Contributed By: Michelle Kish
Today we look back on the 1966-1967 season of the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra, a season of lyricists, opera and cutting-edge youth performances. The season ran from October 24, 1966 to April 3, 1967, consisting of seven regular performances and two Young People’s concerts.
The CCSO’s 22nd season was led by Conductor Maurice Peress, who began conducting with the orchestra in 1962 and would continue for 12 straight years. Peress would later go on to conduct an array of international orchestras from Hong Kong to Melbourne, and author the work Dvorak to Duke Ellington: A Conductor Explores America’s Music and Its African American Roots. As noted in a New York Times article written upon his death in 2018, Peress was known for his work with Ellington and Leonard Bernstein and his fondness for re-working historical concerts, something also reflected in the 66-67 CCSO season.
The season’s opening performance began at 8pm at the Del Mar Auditorium with a rendition of The Star Spanged Banner. As Melton B. James Chairman, Division of Fine Arts, Corpus Christi University, wrote in that night’s program notes, “It may be interesting to note that all of the music for this program, including the orchestration of the Star Spangled Banner, was written by French composers, providing the concert audience with a rare opportunity to compare the changing styles of French music from the early Romantic period to the twentieth century.”
The 22nd season’s two Young People’s Concerts, took place on January 14, 1967 and March 11, 1967. The first performance showcased “The Art of Orchestration,” notably opening with a performance of The Star Spangled Banner (as the regular season had), and also highlighting works such as Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and Maurice Ravel’s Beauty and the Beast from the Mother Goose Suite. Taking a noticeable and progressive turn, the March 11th concert was titled “From Chaos to Concrete: a Survey of the Newest Musical Styles,” and concluded with The Swallows of Salangan composed by Morton Feldman just a few years prior in 1960.
Also of note in the season was the February 6, 1967 performance of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied Von Der Erde (The Song of the Earth), A Symphony for Tenor, Contralto and Orchestra. Mahler was known for his work as a lyricist, and to highlight this, concert goers were treated to a full three pages of the program dedicated to the original German lyrics of Das Lied Von Der Erde in type.
The season concluded with a concert showcasing Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and after a brief intermission, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, with Final Chorus on Shiller’s “Ode to Joy,” D. minor, Opus 125. To say the stage may have been crowded is an understatement, as the night featured The North Texas State University Chorus, The All City Youth choir, The College of Arts and Industries Chorus (Kingsville), and the Victoria Junior College Chorus.