J. Willard Roosevelt (1918-2008), grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, was quite an esteemed composer, a student of Nadia Boulanger and married to poet E.E. Cummings's daughter. He was the creator of an opera and many songs and chamber works, scores and recordings of which are preserved in the American Composers Alliance Archives. Little of his music has been performed since his death at age 90 ten years ago.
A long-in-planning labor of love led by Leonard J. Lehrman
will bring this music to the public in three free concerts, each containing different repertoire, mostly of the music of Willard Roosevelt. Reservations are recommended.
Support has come from NYSCA Decentralization Regrant program, the family of Willard Roosevelt, the Theodore Roosevelt Association, the Long Island Composers Alliance (of which he was a member), and Friends of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Public Library, which will be presenting its first classical concert in 18 years, devoted primarily to his music.
The first concert, all-Roosevelt, at Sagamore Hill, Fri. Apr. 20 at 7pm, will feature the Sagamore Hill Band, conducted by Stephen Walker, in a Fanfare and two band pieces he wrote for Sagamore Hill in memory of Kermit, his father, along with a set of viola duets (Willard was a violist himself); music for solo flute and for flutes & fiddles, with flutist Andrew Bolotowsky, for whom the pieces were written; songs for voice & viola, performed by soprano Elizabeth Palmedo (whom he coached on them); and a Serenade for oboe, viola and cello. The performers also include oboist Terry Keevil, cellist Kurt Behnke, and violists Daniel Hyman and Stephen Gorgone.
The second concert, also all-Roosevelt, at Poquatuck Hall in Orient, Sat. Apr. 21 at 4pm, will also feature Elizabeth Palmedo in E.E. Cummings & Lloyd Frankenberg songs she worked on with him, along with music for clarinet, piano, and baritone - songs on texts by Poe and Willard's son Caleb.
The other performers include baritone Michael Niemann, clarinetist Hilary Sperber, and pianist Leonard Lehrman.
The third concert, at Oyster Bay-East Norwich Public Library, Sun. Apr. 22 at 2:30pm will feature soprano Helene Williams in a work Willard wrote for her, commissioned by the Theodore Roosevelt Association, based on a letter from his grandfather to his father, along with settings of poetry by Shakespeare and Poe, including premieres by Harold Gilmore, Joel Mandelbaum and Jennifer Tibbets, the latter two written especially for this concert. The other performers include The Dakule Trio: Daniel Hyman, violin; Kurt Behnke, cello; Leonard Lehrman, piano. The climax of the program will be the song "The Progressive," written on a contemporaneous poem about Theodore Roosevelt, found at the library, composed for and premiered at Willard's 80th Birthday Concert in January 1998, which was attended by Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto. The final song on the program, by Roosevelt, is entitled, "Not Goodbye."
Please feel free to address any questions to Dr. Leonard Lehrman, friend and colleague to this composer.
Congratulations to everyone involved in putting these programs together.