History of Canton Symphony Orchestra
Enjoy this collected archive of past events of our great organization. It spans every decade since we were founded, and we will continue to add to it as we organize our physical archives.

If you have something to contribute, please email nmaslyk@cantonsymphony.org
1930

January 26, 1938

The orchestra is incorporated, and Richard Oppenheim is named its first Music Director.

The Canton Symphony Orchestra Association was incorporated in 1938. Richard Oppenheim, a professor of violin at Mount Union College, was invited to form the orchestra. He held auditions and selected 70 musicians to make up the orchestra.

This orchestra operated somewhat differently from other community orchestras mostly in the fact that the members were paid for their services. This created a sense of discipline and professionalism among the players.

February 16, 1938

The Canton Symphony Orchestra performs its first concert.

Season tickets for the orchestra’s first season of 4 concerts sold for $2 & $4 ($1 for students)

 

This first concert was free to the public and took place in the City Auditorium, before a crowd of ~3,300!

On the program:
Beethoven: Egmont Overture
Haydn: Symphony No. 94 in G Major “Surprise”
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, Op. 35 – III. The Young Prince and The Young Princess
Tchaikovsky: Marche Slave

75 years later to the day, the orchestra will perform the same program (however with all 4 movements of Scheherazade, and no Tchaikovsky)

Single tickets were 25 cents, 50 cents, & $1

April 20, 1938

First concert for which admission was charged.

Single tickets were 25 cents, 50 cents, & $1

November 9, 1938

Renowned 17-year-old virtuoso Frederick Vogelgesang appears with the CSO as violin soloist.

Mr. Vogelgesang was a child prodigy who began studying the violin at age 4. He graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music where he was a student of Efrem Zimbalist. At 18, he was the youngest member of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He also became the orchestra’s official pianist.

During his career, Mr. Vogelgesang was also a member of the Denver Symphony, NBC Symphony, CBS Symphony, Metropolitan Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, New York City Ballet, American Symphony and the New York City Opera, where he played for almost 30 years. He worked with Arturo Toscanini, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy and Leonard Bernstein, who had also been one his classmates at Curtis.

He also conducted at the Roxy Theatre and Radio City Music Hall and for many Broadway shows. During World War II, he played French horn with the U.S. Air Force Band.

Mr. Vogelgesang made many recordings throughout his life, playing violin, piano, viola and French horn, and perhaps his most famous recording was of the Brahms horn trio in which he played all three parts himself. He was also a music teacher and coach.

 

January, 1939

Soprano Genevieve Rowe is a guest artist with the CSO

Background coming soon.

March, 1939

Russian conductor, opera producer, impresario, and broadcast commentator Boris Goldovsky performs with the CSO as piano soloist

Background coming soon.

October 25, 1939

1000 seats still available.

1000 seats still available at 35c Other seats 75c to $1.00

1940

February 14, 1940

A special greeting from the orchestra

Dennis R. Smith wrote the following (in The Repository) to the CSO:

"Your splendid efforts surely give
A better town in which to live.
You bring to us mid care and strife
Some of the better things in life."

March 28, 1940

An early editorial on the CSO, from The Repository

The day after a Canton Symphony concert featuring violinist Frederick Vogelgesang, which drew an audience of 3,000 to the city auditorium, this editorial appeared in The Repository:

“When the echo of the closing note in last night’s symphony concert lost itself in city auditorium, there was an almost tangible sense of civic pride.

It was the tenth concert given by the orchestra, the tenth satisfied crowd, the end of the orchestra’s second full season.


What was an experiment two and a half years ago had become a soundly established institution in the community, assured of continued support.

Its future is assured, not because the necessary funds are in hand, but because the necessary confidence has been won. To borrow a phrase from commerce, the orchestra has “consumer acceptance.”

Quality of its music, good from the outset, was measurably better this season than it was last season. The kinks that originally made preparation for concerts difficult are gone. Conductor Oppenheim has developed an orchestra from what was originally a crowd of musicians.

