(November 8, 1921 - August 1, 2012)
We note the passing of our friend and colleague.
American composer and native New Yorker Douglas Townsend was still actively composing, teaching and writing until just days before his death, at age 90, in Manhattan on August 1, 2012. After graduating from Manhattan's famed High School of Music and Art he privately studied composition with a succession of well-known composers of the day: Tibor Serly, Stefan Wolpe (five years), Aaron Copland (on a scholarship to Tanglewood), Otto Luening (on two scholarships to the Middlebury Composers' Conference), and Felix Greissle. He enjoyed early success when, at only 17 years of age, his Contra Dances won a nationwide contest for student composers and was performed by the CBS Symphony on a national radio broadcast (Bernard Herrmann conducting). Then, one day after turning age 24, his Sonatina for Piano Solo No. 1 was premiered by concert pianist Ray Lev at Carnegie Hall. Over the next seven decades and into his final year, 2012, Townsend continued to compose over 100 original works: symphonies, concertos, chamber and ballet music, film scores, and incidental music for theatrical productions. His vocal works include operas, operettas and choral music; and he has written extensively for wind ensembles and concert bands. (A listing and description of these works can be seen at www.amc.net/douglastownsend.)
He was the recipient of numerous commissions and grants, including a grant in composition from the National Endowment for the Arts and more recently an '07 award from the Composer Assistance Program of the American Music Center, two '08 Meet the Composer awards (one from MTC and one from NEFA), and four consecutive ASCAPlus awards in '08, '09, '10, and '11. Just two months before his death, he won the 2012 Composers Concordance "Generations" Composition Competition in the category "age 70 and up" for a work for brass quintet with optional percussion entitled Dr. Jolly's Quick Step. Much of his work has been published and still in print (C.F. Peters, Carl Fischer, Theodore Presser, Boosey & Hawkes, Alfred, Shawnee, Tetra/Continuo), recorded, videotaped, podcast, broadcast, performed and/or reviewed, as have his editions of over 60 compositions from the 18th and 19th centuries which he brought to light and prepared for performance with the aid of research grants to Europe (Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for Music, the New York State Bicentennial Revolution Commission, the New York State Council on the Arts).
Townsend's works and editions have been performed at the major venues in New York: Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall (‘13), Town Hall, Weill Recital Hall ('08), Carnegie (now Weill) Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Times Hall (now the Times Center), the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the 92nd Street Y, Columbia University's McMillin (now Miller) Theatre, Columbia Teachers' College Milbank Memorial Chapel ('10, '11), Trinity Church ('08), and Saint Peter's Church ('08, '10, '11, '12, '13). Some of the distinguished performers of his works and editions have included the soloists Gary Graffman, Jaime Laredo, Carol Wincenc ('09), Per Brevig, Stanley Drucker ('07-'08), Anthony Newman, and Shirley Verrett; the choral groups the Metropolitan Opera Madrigal Singers, the Young People's Chorus of the City of New York (2000), the Zamir Chorale, the Interracial Fellowship Chorus, the Princeton Girlchoir (‘10-’11), the Fairfield County (CT) Chorale & Orchestra (‘09-’10); and such premiere concert and symphonic bands as the U.S. Marine Band, the Allentown Band ('06-'07), the Virginia Grand Military Band ('12-'13), the Concord Band, the Dallas Wind Symphony (‘08-’09), the American Concert Band ('10) and Central Park's famed Goldman Band.
