A Depression Era Guide To New Orleans

New Orleans Music: Orchestras

There are several orchestras in the city, only a few of which, however,
are permanent organizations. Albert Kirst's Orchestra, which plays
daily at the Fountain Room of the Roosevelt Hotel and broadcasts over
WWL, is one of the best known. There are also numerous spot orchestras
which have no permanent location but play intermittently as dance,
wedding, or banquet engagements are booked. Among them are Johnny
De Droit s Orchestra and Gordon Kirst s Orchestra. The Filiberto
Mandolin Orchestra, composed of thirty Orleanians under the direction
of Roger G. Filiberto, won first place in the Music Guild contests in 1934,
1935, and 1936.

Among the fifty or more Negro bands in the city, Celestin's Tuxedo
Orchestra stands out as one of the foremost in the South. Many out
standing musicians obtained their start with Oscar Celestin. There are
a variety of Negro choral groups in New Orleans which specialize in
spirituals, hymns, and classic and semi-classic melodies; performances are
given at churches, radio stations, clubs, and schools. The James A.
Gayle Music Company, Pythian Temple Building, is the only Negro
publishing company in New Orleans. Phonograph records of local music
may be purchased at stores along North Rampart Street.

Today the New Orleans Philharmonic Society, which succeeded the
Choral Symphony Society in 1906, is one of the city's leading musical
organizations. The society was formed by Miss Corinne Meyer and held
its first concert in the spring of 1907. The main object of this organization
is to bring to New Orleans outstanding artists and concert groups, whose
programs are presented at the Municipal Auditorium. In April 1936, in
celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the society, the
directors secured the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leo
pold Stokowski.

The Philharmonic Society also sponsors concerts of chamber music
groups such as the Dixon Hall Series, which gives performances at New-
comb College for the benefit of a scholarship fund, and the Junior Phil
harmonic, which offers competitive auditions to amateur artists.

The New Orleans Civic Symphony Orchestra, a newly organized group
under the direction of Arthur Zack, opened its initial season October 12
to March 25, 1936-37, presenting six concerts in all. The orchestra in
cluded sixty professional artists who presented selections from Bach,
Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner,
Franck, Debussy, Ravel, Elgar, and Strauss. The last concert in the
series presented a symphonic prelude, Orleans Alley, an impression of
New Orleans and its early-morning street cries composed by John Beach r
who taught and composed in the city from 1904 to 1907. Included on
the same program was New Orleans, an overture based on Mardi Gras,
which won for its composer, Mortimer Wilson, a five-hundred-dollar
prize offered by Hugo Riesenfeld of New York in 1920 for the best original
American overture. Youth concerts, showing the relation to the orchestra of
various groups, such as percussion, wind, brass, and string, are also presented.

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