Leonard Bernstein-1The 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—plus a bonus eighth performance—Leonard Bernstein made for the program between 1954 and 1958.

Now the Arizona Senior Academy is presenting those eight programs on separate dates this summer in the Academy’s Great Room. The fifth, to be shown at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (July 13), is entitled “Introduction to Modern Music.”

In this episode, Bernstein makes a case for modern, experimental music, hoping to persuade his audience to “hate it less, or hate it more intelligently, or even grow to like it.” In the words of one reviewer, Bernstein is “a very patient teacher, and he anticipates his students’ first objection to the modernism of his time: ‘What has happened to beauty?’ The beauty of Mozart, say, or Tchaikovsky?”

In order to answer this question, Bernstein uses easily visualized analogies to baseball and numerous more or less familiar symphonic passages to explain basic music theory—tonality, harmonics, chord structure, scale patterns, melody, dissonance.

Originally broadcast on Jan. 13, 1957, the episode includes appearances by soprano Saramae Endich and the Julliard String Quartet.

Later ASA programs from the “Leonard Bernstein: Omnibuscollection will cover J.S. Bach, grand opera, and a bonus performance of Bernstein conduction selections from Handel’s Messiah.

Omnibus was created by the Ford Foundation, which sought to increase the education level of the American public. The show’s producer, Robert Saudek, pledged to “raise the level of American taste” with educational entertainment. It won more than 65 awards, including seven Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards.

Written by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer

More Info on attending an event
Academy Village is an active-adult community located off Old Spanish Trail six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East. Its residents support the Arizona Senior Academy, a non-profit charitable organization whose mission includes offering free concerts and lectures to the public.

These events are held in the Great Room of The ASA Building adjacent to the Academy Village Community Center. Due to the popularity of cultural events, non-residents who wish to ensure priority seating are advised to make reservations by email at info@arizonasenioracademy.org or by phone at (520) 647-0980. To learn more about the Academy, go to www.asa-tucson.org.

Parking for visitors is in the lot behind the Community Center. All parking spaces in front of the Academy building are reserved.

Bernstein’s Omnibus: ‘Introduction to Modern Music’: July 2016
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