A variety of professional orchestras have performed Townsend's works and editions, including the Cleveland Orchestra, Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, the Israel Orchestra Rishon LeZion (‘13), the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra Chamber Players ('06-'07), the Little Orchestra Society, the Clarion Concerts Orchestra, the Bronx Arts Ensemble Orchestra ('07-'08), the Concerto Soloists Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia (now the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia), the Oklahoma City Symphony (now Philharmonic) Orchestra, the Wichita Symphony, as well as the tri-state region's Ridgefield (CT) Symphony ('08-'09), Norwalk (CT) Symphony ('07-'08), New Haven (CT) Symphony ('08-'09), and the Garden State (NJ) Chamber Orchestra. Additionally, numerous university, college and youth orchestras, ensembles and concert/symphonic bands have performed Townsend's works and editions, including the universities of Western Ontario (‘08), Texas (‘08), Illinois, California, Wisconsin ('09), Tennessee, Iowa (‘09), Georgia, Central Michigan (‘11), Southeastern Louisiana ('09), Maine ('09), and Bridgeport ('08), as well as SUNY Fredonia ('10), SUNY Orange ('10, '12), CUNY-Queens College ('08), and Oregon State. Youth orchestras affiliated with the Topeka Symphony ('10), the Lebanon (OH) Symphony (‘13) and the Norwalk (CT) Symphony, as well as the Sacramento (CA) Youth Symphony (‘12) and the Green Mountain Youth Symphony (VT) (‘10) have performed his works; as have the youth orchestras and ensembles of such private music schools as the Bloomingdale School of Music (NYC) and the Hoff-Barthelson Music School (Scarsdale, NY) ('10); and of such public schools as the Salem Middle School (Virginia Beach, VA) ('11, '12) and the East Chapel Hill High School (Chapel Hill, NC) (‘07). Internationally, the Jugendorchester Freiamt [Youth Orchestra Freiamt] performed his popular Fantasy on "All the Pretty Little Horses" for String Orchestra at Boswil, Switzerland ('08-'09). Finally, not to be overlooked are the large number of community orchestras across the country which have also performed his works, with Manhattan's fine Broadway Bach Ensemble most recently having performed his Concerto "in the old style" for Three Solo Violins and String Orchestra on October 28, 2012 in Manhattan, with Arkady Leytush conducting (see www.broadwaybach.org for details).
As a musicologist, Townsend has researched and written over 500 program notes, record liner notes, reviews and articles for publication, many for the Musical Heritage Society and its periodical, the Musical Heritage Society Review, where he was Editor from 1977 to 1980. Of recent interest is the '08 publication by the University of Rochester Press of a book of essays on Carl Czerny entitled Beyond the Art of Finger Dexterity, to which Townsend contributed a chapter analyzing Czerny's symphonies, concertos, and overtures. Townsend had a combined 15 years of experience teaching music history and theory at Brooklyn and Lehman colleges (CUNY) and at Purchase College (SUNY). His last position was as an Adjunct Professor of Composition in the Music Department of the University of Bridgeport (CT), where he had taught for six non-consecutive years. At least three of his students went on to achieve distinction: Brian Israel, Russ Landau (Emmy-winning composer), and the emerging composer Justin Tierney. From July '09, he served on the Concert Committee of the Interfaith Committee of Remembrance. He was a Sing for Hope donor artist, and a member of ASCAP and of the American Music Center. With his wife, Jean, he produced and curated the annual Social Networking Concerts held in Manhattan at Saint Peter's Church to promote the work of living composers and the musicians who perform their compositions. He embraced the social media including YouTube (www.youtube.com/douglastownsend) and Facebook, where he had over 2800 Facebook friends. He was residing in Manhattan at the time of his death.
E-mail Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
ALL TOWNSEND MEMORIAL CONCERT - SEPT. 16, 2012
DOUGLAS TOWNSEND PHOTO GALLERY
DOUGLAS TOWNSEND VIDEO PAGE I
DOUGLAS TOWNSEND VIDEO PAGE II
DOUGLAS TOWNSEND SITE AT AMERICAN MUSIC CENTER
DOUGLAS TOWNSEND SITE AT INSTANTENCORE
DOUGLAS TOWNSEND ON WIKIPEDIA
American Piano Duets by Ivory Crush (formerly d.u.o). Kenn Willson and Maria Choban, pianists. Music by P.D.Q. Bach, Douglas Townsend, and Tomas Svoboda. Released on the Alitisa label. CD available at Alitisa.
Gifts from three kings by Ivory Crush. Kenn Willson and Maria Choban, pianists. Music by Douglas Townsend, Vincent Persichettis, and Norman Dello Jolo. Released on the Alitisa label. CD available at Alitisa.