The latest installment of our A to Z of Carnegie Hall series focuses on U—for "Unusual."
Although in the minds of many people Carnegie Hall is indelibly associated with serious classical music, all three halls have hosted a variety of unusual events—some wacky, some serious, but all unusual. Here are just a handful.
December 30, 1929, saw a "Musicians' Gambol" come to Carnegie Hall. A lineup of some of the biggest names of the day in classical music—including John Philip Sousa, Walter Damrosch, and Olga Samaroff—participated in a benefit for the Edward MacDowell Association. These musical eminences played a variety of instruments—including the kazoo and the koto—in front of Ernest Peixotto's giant painting of a "Gooschepeix Foolyphone," a whimsical instrument that was named for its "inventors": Eugene Goossens, Ernest Schelling, and Peixotto.
Participants in the December 30, 1929, "Musicians' Gambol" pose in front of the "Gooschepeix Foolyphone." Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.
More than half a century later, on March 16, 1983, composer and pianist Kirk Nurock unleashed the premiere of his Sonata for Piano and Dog in Weill Recital Hall. Nurock returned to Carnegie Hall for two more concerts, including a Carnegie Hall Family Concert as part of the Zankel Hall Opening Festival in 2003.
Kurt Nurock was a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman on the night after his Carnegie Hall performance of Sonata for Piano and Dog.
Following the deaths of his wife, son, brother, two nephews, and two brothers-in-law over the previous decade and a half, Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle became a devotee of spiritualism, giving a series of nine lectures on the subject at Carnegie Hall during 1922 and 1923. According to The New York Times, he used a stereopticon (or laterna magica) during a lecture on May 7, 1922, to display images of spirits, focusing on contact with his deceased friend W. T. Stead who had perished in the Titanic disaster a decade earlier.
Flyer for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's lectures at Carnegie Hall in May 1922. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.
Almost 85 years ago, on October 17, 1927, Carnegie Hall played host to the 22nd Annual International Typewriting Contest. The winning typist, George Hossfeld of Paterson, New Jersey (who was multiple world champion), typed 133 words a minute for one hour—six words per minute below his world-record pace.
On August 18, 1938, Carnegie Hall was the venue for a memorial for Benjamin Leider, the first American to be killed while fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Leider, who had enlisted in the Spanish loyalist air force in September 1936, died on February 19, 1937, in Madrid when his airplane was shot down. In July 1938, his body was exhumed from a cemetery near the site of his death and returned to the US. Three days after the memorial at the Hall, he was reburied at Mount Hebron Jewish Cemetery in Flushing, New York. He was the only deceased American to be returned from Spain.
Benjamin Leider memorial at Carnegie Hall, August 18, 1938. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.
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