris had a special relationship with Robert Whitney and the Louisville Orchestra during the 1950s and 1960s, its most innovative period. Not only did the LO record his first symphony, 1933 (also recorded earlier by Serge Koussevitsky and the BSO as the very first American symphony to be commercially recorded), but it commissioned several works from Harris, including the tone poem Kentucky Spring (1949) and his Second Piano Concerto (1953) (see the original concert program here). The former — a tribute (or dig) at Copland? — is perhaps the most succinct summation of Harris’s bright orchestral style.

Harris’s Louisville connection goes even further than the orchestra. Robert French, the founder of the Louisville Academy of Music (now run by his wife, former LO violinist Ruth French), studied with Harris in Nashville, and for three years worked as Harris’s assistant. Robert French copied all of Harris’s symphonies — including the individual orchestral parts — by hand (according to Ruth, “he drew every single stem with a ruler!”). French experienced Harris’s legendary disorganization firsthand; Ruth tells the story of how her husband, on a trip with Harris from Iowa, “stopped for gas, and [Robert] went in to use the restroom, and when he came back out, Roy had forgotten him and drove off without him!”

-by Jacob Gotlib, local composer, pianist, and teacher

A Roy Harris score hand written by Robert French:

 

Listen to Ruth French’s memories of Roy Harris and the Louisville Orchestra:

 

 

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Summer Listening 2016

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Summer Listening Sign Ups are now open!!

Sign the whole family up for a wonderful month of music and celebration this July! Go to wuol.org/summerlistening for details on this year’s 4 FREE FAMILY EVENTS and broadcast times for our SUMMER LISTENING RADIO SHOW.

Look what fun we had last year… don’t miss out this year!

By signing up you’ll be entered to win local concert tickets and prizes, get a weekly newsletter with info and activities about our summer listening music, and more.

 

Summer Listening is made possible by:

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Raise Your Voice: Louisville Public Media’s Capital Campaign

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Louisville Public Media provides thoughtful, independent journalism and engaging, enriching arts and cultural programming to satisfy your curiosity. Your support will help us build a modern space for a growing staff and embrace new technologies so we can continue to deliver programming that matters to you.

619 S. 4th Street serves as the home of Louisville Public Media. Every week, hundreds of people come through our front doors. It is a wonderful space, but it needs to be completely remodeled to better meet our needs — and yours. After all, it’s been 20 years since we did this the last time. A lot has changed.

Raise your voice for Louisville Public Media in our community. See the plans here and give!

Louisville Orchestra Broadcasts

Teddy Abrams

The Louisville Orchestra broadcasts are coming to Classical 90.5, with select concerts on Thursdays at 8pm, starting May 19, 2016.

We’ll post details about upcoming broadcasts on our Louisville Orchestra page.

Video: Ben Sollee and Jacob Elementary

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Look what a difference your donations have already made in schools like Jacob Elementary. Thanks to Ben Sollee for helping us spread the word about the good you can do in our community by supporting Classical 90.5 and Instrumental Partners. Go to instrumentalpartners.org to see how you can help kids in our community get the tools of the trade. Everyone deserves the opportunity to play music.