Volume 49, No.3 - Fall 2003
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 2003 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Interaction of National Spirit and American Tradition

Klaipėda University


Emigration of Lithuanians from their native country to America, having started in the seventeenth century, acquired a large scale over a period of several centuries. On the eve of World War One, the number of Lithuanians in the United States had reached half a million and often exceeded the number of immigrants of larger nationalities (Michelsonas, 14). Even if Lithuanian immigrants were enterprising and full of energy, their musical activities did not flourish at once. Few had received any formal musical education, and most were not able to read music (Petrauskaitė, 18). Some former village musicians carried their fiddles, concertinas and clarinets around with them and organized entertainments for Lithuanians or performed at wedding parties. At the beginning of the twentieth century, more musically educated Lithuanians came to the shores of America. They were mainly graduates of Juozas Naujalis's courses for organists or pupils of manor schools in Rietavas and Plungė, and they gradually formed the core of Lithuanian musical life. That life was most colorful and intensive. In accordance with the type of performance, musical activities developed in several parallel directions: 1) staged works of music, such as operas and operettas; 2) entertainments, such as vaudevilles; 3) song festivals, and 4) performances of vocal and instrumental music. Concerts of symphonic music belong to the last group. During the period of mass emigration, the number of symphonic concerts given was not very large, yet they impressed the general American community and influenced the image of Lithuanians in America.

From marching bands to symphony orchestras (1895-1945)

Lithuanian marching bands became generally known much earlier than church choirs or individual instrumentalists and singers. In this way, the Lithuanian community adopted the tradition of American musical life. However, Lithuanians often called those instrumental ensembles both "benas" (band) and "orchestra," because in Lithuanian the two words are synonymous. At that time, it was difficult to find a single village in the United States that could not boast of a band, a tradition which started to spread in the New World at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century (Hitchcock, 124). At the beginning, in the tradition of the British Army, marching bands spread through military divisions, police departments and fire brigades. Later they became an integral part of American musical culture at large: during the Civil War, bands boosted the patriotic spirit, participated in public festivals and ceremonies, and developed from marching ensembles to concert orchestras.

The first Lithuanian band formed in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania in 1885. It had about thirty participants, mostly performers of wind and percussion instruments. Such bands were soon found in every larger Lithuanian community. They gave concerts at all kinds of Lithuanian meetings, at congresses of different societies, at wedding parties and funerals, at outings and street processions. Their repertory included mainly marches and dances. Lithuanian bands were also frequently invited to play at the events of other ethnic communities, because they were extremely well organized, had their own regulations, uniforms and a bandmaster (Lith. generolas) elected from among the musicians. The bandmaster usually had acąuired some performing experience in Lithuania or Russia. V. Černiauskas arrived from the Russian Army with a variety of musical instruments and founded a Lithuanian band Kareivis (The Soldier) in Manchester, New Hampshire (Andrejūnas). The violinist Jonas Juozas Jakaitis had studied music in Bohdan Oginsky's Manor School and performed in its orchestra. He had been educated in Polish and learned Lithuanian only in the USA. Kazys Bučis, a graduate of the same school, had played the trumpet in orchestras in Rietavas and the Russian Army. When he settled in Cleveland, Ohio, and became the leader of the "Lithuanian National Band", the artistic level of the players improved significantly. Other bandmasters had been born and educated in Lithuania. Among the best known are Vytautas Sarpalius, George Victor (Teresevičius) and Adomas Jezavitas.

One of the first Lithuanians to write music for bands was Vincas Niekus, who started publishing Lithuanian dances in 1914, and later produced four "symphonic" compositions: Trimitas (The Trumpet), Gegužinė (A Picnic), Didžiojo Lietuvos kunigaikščio medžioklė ir sapnas (The Hunt and Dream of the Lithuanian Grand Duke), and Paukščių daina (Bird Song). Vincas Niekus called his compositions symphonic works, but he did not have much education in composition and did not fully understand the principles of the classical symphony. In any case among immigrants, his was the first attempt to compose large works for instrumental ensembles.

