Leonard Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas

On July 4th, 1974, traffic crowded the streets of Danbury, Connecticut. Its citizens hitchhiked, rode bicycles, and took any means of transportation available to get to the county fairgrounds for one of the town’s most highly attended events that year. It was the centennial birthday of composer Charles Edward Ives, native to Danbury, and Leonard Bernstein had agreed to conduct the American Symphony Orchestra in a commemorative performance.

The show had nearly been cancelled on several occasions. Music professor and Danbury News-Times music critic, Howard Tuvelle, spearheaded the event, and had met difficulties at every step of the way. Between struggling to gain approval to use the fairgrounds as the event’s location; Bernstein and his protege, Michael Tilson Thomas, threatening to back out; and the sweltering summer heat rendering the orchestra’s instruments untunable, it seemed as if Ives would not get the accolade so many believed he deserved.

But as fate had it, those in attendance were treated to a performance of music that had not only withstood the test of time, but also whose patriotic musical compositions and politically charged lyrics appropriately depicted one the nation’s most socially tumultuous decades. David Vine, then a photographer for News-Times, was assigned to cover the event. He captured images that document a historic occasion for the town of Danbury, and offer us a candid glimpse at two of the most prestigious conductors of the twentieth century.


-Matthew Dal Santo


More information:

In 2005, Howard Tuvelle wrote an article for the Danbury News-Times recounting his efforts to put together an event of this magnitude entitled "Memorable Ives Concert Celebrated American Talent." Two of David Vine’s images were reprinted in this article.  To read more, click here.

To visit the galleries of Leonard Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas, click here to be redirected to our Personalities page.