America the Beautiful
Ward/Bates, arr. Carmen Dragon
"Across the Wide Missouri" -- traditional, arr. Carmen Dragon
"Yankee Doodle" -- traditional, arr. Morton Gould
"America the Beautiful" -- Ward/Bates, arr. Carmen Dragon
Californian Carmen Dragon (1914-1984) was a highly successful composer, arranger, and conductor. Trained at San Jose State College, he worked as a nightclub pianist, and then as an arranger in Hollywood. He eventually scored more than 30 films, as well as television and stage shows. He conducted at the Hollywood Bowl many times in the 1950s and '60s, recorded prolifically with the Hollywood Bowl Symphony, and served as music director of the Glendale Symphony for many years. His evocative arrangements - here of "Across the Wide Missouri," aka "Shenandoah," an American sea chanty much associated with the Western pioneer movement, and the powerful 1895 patriotic anthem "America the Beautiful" - are still performed by orchestras and choirs around the world.
A child prodigy, the multifariously talented Morton Gould (1913-1996) wrote his first compositions at the age of six. He studied at the Institute of Musical Art in New York and throughout his teen years gave piano recitals, in which improvisation on themes suggested by the audience usually played a part. From 1935 to 1942, Gould was the house composer/arranger/conductor for radio station WOR in New York, and he continued in that capacity to 1945 in sponsored broadcasts, such as "The Chrysler Hour" for CBS.
American vernacular themes figure largely in Gould's distinctive, rhythmically pointed music. Here he sets "Yankee Doodle" - that much-arranged American classic of hazy British origin - with characteristic panache.
-- John Henken