With the spread of jazz music after World War I, Lithuanian bands were unable to compete and started to disappear. At this time, however, new ensembles formed in Lithuanian parishes and schools to provide children with a musical education and to educate them in the Christian and national spirit. The role of instrumental ensembles in American public schools was very important. Almost every middle school in the United States had at least one band. Most high schools had a concert band, a marching band, and, sometimes even a symphony orchestra. The first Lithuanian symphony-type orchestras developed from some of them. Their leaders were mainly organists, choir leaders, or teachers of music. Antanas Pocius founded a 60-person-orchestra at the St. George Parish School in Chicago that won prizes in four orchestral competitions. In 1929, he founded the Small Orchestra in the Beethoven Conservatory, which he headed; in 1933, a 25-person orchestra of alumni of the Conservatory (Lietuviai muzikai Vakaruose, 201-202); and in 1937, the first symphony orchestra. Antanas Pocius was well liked by both musicians and audiences.

Following Pocius's example, Kazys Steponavičius founded a forty-person Lithuanian Symphony Orchestra in Chicago in 1929 and gave a number of concerts with the help of musicians from other professional unions. One took place in Chicago on June 16, 1933, during the Century of Progress exhibition. A united choir of 750 singers and a 100-person orchestra performed a number of Lithuanian folk songs and The Lithuanian Rhapsody by Jurgis Karnavičius. Orchestras participated in the staging of operettas, the cantata Broliai (Brothers) by Česlovas Sasnauskas and The Seven Last Words of Christ by François Clément Dubois. Symphonic compositions, however, were seldom included in the concert repertory because of a lack of professional training and a lack of some musical instruments. That was why, as a rule, the compositions of Stasys Šimkus, Juozas Karosas, Antanas Pocius or Vincas Niekus, as well as simpler pieces of music by American composers, would be chosen. On major holidays, compositions by Edward Elgar, Johann Strauss and Richard Wagner would be played, and once the Finale of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 was performed (Šv. Jurgio parapijos choro metinis koncertas).

Symphonic music spread throughout the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century and encouraged the formation of a number of orchestras. One of the first symphony orchestras was founded as the New York Philharmonic Society in 1842. Over the next few decades, symphony orchestras formed in Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. "If during the era the organ was king of instruments, the piano the queen, the orchestra was emperor" (Hitchcock, 89). New symphony orchestras continued to form in the first half of the twentieth century, elevating symphonic music to a still higher status.

In 1907, Mikas Petrauskas arrived in the USA, and began to build roads to symphonic music for the Lithuanian immigrants. At that time, the American operetta was flourishing, a genre close to Lithuanian hearts. To attract more spectators, Mikas Petrauskas hired luxurious American halls and expensive American orchestras. These were probably the first Lithuanian musical events with professional per-formers who played the orchestral parts of operettas and operas. Against that background, the opera Birutė by Mikas Petrauskas was staged at the International Theatre in the center of Chicago on May 31,1908, with the participation of musicians of the famous Theodore Thomas Symphony Orchestra (Ilgaudas, 11).*

* Theodore Thomas (1835-1905), the conductor, did more than any other American musician of the nineteenth century to popularize music of the great European masters. The popularity of symphony orchestras in the USA today is due in great part to the work of Thomas. In 1891, he was invited to lead the Chicago Orchestra. After his death, it was named the Theodore Thomas Orchestra; in 1912, it was renamed the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

On January 2, 1910, the operetta Šienapjūtė (Haymaking) by the same composer and the second act of Birutė were performed in Garlic Theatre with the participation of an orchestra. It was hardly a full-symphony orchestra, but rather a chamber ensemble, consisting of several string and wind instruments. When on May 29, 1929, Mikas Petrauskas gave a concert with the Aušrelė choir, the singers must have been accompanied by a similar orchestra. During the concert, compositions of Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Charles Gounod and Petrauskas himself were performed: fragments of operettas and Lasą No. 3. Petrauskas wrote three lasas, i.e., rhapsodies, based on folk motifs, mentioned by Juozas Žilevičius (Žilevičius, 26) and Vladas Jakubėnas (Jakubėnas). We have no information, however, about where and when these com-positions were performed or if their scores survived. It is only evident that Petrauskas collaborated with both Lithuanian and American orchestras. In 1924, when staging his opera Eglė žalčių karalienė (Eglė, Queen of the Serpents) in Boston, the composer made use of a full orchestra. At that time, he was accompanied by musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Gradually, Lithuanians learned that professional the-atrical works could not be staged with a small band, and that the participation of larger bands in mass events offered a richer sound and bound their fellow countrymen together in a much better way. Therefore, when organizing song days and festivals, they assembled a large number of instrumental players.

