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Riverside: Cultural Programs

From the inception of the College of Letters and Science in February, 1954, the Riverside campus endeavored to make cultural programs an integral component of the University experience, and to share its distinguished visitors and exemplars of the arts with the surrounding community.

Programs and Activities

First Cultural Programs
Although facilities were at first limited to the gymnasium, the small theater seating 178, the dance room (capacity 250), the faculty club (accommodating 150 in its meeting room), and a few larger classrooms suitable for public lectures, a varied series of programs was arranged, principally under the aegis of the Committee for Arts and Lectures. The Associated Students also began sponsoring cultural programs in 1962, many being in the area of jazz and folk music.

Performances by musicians, dancers and dramatic companies were instituted from the beginning, along with public lectures by eminent authorities and readings by celebrated poets. These were supplemented by feature and documentary films; by informal noon programs presented by faculty, students, and outside groups and individuals; and by at exhibitions selected by a special committee devoted to that area of expression. Throughout, the goal was to provide a diversified range of presentations in all the arts and to expose audiences to stimulating and authoritative speakers drawn from many fields of knowledge.

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Famous Visitors
Among the internationally recognized artists and companies seen and beard on the Riverside campus were the Royal Shakespeare (1964) and Dame Judith Anderson (1961) Companies; the Budapest (1958,1965) and Juilliard (1964) String Quartets; the New York Woodwind Quintet (1964); violinist Isaac Stern (1963); and singer Victoria de los Angeles (1964).

Lecturers who have appeared include scientists Hans Bethe (1964), Harlow Shapley (1956), and L. S. B. Leakey (1963, 1965), historians Crane Brinton (1954), and A.L. Rowse (1962); novelist-playwright Christopher Isherwood (1961); composers William Schuman (1984) and Virgil Thomson (1984) and film director Jean Renoir (1963). Numbered among the poets who have read their own works are W. H. Auden (1954) and the late William Carlos Williams (1955).

Diversity in the arts was achieved by bringing to the campus performers representing foreign nations and cultures. Among these were the Westphalian Kantorei, a choral group from Germany (1961); the Deller Consort of singers from England (1955, 1962, 1964); and Ravi Shankar, sitar virtuoso from India (1964).

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A New Venue
With the opening of the 500-seat University Theatre in 1962, musical, dramatic dance performances were greatly enhanced by a setting more attractive visually and acoustically than any facility previously available. However, when a large-scale performance is scheduled, it must still be presented in the gymnasium.

Although figures were not available for the earliest years, one comparative statistic placed attendance during 1957-58 for all types of events at 1,400, and for 1964-65 at an estimated 12,000.


Musical Organizations

The UCR Orchestra
The UCR Orchestra was formed during the academic year 1956-57 and presented its first concert in March, 1957. The group performed the standard orchestral repertoire, leaning rather heavily on piano concertos, allowing solo performances by students and faculty. The orchestra was originally conducted by Edwin J. Simon, who was followed by Donald C. Johns, and the permanent conductor appointed in 1963, Robert S. Gottlieb.

Chamber Ensembles
Chamber ensembles perform under the title of Collegium Musicum and had their beginning in 1957-58 with a brass ensemble involving several modern instruments. Donald C. Johns was responsible for directing the formation of the group, and in 1963, there was an expansion into the area of older instruments under Alfred T. Loeffler. The Collegium Musicum included piano trios, quartets, and quintets, recorder consort, and brass ensemble by the mid-1960's.

Choral Groups
The UCR Choral Society was begun in September of 1954 by William Reynolds, who was still the conductor in the mid-1960's. The choir's first appearance was at the dedication ceremonies of the College of Letters and Science in October of that year. Originally the group was composed of 45 singers, 18 of them faculty and staff. The size later was usually held to approximately 100. The choir gave two regular annual performances--in May and at Christmas--and its repertoire included such modern works as The Christmas Story by Peter Mennin, Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, and such standard choral works as requiems by Mozart, Brahms, and Fauré.

The Madrigal Singers were also begun by William Reynolds in 1954 and performed music of renaissance and baroque periods. There were approximately 14 singers in the group, all members of the choral society. They presented programs based on English and Italian madrigals plus larger works such as Schütz's St. John Passion, and masses by Victoria Josquin and Viadiana.

The Concert Band
The Concert Band at Riverside was officially organized in the fall of 1964 by Edward H. Clinkscale and was an outgrowth of a concert wind ensemble which had previously given one performance In the spring of 1963 under Alfred T. Loeffler.


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