Seventy Year Saturday: 1947
With the world recovering from the worst war ever, World War II, and the cold war just starting, 1947 was a year of many musical landmarks.
In classical music, there are new operas by Benjamin Britten (Albert Herring), Gian Carlo Menotti (The Telephone) Francis Poulenc (Les mamelles de Tiresias), and Virgil Thomson (The Mother of Us All.) Sergei Prokofiev completes his 6th Symphony (Op. 111) reflecting the tragedies of World War II, and condemned by the Soviet government for its modernism. Arnold Schoenberg completes A Survivor from Warsaw, the grim story of a holocaust survivor during his ordeal in a Nazi concentration camp. Other notable works composed in 1947 include the following completed compositions: Samuel Barber – Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Vagn Holmboe – Symphony No. 6, Aram Khachaturian – 3rd Symphony, Witold Lutosławski – Symphony No. 1, Heitor Villa-Lobos – String Quartet No. 11, William Walton – String Quartet in A minor — and Edgard Varèse – unfinished work, Tuning Up, a parody of the orchestra tuning process before the start of a concert.
In jazz, bebop artists continue to gain the attention of listeners, Thelonious Monk, at age thirty, records several masterpieces for Blue Note including Ruby My Dear, Off Minor, Well You Needn’t, In Walked Bud (a tribute to Bud Powell, based on the chord progressions of Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies”), and the incredible ‘Round About Midnight. Wardell Grey and Dexter Gordon record The Chase, and Dexter Gordon and Teddy Edwards record The Duel. Charlie Parker, Max Roach and Miles Davis record several sides together under various names (Charlie Parker All Stars, Miles Davis All Stars, Original Charlie Parker Quintet) in combination with various other musicians such as Bud Powell, Duke Jordan, John Lewis, and J.J. Johnson. Parker also records tracks with trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, Howard McGhee, saxophonists Wardell Gray, Shorty Rogers, pianists Erroll Garner, Dodo Marmarosa, Russ Freeman, guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Red Callender, and others, leaving some incredible recordings for future generations to marvel over.
For those that were around New York City to catch live music, they could see the aforementioned Miles Davis All-Stars at the Savoy, Louis Armstrong at Carnegie Hall with his big band, and The Count Basie Orchestra at the Paradise Club in Atlantic City or at the Strand Theater in Lakewood, New Jersey, supporting Billie Holiday.
For musical theater lovers in London in 1947, Annie Get Your Gun (Irving Berlin) opened at the Coliseum on June 7 and ran for 1304 performances and Oklahoma! (Rodgers & Hammerstein) opened at the Theatre Royal on April 29 and ran for 1543 performances.
Of the many babies born in 1947, notable future rock composers and musicians include David Bowie and folk singer Sandy Denny, born in January, Derek Shulman and John Weathers of Gentle Giant born in February, Elton John in March, Steve Howe and Iggy Pop in April, Ronnie Wood, Mick Fleetwood and Mickey Finn (T.Rex) in June, Brian May (Queen), Arlo Guthrie, Peter Banks (Yes, Flash), Mitch Mitchell (The Jimi Hendrix Experience) and Carlos Santana in July, Ian Anderson in July, Marc Bolan and Meat Loaf in September, Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) and Laura Nyro in September, Greg Lake and Joe Walsh in November and Gregg Allman, Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra) and Burton Cummings in December.
In movies, we have the timeless Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street, as well as The Bishop’s Wife with Cary Grant and Loretta Lynn and It Happened on Fifth Avenue.
The next few years would bring major changes all over the world. Fortunately that world as it was in 1947 has been well documented in records, movies and books.