One of the first Lithuanian Days took place in Philadelphia in 1926, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the city. Only three ethnic groups—German, Hungarian and Lithuanian—participated in the procession. The latter was much superior to the other two and definitely attracted general attention. First of all, the Lithuanians man-aged to bring together a large number of performers: a united choir with 894 singers, five bands, a symphony orchestra and opera singers, as well as thousands of listeners (Jankauskas). During the Lithuanian Day, popular songs of Lithuanian and immigrant composers were performed, and a string and wind orchestra played Lithuanian instrumental works: folk melodies arranged by Antanas Pocius, Vincas Niekus and Wladislav Grigaitis.

Hiring a symphony orchestra was rather expensive for Lithuanian immigrants, and that was why during their festivals they were content with the services of several bands, which became a standard of their musical life. In 1939, bands also participated in one of the most famous Lithuanian Song Festivals in New York City. The scant interest of Lithuanians in symphonic music was not exclusively determined by financial factors. Other reasons were a shortage of educated listeners and the orientation of Lithuanians to genres of vocal music that seemed to preserve their national identity. Only in exceptional cases, in order to attract a general audience and to adapt to American traditions, did Lithuanians give concerts of symphonic music.

One of the most significant Lithuanian symphonic concerts took place on August 19, 1934, during the World Exhibition in Chicago. It was given under the open sky on the premises of the Swift Bridge of Service, which housed approximately 5,000 people. The audience did not have to pay for their tickets, because the 75-member Chicago Symphony Orchestra was sponsored by the Swift packing company. The initiators of the concert were Antanas Vanagaitis, editor of the Margutis magazine, and Juozas Olšauskas. Among Lithuanian immigrants they were well-known as composers and performers of light music, yet, in order to prove to other Americans that Lithuanians were advanced in the field of symphonic music as well, they undertook this difficult task. The first problem they faced was a shortage of musical literature. Therefore, Olšauskas made a special trip to Lithuania to meet with composers and borrovv some manuscripts. Thus, a symphonic poem Ruduo (Autumn) by Juozas Naujalis, Karžygių maršas (March of VVarriors), Undinių šokis (The Mermaid Dance) and Raganų šokis (The Witches' Dance) by Jurgis Karnavičius, as well as First Symphony by Vladas Jakubėnas, found their way to New York.

The concert consisted of two parts. In the first, conducted by Eric de Lamerter, the above-mentioned compositions were performed; while in the second, with conductor Antanas Olis, a potpourri of ten Lithuanian songs and several dances were played, folk songs and duets were performed, and children danced. The concert was broadcast by radio stations across the United States. This large audience was quite mixed in terms of musical education, and the concert program got different evaluations. American music connoisseurs preferred the first part (the Chicago Daily News suggested including the symphonic poem Ruduo (Autumn) by Naujalis in the repertory of ethnic music), and especially liked the symphony by Jakubėnas. Antanas Kalvaitis, Consul of Lithuania, also praised the composition. However, most Lithuanians, (noted by a Lithuanian reviewer) who were not familiar with modern music, had difficulty listening to the symphony by Jakubėnas. They had to strain to follow his musical thought and found it tiring. "Only a primitive song, the Polka and the Suktinis aroused their uninhibited enthusiasm. They ac-companied the second part of the concert with stormy applause and even stamped their feet, while during the symphonic concert they kept silent in a grim and apathetic way" (Davidonis, 658). An American reviewer (the name is not known to the author), who hinted that the music of the second part of the concert was somewhat simple and naive, yet quite tolerable, abstained from a more detailed evaluation.

However, by that symphonic concert, Lithuanians man-aged to gain prestige among other Americans and felt more united. They felt "they stood on the same level with other cultured nations" (Davidonis, 659). However, neither Vanagaitis nor Olšauskas ever attempted to organize a sym-phonic concert again. Such concerts turned out to be too expensive and not really essential to nationalist gatherings. Thus, that kind of music was occasionally performed either in Lithuanian or joint Lithuanian-American festivals. Its major aim was to build a more attractive image of Lithuanian immigrants, not to educate Lithuanian audiences to appreciate symphonic music. One could feel it in the observations of Vanagaitis before the above mentioned concert: "Other nations have been giving symphonic concerts with huge orchestras for several hundred years. They already have their own audience and music critics. We are giving such a concert in America for the first time, and for most of the audience it can be difficult to understand. But that is not the most important thing. Even if we are not able to understand all of it, people of other nations will understand. That is why the aim of Margutis is to give a concert not for ourselves, but for others. To spread Lithuanian music among people of other nations!" (Vanagaitis).

