Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Meeting Tappan Wilder

Our Town opened last weekend, to moderate success. As the musical director, the most interesting part of the opening was that the choir (perhaps due to nerves, and to the fact that there is a bit of an interval between when they hear their pitch and when they sing) naturally pitched themselves up a step and began singing "Blessed Be The Tie That Binds" in G rather than F major. And, as I heard this, suddenly remembering a choir director from years ago telling me that F major was the hardest key in which to sing (because it fell naturally into the female voice break), and being impressed by the choir's unconscious fortitude (and blending skill), and wishing I had remembered that bit of music theory earlier so I could have worked with them in G major from the beginning.

Today, Tappan Wilder, who is Thornton Wilder's nephew and the acting spokesperson (and heir) of the Wilder estate, came and gave a lecture on Thornton Wilder's life.

The man was brilliant. Both men (Thornton and Tappan) were brilliant. Thornton, as a child, learned to speak French, German, and Italian (in addition to his native English); and his father, noting his son's aptitude for the academic, sent him every summer to work on farms so that he would not become "disconnected from what is real, i.e. the earth and the natural life cycle."

Thornton Wilder began writing the works that would make him famous while he was working as a high school English teacher, and even after he became wildly famous never stopped teaching. He also traveled extensively, and (as Tappan told us) made a variety of friendships, and might spend one weekend eating at the home of a local family and the next weekend eating dinner at the Rockefellers'.

Anyway. Long story short. To whom does Tappan attribute his own liberal education, and to whom does he attribute Thornton's education and capacity for thought and understanding?

Not to any teachers. Not to any schools.

To the parents.

Tappan acknowledges his own debt to his father, Thornton's brother Amos; as well as Thornton and Amos' debt to their father, Amos Parker Wilder.

How fascinating. I suppose the moral is "teach your children well, so they might grow up to win three Pulitzer Prizes." Or, perhaps, "if you want smart kids, you're going to have to raise them your own damn self." ^__^

5 comments:

Daniel said...

is it he after whom Tappan Hall at la alma mater was named?

Blue said...

Now how many buildings do you know that are named (only) after someone's first name? Sure, there are things like JFK Airport, but is there, say, a Steve Library?

Tappan Hall was named for David Stanton Tappan, former Miami president. ^__^

As any quick google would tell you. *__^

Daniel said...

LOL

I was kidding, you silly person! :)

How awesome would it be to go to Steve Library, though? Could you imagine? Janet Bridge? Howard Pond?

There are things like "Phil's Laundromat" or "Tom's Diner" so it's not like it's 100% without precedent, though.

Roonie said...

I was Emily in "Our Town" during my junior year in high school.

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