Congratulations to those who have had the vision and determination to give Canton one of its valued civic assets.”

November, 1940

CSO’s first Junior Orchestra

Music Director, Richard Oppenheim, organizes Canton Symphony Orchestra’s first Junior Orchestra. Rehearsals began in November of that year.

February 22, 1941

The first Symphony Ball

Canton Symphony Association’s first “Symphony Ball” was on February 22, 1941. It cost a whopping $2 per couple to attend, with “dancing” and “entertainment.”

March 29, 1941

Pre-concert article on season finale

Music Director, Richard Oppenheim, is lauded heavily in this article as he prepares for the final concert of the season.

April 23, 1941

The first Junior Symphony Orchestra concert

The first concert performed by the Junior Symphony Orchestra was to an audience of 1,000 at the Lincoln High School auditorium.

October 24, 1944

Australian-born composer, arranger & pianist Percy Grainger performs with the CSO as piano soloist

A reminiscence/journal entry written by Percy Grainger while in Canton in 1944.

Grainger returned as piano soloist during the 1947-48 CSO season, as well.

July, 1945

Pianist Jesús Maria Sanromá & violinist Tossy Spivakovsky are among the renowned soloists during the CSO’s 1945-46 season

• Sanromá on October 16, 1945
• Spivakovsky on December 5, 1945

July, 1947

The orchestra plays its first outdoor “pops” concert, at Meyers Lake

A thousand seats at tables, surrounded by a brick-walled garden, were supplemented by benches and chairs, bringing the capacity up to 2,000.

The Stark County Story
p.617

 

December 22, 1948

The orchestra’s first chapter comes to a sudden, and sad, close

Canton Symphony Orchestra’s first conductor, Richard Oppenheim, dies unexpectedly shortly before rehearsal. Orchestra members found him slumped, unresponsive, in his office.
 
Oppenheim’s death was a true tragedy for the organization and the people who served it. He loved it, and died doing what he truly loved. It was beautiful, in a way.

March 8, 1949

Canton Economist: “Save the Symphony”

After Oppenheim’s death, the future of the orchestra was uncertain. New leadership was needed, but the orchestra was still deeply affected by the sudden loss of their conductor.
 
A campaign to “Save the Symphony” was started to sustain the organization until new leadership could be found.

March 27, 1949

Louis Lane is named Music Director

Some interesting background on Lane from around the same time:

Louis Lane had never conducted an orchestra in 1947 when he auditioned for an apprenticeship with George Szell, legendary music director of the Cleveland Orchestra. The audition required each candidate to “shadow conduct” the first movement of a symphony by Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms. Lane chose Mozart’s Symphony no. 28 because he thought that Szell might not be familiar with it. (Eventually Szell recorded it.)

While Lane conducted himself humming Mozart’s themes, Szell followed along in the miniature score Lane had borrowed from the library at the Eastman School of Music,

where he was a graduate student. Szell then asked Lane to sit down at the piano and play Chopin’s “E-Major Etude”—in a different key. Having accomplished that daunting challenge, Lane was given an hour to orchestrate a Beethoven piano sonata. After he had completed about 30 bars, Szell voiced his approval and said “I think you will do.” That was high praise from the stern maestro with whom Lane was associated for the next 23 years as apprentice conductor, assistant conductor, associate conductor, keyboard player, chorus accompanist and music director of the summer pops orchestra. In addition to his work with the Cleveland Orchestra, he directed Lake Erie Opera Theater and the Akron and Canton symphonies.

November 30, 1949

Pianist Eugene List performs with the CSO

Eugene List was a family man, through and through. His confidant and calm demeanor paired well with his expert playing skills.

1950

March 8, 1950

1949-1950 CSO program cover (13th season)

Louis Lane, Music Director

December 12, 1951

CSO & College of Wooster perform Haydn’s Creation

Verdi, Barber, and Bizet

Featuring soloists:

  • Priscilla Dubois, soprano
  • William Martin, tenor
  • Melvin Hakola, bass

January 16, 1952

Premiere performance of Louis Lane’s Suite for Piano

Performed by Seymour Lipkin

April 12, 1953

Mischa Michakoff performs with the CSO

Concertmaster of the NBC Symphony Orchestra

October 10, 1953

Pianist Menahem Pressler performs with the CSO

More information coming soon.