Between songs and symphonies (1946-1990)

In the period between 1946 and 1950, the United States received a second wave of Lithuanians—around 330,000 refugees (Jakštas, 426). A significant proportion of them be-longed to the intelligentsia that was educated, either in independent Lithuania or abroad, in the spirit of western culture. Thus, the musical life of Lithuanians in the United States was essentially renovated: the ranks of organists were reinforced by new members, new choirs and ensembles came into being, the musical education of Lithuanians became more rigorous, and the need for formal instrumental music grew significantly. Music became not only a pastime, a form of education for national spirit, or an indicator of professionalism among Lithuanians, but a means to fight for Lithuania's in-dependence. With the arrival of professional conductors, such as Jeronimas Kačinskas, Vytautas Marijošius and Aleksandras Kučiūnas, and of symphonic composers, such as Vytautas Bacevičius, Vladas Jakubėnas and Julius Gaidelis, the status of Lithuanian symphonic music in the United States became stronger. More possibilities appeared for organizing concerts of symphonic music.

At that time, symphonic music enjoyed special popularity in the United States. Large cities boasted major orchestras and small towns had community orchestras, whose concerts were gladly attended by the American public. Lithuanians also tried to apply the traditions of American cultural life to their musical activities and simultaneously to use American audiences for spreading artistic and political ideas.

In 1952, Valerija Tysliavienė, a pianist residing in Brooklyn and an employee of the WCB concert agency, was one of the first to organize a concert of symphonic music, choosing Carnegie Hali for the purpose. In this way, an attempt was made to attract the attention of American politicians to the fate of occupied Lithuania. Because the plan required a huge sum of money; she invited Latvians and Estonians to hold a joint event for the Baltic states. The invitation was accepted by a Latvian conductor, Bruno Skulte, who brought compositions of Jazeps Vitols with him, and by an Estonian composer Endel Kalama, who came with the score of a symphony by Eduard Tubin, vvhile Lithuanians were rep-resented by Jeronimas Kačinskas. The latter was authorized to select the most appropriate compositions. This was difficult because no one in the United States had the scores of symphonic poems by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Stasys Šimkus, or Juozas Gruodis, and there was no way of getting them from Lithuania. The only thing Kačinskas could do was to assemble a program of works by émigré composers. Among the compositions selected were The Legend and The Rhapsody by Vladas Jakubėnas, Symphony No. 1 by Vytautas Bacevičius, First Movement of Atpirkimo misterija (The Mystery of Salvation) by Jeronimas Kačinskas himself (called Prelude at that time), and Second Part of Sonata for Piano No. 2, with instrumentation by Vytautas Bacevičius. For this particular concert, Valerija Tysliavienė hired over seventy of the best instrumentalists from the orchestras of NBC Radio and the New York Philharmonic Society. The project required a lot of money, because before rehearsals could start, the parts for instruments had to be rewritten (an American, Theodore Katz took care of that). Valerija Tysliavienė ran up a large debt— over $5,000 was spent to hire the orchestra and the hall ("Koncerto pelnas ir nuostoliai")- It was vexing that, because of the friction between exile groups of different political views and because Lithuanians were not too interested in symphonic music, the event failed to attract an audience. After the unsold tickets had been returned, it turned out that the hall—with a capacity of 2,760 people—attracted merely 1,200: 900 people from the Baltic statės and about 300 others (Tysliavienė). The concert-master Rosenker commented on the indifference of the Baltic people to the efforts of their compatriots. Lithuanians found themselves in an embarrassing situation, yet the ones who attended the concert were happy to have witnessed such a special event. Singer Algirdas Brazis wrote: "I shall never forget that event. It was one of the most beautiful and most perfect concerts in the history of American Lithuanians. I am sorry for all those Lithuanians who failed to attend it. Such a concert can hardly ever be repeated" ("Atsiliepimai apie Baltų simfoninį koncertą").

