The Life of Richard Henry Horner Bales

RICHARD HENRY HORNER BALES As a nation, we are in the midst of commemorating the 150th anniversary (2011 through 2015) of the Civil War. We are also about to inaugurate the 44th President of the United States. These two events have at least one thing in common: Richard Henry Horner Bales. This makes it the ideal time to remember the gifts Richard Bales (1915-1998) gave to us. Bales was a conductor and composer who was the first music director of the National Gallery of Art and served in that capacity from 1942 until 1985. In addition to his duties as Conductor, Bales composed a number of cantatas regarding American history. Two of his better-known works were inspired by the Civil War: The Confederacy and The Union. The New York Times referred to another famous piece by Bales, The Republic, as “a celebration of the American Revolution.” The Republic has been performed at every US Presidential inauguration since 1957. After attending Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Bales studied music at the Eastman School of Music in New York (Bachelor of Music, 1936) and at Juilliard (graduate school, 1938-1941). In the summer of 1940, he studied conducting under Serge Koussevitzky (Conductor, BSO) who founded the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood (now known as the Tanglewood Music Center) in 1940, three years after Tanglewood was established as the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. (For a look at Tanglewood training in1940’s and to hear some fine music, see The Tanglewood Story at features/the-tanglewood-story.aspx) Bales’ conducting debut was with the National Symphony Orchestra in 1935. He then became the Conductor of the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra (1936-1938). He was hired in 1943, as the first Director of Music for the National Gallery of Art. There he helped organize the first National Gallery Orchestra and conducted his first concert at the Gallery in July of 1943. The initial orchestra was Composed of 25 members who were all members of the National Symphony Orchestra as well. Bales built the Gallery’s Orchestra in size and stature over the years until it reached the level of a full symphony orchestra. Having started at the Gallery during WWII, Bales conducted the Gallery’s free concerts on Sundays for members of the armed services. The concerts continued for the general public after the war and Bales conducted more than 1700 free concerts for, by Gallery estimates, hundreds of thousands of visitors. Bales initiated the Gallery’s American Music Festival, the longest-running annual concert series to feature American composers’ music. He also arranged for the concerts to be broadcast by radio starting in 1950. This practice continued beyond the end of his tenure until 1992. In1945-1946, Bales also served as the Conducting music director for the National Cathedral Choral Society. He received the 1960 Alice M. Ditson Award from Columbia University, an honor for conductors committed to the performance of American music. Bales premiered his composition, “A Dirge for Two Veterans,” based on a work of Walt Whitman, at a Sunday evening concert on June 30, 1985, his last performance before retiring from the National Gallery. Engraved on the headstone Richard Bales shares with his wife, Betty Starley Bales (1916-1997), is the Joseph Addison quote...“Music, the greatest good that mortals know, and all of heaven we have below.” Sources: ; ; BY Aryeh Oron (2011) ;

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