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Monday, March 16, 2009

Bernstein's Young People's Concerts

Lenny Bernstein did children's concerts better than anyone. His NY Philharmonic programs were always different, televised, and interesting for all.

I discovered an excerpt of Gunther Schuller's "Journey into Jazz" (written in 1962) with Bernstein as narrator. This performance in Avery Fisher Hall dates from 1964.

The text is a children's narrative by Nat Hentoff. It tells the story of a young boy named Eddie Jackson ("Peter" in this version) who learns to become a jazz musician through hard work, practice, and life experience.

It looks like the jazz musicians are an all-star cast, with Don Ellis, trumpet; Benny Golson, tenor sax; Eric Dolphy, alto sax, flute; Richard Davis, acoustic double bass; Joseph Cocuzzo, drums; backed up by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Gunther Schuller is the conductor.

(Dolphy's solo is "out there")

In 1962 the Young People's Concerts were the first programs to be televised from Lincoln Center. Bernstein conceived and conducted a total of 53 shows. They were all broadcast on CBS and syndicated in more than 40 countries. Bernstein left the NY Philharmonic as music director in 1969, but he continued to lead the Young People's Concerts as a guest conductor until 1971.

Not only does the video bring back memories, but I think the shows were more insightful than the pretentious "Charles Elliot Norton" lectures that he delivered at Harvard in the 1970's.

"Music is being made. Come on in."