It was definitely a historical event: Lithuanian art was presented on one of the most prestigious stages of the world. The concert got reviews in American publications. The New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, Musical Courier and Musical America made reserved, but favorable, comments on the musical event of the Baltic States. The reviewers stated that the concert was of a high standard, and the works performed were masterly. "The program as a whole reflected mastery of conservatory implements of composition and orchestration, but despite the use of folk music, there was little that this listener could identify as specifically of the Baltic style" ("Concert and Recital"). Although the program. pointed out that "treasures of folk music that had kept the national spirit alive in these suppressed countries for generations became an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the composers," this concert made it apparent that the composers of the Baltic nations have "by no means limited themselves to nationalistic sources or folk material" ("Baltic Symphony Concert"). The critics mentioned the distinct influence of Russian composers and impressionists, and yet they characterized the phenomenon as the process of formation of national schools which, in their opinion, were developing in the right direction ("Baltic Works Heard at Carnegie Concert"). Lithuanians were happy with the encouraging reviews in the major American dailies, which were usually quite reserved about unknown composers, and pleasantly surprised by the desire of the critics to hear more of similar music in the future. The desire was perceived as an invitation to continue organizing similar concerts and as a striving of Americans to learn more about the culture of the subjugated Baltic nations. Alas, it was the first and last symphonic concert on that scale; and, incidentally, it was recorded in the first long-playing Lithuanian record to appear in exile.

The concert encouraged the exile intelligentsia to pay greater attention to symphonic vvorks and to include them in concerts given on significant occasions. In 1953 in Chicago, on the 25th anniversary of the Margutis magazine, Vytautas Marijošius conducted the Overture by Carl Maria Weber, the symphonic poem Preludes by Franz Liszt, and Minuet by Vladas Jakubėnas. In their turn, American conductors, when making symphonic programs, would sometimes include compositions of Lithuanian authors. In 1948, for example, in its cycle of summer concerts, the Chicago Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nikolaj Malko, per-formed The Lithuanian Rhapsody by Sister Bernarda and, in 1954, the suite Miško šventė (The Forest Festival) by Vladas Jakubėnas. The concerts were highly appreciated by both the Lithuanian and American publics. Incidentally, in concerts offered by Lithuanians, American critics wanted to hear more Lithuanian symphonic music. Critic Borovsky from the Chicago Sun Times regretted that Vytautas Marijošius had only performed the Minuet by Jakubėnas, but not the whole symphony ("Pasikalbėjimas su Vyt. Marijošiumi"). The Lithuanian conductor, however, did not have a choice. He would not have been able to get a four-part-composition ready in the single rehearsal that he was allowed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Miško šventė performed at Grant Park got good reviews in several Chicago papers: Sun Times, Daily News, Chicago Tribune ("Du Chicagos kompozitoriai pagerbti Grant Parke"). Ali the critics commented favorably on the Lithuanian initiative in the field of symphonic music and emphasized that immigrants of other nationalities in the United States failed to take this kind of initiative. After favorable reviews in the American press, Miško šventė was also performed at De Paul University in Chicago in 1957, at Boston University (conducted by Jeronimas Kačinskas) in 1958, and in the hall of the Brooklyn Music Academy, with Jakubėnas himself conducting.

Having learned that it was possible by means of symphonic music to gain prestige and to consolidate Lithuanians in exile, some Lithuanian composers proposed to offer a symphonic concert at least once a year and to perform exclusively compositions by Lithuanian authors. Julius Gaidelis thought that major Lithuanian publications should undertake that mission because other organizations would hardly manage to deal with the financial difficulties; he also suggested establishing a special foundation to foster symphonic music (Gaidelis, 1954). Even if he understood that "for the greater part of the Lithuanian intelligentsia it served as just a sleep-ing pili" (Gaidelis, 1954), the composer never lost hope of finding an appropriate place for it in the musical life of Lithuanians. He stated that it was possible to learn to like symphonic music simply by listening to it and that symphonic music was the greatest phenomenon in the field of music (Gaidelis, 1958). Not only did he propagate his ideas in the press, but occasionally gave lectures on the develop-ment of Lithuanian symphonic music which he would demonstrate with examples recorded on tape. But even the most popular Lithuanian newspapers found hiring an orchestra too expensive and were mainly content with American concerts conducted by Lithuanians.