January 5, 1954

Samuel Thaviu performs with CSO

Thaviu was the concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Notably, his father performed at the funeral of President William McKinley.

March 17, 1954

Pianist Eugene Istomin performs with CSO

More information coming soon.

July 1, 1954

Meyers Lake concert draws 5,000

5,000 Symphony fans attended this free concert under a moonlight sky.

October 16, 1954

Violinist Joseph Fuchs performs with CSO

More information coming soon.

December 12, 1954

CSO and the Canton Civic Chorus perform Handel’s Messiah

Louis Lane, conductor

 

1960

1961

The Canton Youth Symphony is founded

Margery Henke is named its first conductor.

 

1961

Michael Charry is named Music Director

Born in New York City, Charry studied piano and oboe at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and received Bachelor and Master of Science Degrees in orchestral conducting from the Juilliard School of Music in the class of Jean Morel. His other conducting teachers were Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt in Germany and Pierre Monteux at his school for conductors in Maine. For nine years, Charry was assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell, whose biography he has written (published by the University of Illinois Press in 2011).

 

May 2, 1961

CSO’s 25th Anniversary photo

1963

The Symphony League of Canton is founded to support education and outreach

A Women’s Committee was founded in 1963 to provide service and fund-raising support for the orchestra. It is known today as the Symphony League of Canton. The League provides docents for the orchestra’s educational programs, ushers for its concerts, and fundraising for
the orchestra.

 

1967

Young People’s Concerts begin

Young People’s Concerts were initiated in 1967 as part of the orchestra’s educational program, bringing classical music to children in grades 3-5.

 

 

1970

1970

The Cultural Center for the Arts is constructed

The Cultural Center for the Arts is unique in its architecture and in its purpose.  It is an award-winning designed complex set on more than nine acres near the downtown business and arts districts of Canton, Ohio. ArtsinStark

1971

“Amahl and the Night Visitors” begins its 30+ year run

October 22, 1972

Rudolf Firkusny opens CSO’s 36th season

January 21, 1974

Michael Charry conducts combined CSO & ASO in Mahler’s “Resurrection” (Symphony No. 2)

CSO performs in Osborne Hall at Malone University.

May 1, 1974

Michael Charry conducts final concert as CSO Music Director

October, 1974

Robert Marcellus is named Music Advisor while a search is conducted to find a permanent replacement for Michael Charry

Dr. Arthur Campbell on Robert Marcellus:

“Robert Marcellus is considered by virtually all clarinetists in North America to be the most influential clarinet teacher of the last half of the 20th century. He was a beautifully refined clarinetist and his recordings as principal clarinetist in The Cleveland Orchestra under Georg Szell are still recognized as the ‘measuring stick’ for orchestral clarinetists today.”

 

June 2, 1974

The CSO achieves “metropolitan” designation

November, 1974

Morton Gold conducts the CSO

A nationally respected composer, a concert video of his oratorio “Haggadah: A Search for Freedom” was broadcast nationally and annually in the spring on Public Television, and he also conducted the Boston “Pops” Orchestra in his own compositions. He premiered his Piano Concerto with the Portland, ME, Symphony Orchestra in 1974.

 

May 24, 1976

Dave Brubeck & his sons perform with the CSO

June 29, 1976

The first Concert in the Park at McKinley Monument

As part of the bicentennial celebration of the United States, the Canton Symphony presented its first Concert in the Park at McKinley Monument in 1976, which became an annual July 4th tradition.

April 15, 1976

Thomas Michalak is named Music Director

Canton Symphony celebrates a new era.

November 16 & 17, 1977

Kinder Concerts begin for early elementary audiences

Educational programming expands.

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