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Suite of Old American Dances
Robert Russell Bennett
Suite of Old American Dances was inspired by a concert in Carnegie Hall by the legendary Goldman Band. Composer Robert Russell Bennett wrote, “I suddenly thought of all the beautiful sounds the American concert band could make that it hadn’t yet...[Those sounds] were so new... after all my years with orchestra, dance bands and tiny combos that my pen was practically jumping out of my pock- et begging me to give this great big instrument some more music to play.”
“[It was] published [as] Suite of Old American Dances ... My name for it was Electric Park, [after the Kansas City amusement that] was a place of magic to us kids. The tricks with big electric signs, the illuminated fountains, the big band concerts, the scenic railway and the big dance hall—all magic. In the dance hall all afternoon and evening you could hear the pieces the crowds danced to, and [my] five movements were samples of the dances of the day.”
The composer further noted, "...There's no particular purpose in mind in the composition except to do a modern, and, I hope, entertaining version of some of the dance moods of my early youth...for symphonic band...”
Cake Walk: In this dance which originated on southern plantations as sort of a game, African-American slaves would do impressive-looking struts and kicks to jig-like banjo/fiddle music, often while dressed mockingly in the fashion of their white masters, sometimes while balancing something on their heads. Often there would be a prize of a piece of cake.
Schottische is a Scotch round dance, similar to a German polka but slower.
Western One-Step is a variation of an early ballroom dance that was a pre- cursor to the foxtrot although it may also have been based on a brothel dance called the Texas Tommy.
Wallflower Waltz is a 20th century take on the classic Viennese waltz.
Rag: The ragtime era coincided with the beginning of the century, and with a generation which was harshly criticized by its elders for embracing novel ideas. Bennett pushes the limits of his chosen 2/4 time with wild syncopations and 2-against-3 patterns, all in the spirit of ragtime music.
Composer Robert Russell Bennett (1894–1981) was born to a very musical family in Kansas City. After leading an Army band and studying in Paris he became a pre-eminent arranger and orchestrator on Broadway where his work earned Oscar, Tony and Emmy awards. He is well-known as orchestrator and arranger for Porgy and Bess, The Sound of Music, Show Boat, Camelot, the 1950’s TV series Victory at Sea and many others. He also produced sym- phonies, chamber works, and concertos as well as music for concert band.
Last updated on June 13, 2014 by Palatine Concert Band