Vytautas Marijošius was the first to enter the American musical community. In 1950, he started teaching at the Hartt School of Music which, as the Hartt College of Music, would be one of the three founding institutions of the University of Hartford in 1957, He taught conducting, score reading and conducted the Hartt symphony and string orchestras until his retirement in 1977; he was persuaded to continue on the faculty after retirement until 1984. In 1963 Marijošius was invited to conduct the Manchester Symphony Orchestra, which was based in a suburb of Hartford. As conductor, he participated in a number of music festivals in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois, as well as in various events sponsored by Lithuanian public organizations. The audiences of those concerts consisted mainly of Americans. However, Marijošius did not forget his patriotic mission and, whenever there was a possibility, included works of Lithuanian composers in concert programs. In such cases, the concerts were attended by Lithuanian audiences and reviewed in the Lithuanian press.

Vytautas Marijošius not only performed Lithuanian compositions, but sometimes also commissioned them. It was thanks to him that Julius Gaidelis wrote his Sixth Symphony, which was performed at the Hartford Music Festival on July 19, 1961, with Marijošius as conductor. It was an extraordinary event, but neither Lithuanians from Boston, where the composer lived, nor from Hartford took an interest in it. In any case, thanks to Marijošius, Lithuanian symphonic music was enriched by a new work and rose onto the American concert stage. After the concert, which took place in summer and, in accordance with American tradition, under the open sky, the conductor became a success. The Hartford Times stated: "Clarity and wholeness, characteristic of all the concert, was a good lesson for all the conductors who conducted concerts under the open sky" (Santvaras).

On September 1, 1968, Marijošius conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Lincoln Center. The concert consisted mainly of vocal pieces (Lithuanian folk songs and songs of various composers, as well as excerpts from operas by Kazimieras Viktoras Banaitis and Julius Gaidelis), but Marijošius managed to include two symphonic works, The Dramatic Overture by Gaidelis and the prologue from the opera Dana. One of Marijošius's greatest achievements was a concert of symphonic music given in 1970, during the Eighth Congress of the Ateitininkai Federation. The first half consisted of Lithuanian compositions and the second of the works of Ludwig van Beethoven, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth. In the Lithuanian part, two excerpts from Vladas Jakubėnas' suite Miško šventė and a symphonic poem Jūra (The Sea) were performed. The latter performance was a historical event, assisted by many people who contributed either time or money. Sixty-five musicians had to be hired, mainly members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The complete score was easily obtained from Lithuania, but the instrumental parts had to be written down by hand. Juozas Kreivėnas and Gintra Narienė undertook that rather complex task. They copied the wind and percussion parts by hand and made enlarged photocopies of string scores, to be glued on separate sheets of paper. Because of a shortage of rehearsal time, in the opinion of some critics, the composition lacked maturity. Marijošius understood that hiring large orchestras was too heavy a burden for the Lithuanian community and proposed a way out: hiring small (35 to 40-person) orchestras and holding periodical festivals of Lithuanian music (St. S). But this proposal was also difficult to implement.

After the Baltic States' Carnegie Hall concert in 1952, Jeronimas Kačinskas became an acknowledged authority. The Lithuanian community invited him to conduct the Washington Symphony Orchestra on June 20, 1953, during the commemoration of the 700th anniversary of Lithuanian statehood, where Legenda (The Legend) by Vladas Jakubėnas, Lietuvoje (In Lithuania) by Juozas Gruodis and other compositions vvere performed. He also conducted the Boston University Symphony Orchestra during the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Lithuania's independence on November 16, 1958, when fragments of Symphony No. 4 by Julius Gaidelis and Miško šventė by Jakubėnas, as well as works by Kačinskas and an American composer Marvin Rabin were performed. The initiator of the latter concert was Kačinskas himself. As early as 1957, he had tried to persuade his countrymen to assemble a program of symphonic music to introduce to American audiences. "Songs, dances, mystery plays are fine, but they are not all we have. They are pleas-ant for an uneducated eye and soul, but they do not help others to recognize what Lithuanians have apart from short songs, dances and other shorter works of art" (Kačinskas). In the spring of 1958, a group of cultural enthusiasts, united by a famous public figure, Antanas Matjoška, began to implement the idea. Financial assistance from the Department of the Common Foundation of American Lithuanians made it possible to hire the Boston University Orchestra. The concert, one part of which consisted exclusively of Lithuanian compo-sitions, was included in the cycle of the 1958-1959 academic year at Boston University. As this extraordinary event in the musical life of Boston Lithuanians approached, the organizers felt very excited. They addressed their countrymen in the newspapers and invited them to fill the famous Boston Symphony Hall, as "a matter of our duty and our honor" ("BALF'o Bostono lietuvių komiteto kreipimasis"), and they tried to attract the attention of other Americans with a promotional flyer in English and other means of publicity. Kačinskas was especially worried, because he knew how in-different most Lithuanians were to modern works. At every opportunity, he invited everyone to come to the concert and "to treat quite innovative Lithuanian music in a sincere way" (Mockus). But his worries were groundless: on the 16th of November, the hall that could house over 2,000 people was almost full. Kačinskas's conducting was evaluated by Lithuanians as academic, yet in excellent taste, with the maximum revealing of dynamic nuances and orchestra colors (Vasyliūnas).

On March 17, 1959, thanks to American supporters, Kačinskas was given the opportunity to conduct the Brockton Symphony Orchestra vvhich, on that special occasion, performed his Lento. This was the start of close cooperation between the Lithuanian conductor and American musicians.

Victor Manusewitch, leader of the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra, was one of the conductors who encouraged American composers to write symphonic music. Each year he asked one of his musicians to write a modern work of music and facilitated its performance. In 1959, Kačinskas was chosen for the task. He wrote Symphonic Fantasy No. 2, performed by the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra in Sanders Theatre on April 10, 1960. The Lithuanian musician was a huge success. After the concert the audience, enchanted by Kačinskas composition, would not let him leave the stage. The concert was successfully repeated on July 7th. Both concerts, however, were poorly attended by Lithuanians.

In Boston and its suburbs, Kačinskas had won the recognition of American musicians. Therefore, it was little wonder that in 1960 he was selected from among thirty candidates to conduct the Melrose Symphony Orchestra in Massachusetts. Kačinskas held the position for almost nine years and gave about thirty concerts during that time. The repertory reflected the tastes of American audiences and the capacity of the volunteer orchestra. Kačinskas never tried to include symphonic works by modern Lithuanian composers in his programs and confined himself to music of the Baroque, Classic and Romantic periods, but he sometimes invited Lithuanian soloists (Kazys Jakutis, Zenonas Nomeika, Izidorius Vasyliūnas, Benediktas Povilavičius) to enrich the concerts with their repertories. In 1964, he performed the symphonic poem Miške (In the Forest) by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis and some American critics started to take serious interest in Lithuanian music. They noted that the conductor "made a lot to improve the quality of the orchestra by paying attention to its intonation, sound, the ensemble balance, phrasing, rhythm, the perspective and the differences in style" (Tyler). Alas, Lithuanian émigrés hardly ever attended concerts by an American orchestra, but on occasion invited Kačinskas to conduct at special events.

Such an event took place on November 25, 1962, during the Second Culture Congress in Chicago. Its organizing committee, with Vladas Jakubėnas as its head, decided to give a symphonic concert of works by Lithuanian composers. Fifty-three musicians of the Chicago Lyric Opera were hired for the purpose. The conductor confined himself to short and technically simple works because, due to a shortage of money, only one rehearsal could be held. The selected works were Intermezzo Rustico by Jakubėnas, several parts of Vilniaus siuita (The Vilnius Suite) by Kačinskas himself, The Lithuanian Rhapsody by Mieczyslaw Karlovvicz, Lietuviški šokiai (Lithuanian Dances) by Julius Gaidelis and a chorus from the opera Pagirunai by Stasys Šimkus. The organizers of the congress had some misgivings about the program, but the conductor could do nothing about them: he did not have any symphonic scores from composers in Lithuania, and it was too risky to perform the complex symphonies of Julius Gaidelis or Vytautas Bacevičius after only one rehearsal. As a matter of fact, it was not easy for the orchestra to learn a number of new works in such a short time. However, thanks to Kačinskas, the performers overcame all difficulties and got excellent reviews from the orchestra director. In any case, there were not many Lithuanian or American listeners in the concert: Lithuanians had another event at the same time, and Americans found the hall of Maria High School too out of the way. Therefore, the concert was not mentioned in the major English-language dailies, while the Lithuanian press, with its controversial reviews, concluded that Lithuanians were not y et mature enough for large cultural events.

Symphony orchestras participated in the musical life of Lithuanians, not so much as the performers of symphonies, but rather of opera, choir or national music. For example, the symphony orchestra that performed at the National Dance Festival in Chicago on July 7, 1963, played dances arranged by Jonas Zdanius and received good reviews (Kreivėnas, 1963, 25). In February 1968, a fifty-member symphony orchestra, which on that occasion agreed to be named "Lithuanian Council of Chicago Orchestra," performed the cantata Kovotojai (The Fighters) by Julius Gaidelis together with the Dainava Ensemble. By the way, the orchestra of the Chicago Lyric Opera regularly assisted the Lithuanian Opera that staged over forty operatic works. Lithuanians would sometimes attend concerts of symphonic music when Lithuanian musicians accompanied the orchestra, such as the pianists Saulius Cibas, Aldona Kepalaitė, Andrius Kuprevičius, Manigirdas Motekaitis, Antanas Smetona, Alvydas Vasaitis and the violinists Elena Kuprevičiūtė and Izidorius Vasyliūnas, or when composers gave concerts of their works (Giedra Gudauskienė, Vladas Jakubėnas, Jeronimas Kačinskas and Bruno Markaitis). Thus, on May 23, 1968, a special concert arranged by artistic clergymen took place with the participation of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which was conducted by the American composer Elyanhum Shapiro. It performed works of Robert Schumann, Carl Maria von Weber and Bruno Markaitis, a Lithuanian Jesuit. The latter presented two compositions especially writ-ten for the performance: Concertino No. 1 for Piano and Wind Instruments and Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra. The part of the piano was played by a Jesuit priest, Leslie Schnierer. The concert got favorable reviews from the well-known music critic Elliot W. Galkin in The Baltimore Sun, and Lithuanians had something to be proud of. Be that as it may, symphonic concerts were not given or attended regularly. Major Lithuanian gatherings missed the opportunity to make even partial use of a symphony orchestra. In 1956, when the organizers of a Song Festival of American and Canadian Lithuanians proposed including an orchestra in the list of participants, the proposal was rejected, because "the purpose of the Song Festival was entirely different" (Red.).

In the 1980s, the "re-orgai"—a reactionary political group, opponents of the Lietuvių bendruomenė (Lithuanian Community), tried to reorganize the organization or even to do away with it, and to influence cultural activities of Lithuanians to a greater degree. The "re-orgai" noticed the indifference of the Lithuanian Community to symphonic music and, having hired the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and an American conductor, gavę several concerts. In one of them, the works of Vladas Jakubėnas were performed, as the author himself admitted, in an excellent manner (J.K., 16). In another concert, the Fourth Symphony of Julius Gaidelis was played with tremendous success: the author was advised to present the work for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. The Lithuanian Community, however, chose to boycott the performance, because it did not want any relationship with a political group, which used the concerts as a means to attract the Lithuanian intelligentsia. Such political bickering was harmful for the Lithuanian composers. The Lithuanian Community refused to subsidize the recording of Gaidelis's symphony, which made participation in the competition impossible. Gaidelis, author of six symphonies, had hardly any opportunity to listen to his own compositions in the United States. The performance of the Fourth Symphony was one of those rare opportunities, yet the newspapers were instructed to ignore the concert because it was arranged by the "reor-gai." The Lithuanian daily Draugas refused to take even paid advertisements for the event (Kreivėnas, 1980). Later on, there were regrets about this: "Don't we have any feelings for the composer and for a Lithuanian composition, are we so blinded by politics that we stopped distinguishing between culture, the Lithuanian spirit and private attitudes?" (Vasyliūnienė). It was a huge error on the part of the Lithuanians. They failed to exploit the favorable attitude of American audiences towards Lithuanian composers and to support Gaidelis, who missed a chance to become a Pulitzer Prize winner. Thus, the opportunity to align with professional American composers, and for Lithuanian symphonic music to gain in prestige, was lost.

In the last decades of the 20th century, concerts of Lithuanian symphonic music in the United States were rare. With Vytautas Marijošius and Jeronimas Kačinskas leaving the stage, almost no opportunities were left to perform the works of Lithuanian composers with American orchestras. Of course, there was Arūnas Kaminskas who occasionally took up the conductor's baton, making his debut as a conductor with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra in Chicago in 1979. He later collaborated with the Grant Park, Cicero and Illinois Symphony Orchestras and with the Lithuanian Opera. Vytautas Marijošius spoke of him as a very promising conductor (Marijošius). Alvydas Vasaitis also sometimes con-ducted a symphony orchestra. It was due to his efforts that symphonic works by Jakubėnas were performed in Chicago in 1973.


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Translated by Laima Servaitė