The Omnibus television program of the 1950s and ‘60s has been called “the most successful cultural magazine series in the history of U.S. commercial television.” One of its most popular and innovative undertakings was a seven-part series on music—plus a bonus performance of selections from Handel’s Messiah—that Leonard Bernstein made for the program between 1954 and 1958.
Now the Arizona Senior Academy is presenting those eight episodes on separate dates this summer in the Academy’s Great Room. The final episode, to be shown at 3:30 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 4), is entitled “Handel’s Messiah.”
This episode is called a bonus in the DVD collection, since it does not follow the format of the preceding seven programs. It is an Omnibus Christmas performance of Bernstein conducting Handel’s Messiah. It’s just the performance, without any analysis or commentary, which is why it’s considered an extra.
Originally broadcast on Christmas Day, 1955, Bernstein conducts the Symphony of the Air, and the 40-voice Schola Canotorum, directed by Hugh Ross, will feature soloist William Warfield, Gloria Lane and Adele Addison.
In his introduction, Alistair Cooke gives the viewing audience the impression that they are going to hear the first and second parts of Messiah performed complete. Actually what is played is the first part (the Christmas portion) and about ten minutes of the second part (the Resurrection section).
Written by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer