Each Anchorage Symphony Orchestra concert has a corporate sponsor. The January concert was sponsored by Conoco-Phillips, whose presence in ads, goodwill-creating event underwriting and such is very high profile. The February concert will be underwritten by Exxon-Mobil, a company known for its generally low profile in recent years. The concert will be Saturday, February 23, three and a half days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears opening arguments in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker (07-219), better known in Alaska as the class action lawsuit over the Exxon Valdez oilspill and aftermath.
At each of these concerts, a spokesperson for the orchestra announces the current evening's underwriter to the audience, and asks for the audience to thank the sponsor for such generosity. Last season, when we were asked to thank Exxon, many in the audience sat with their hands folded, while most others clapped - some loudly. I heard a little bit of hissing, and I booed Exxon loudly.
Progressive Alaska's new poll asks questions about what one should do next Saturday, when the audience is asked to applaud a company many Alaskans continue to believe to be a corporate monster. I have many friends who have not been compensated justly for their material losses from the destruction caused by the spill, let alone the other hardships they and their families have endured.
The concert will feature the Alaska premiere of a new work, Piano Concerto No. 3, by Lowell Liebermann. Eighteen orchestras, including the Anchorage Symphony, have teamed up to commission and perform the concerto, written for pianist Jeffrey Biegel. Tom Strini, music critic of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, wrote of Liebermann's premiere there, "The big crowd...cheered the world premiere of Lowell Liebermann's striking Piano Concerto No. 3...the orchestra played this challenging new scored with the conviction it deserves...Arresting effects abound...They work within a large alternation of ferocity and tenderness that grows more and more affecting as the music unfolds."
The last new piano concerto commissioned and premiered by the Anchorage Symphony was my own, back in March, 2004. The orchestra has greatly honored me with their renditions of three orchestral and five chamber works of mine at their concerts over the past 18 years, more than by any other living composer. Randall Craig Fleischer, the ASO Music Director, is the most enthusiastic supporter of new music in the history of this ensemble. Randy's own new work, Triumph, was just that - a triumph - at its premiere here 13 months ago.
The orchestra will also give the Anchorage premiere of what many believe to be the greatest symphony written by a native-born American in the 20th Century, the Third Symphony of Aaron Copland. It has long been my favorite American symphony. The finale of the work begins with a rendition of Copland's most famous utterance, the Fanfare for the Common Man:
Copland wrote the Fanfare during World War II. He began writing the 3rd Symphony late in the war, finishing it shortly afterward. During the 1930s, Copland was heavily involved with many left-wing causes. In the McCarthy era, Copland ran afoul of McCarthy and the House of UnAmerican Activities. Here's how it went, when Copland was called to the stand:
McCarthy sought to discover why the composer was hired to give US embassy-sponsored lectures on music in Latin America and Italy.
McCarthy asked: "If you were a member of the Communist Party, let's assume you were, and you were selected to lecture you would be bound to try wherever you could to sell the communist idea, wouldn't you?"
"No doubt," Copland replied. A moment later he turned the tables, declaring: "I had no fear of sitting down at a table with a known communist because I was so sure of my position as a loyal American."
The senator pounced: "With what known communists have you sat down at a table?"
Well, replied Copland, there were the Soviet composers he had met during his international musical career. "I assume they are communists," he said.
Copland was not asked to return for public hearings.
How would Copland have dealt with an Exxon-sponsored event in which his fanfare for people like the common fishermen and fisherwomen of Cordova, Tatitlik, Valdez, Seward, Seldovia, Homer, Kodiak and a host of other communities is being played?
I'm planning on crying "SHAME!!!" when Exxon is named. What do you think? And, go ahead and take the poll if you wish.
image of oiled hand - ADN
Aaron Copland by candlelight, studio in the Berkshires, September, 1946, Mrs. Victor Kraft - Library of Congress