Duke, John, 1899-1984

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Composed 1928. First performance Northampton, Massachusetts, Smith College Symphony Orchestra, 9 December 1928, the composer conducting.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Overture in D minor : for string orchestra / John Duke. 1928. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45204597

John Duke was a Professor of Music at Smith College, distinguished composer, pianist, and best known for his art-songs in English.

From the description of John Duke papers, 1916-1984. (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 431378847

Composed 1938. First performance Westfield, Massachusetts, 14 April 1939, Springfield Federal Orchestra of the WPA, Milton Aronson conductor, the composer as soloist.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Concerto in A major : for piano and string orchestra / John Duke. 1938. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45204595

John Duke was a distinguished composer, pianist, and teacher of piano. He is best known for his art-songs in English, which were composed between 1920 and his death in 1984. His works also include solo instrumental pieces, instrumental and vocal chamber music, choral and symphonic works, and music for the stage. He composed two operas ("Captain Lovelock," 1953; "The Sire de Maletroit," 1958), an operetta ("The Yankee Pedlar," 1962), a "musical fantasy for children" ("The Cat That Walked Himself": 1964), and music for numerous Smith College faculty shows and theatre department productions.

John Duke was born in Cumberland, Maryland, on July 30, 1899. He became interested in music through his mother, Matilda Hoffman Duke. "A music lover and a talented singer," she was Duke's first music teacher. At age 16 he won a three-year scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. There he studied piano with Harold Randolph and theory and composition with Gustav Strube.

In 1918, following a period of volunteer service in the army, Duke continued his music study in New York City with lessons in piano from Franklin Cannon and in composition from Howard Brockway and Bernard Wagenaar. In 1920 he made his New York piano debut in Aeolian Hall.

On December 22, 1922, he married Dorothy Macon, a writer. The couple often collaborated on musical works and on lecture-recitals. Dorothy Duke wrote the libretto for "The Sire de Meletroit," "The Yankee Pedlar," and "The Cat That Walked by Himself," as well as texts for several Smith College faculty shows.

In 1922 and 1923 Duke was editor of the American Piano Company Recording Labs. He made recordings for them and for the Duo-Art Company. His compositions were first published in 1923, when G. Schirmer, Inc., printed his first two songs, "I've Dreamed of Sunsets" and "Lullaby."

Duke's long affiliation with Smith College began in the fall of 1923, when he was appointed assistant professor of music. Duke taught piano and in the 1950s and 1960s offered a course in the literature of the piano. In 1938 he was made a full professor of music, a position he held until he was honored with the Henry Dike Sleeper Chair in 1960.

Duke was an active performer and lecturer throughout the Connecticut River Valley (and beyond), giving many recitals and lecture-recitals and teaching a number of University Extension Service of the Connecticut Valley courses, mainly in piano literature and pedagogy. He also wrote columns and reviewed concerts for the Daily Hampshire Gazette .

Duke spent his first sabbatical from Smith (1929-30) studying in Europe with Nadia Boulanger and Artur Schnabel. He was a member of the Yaddo Summer Music Colony in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1936 and 1937, and he served as program chair for the Yaddo concert series of contemporary American chamber music in 1937. In 1941 Duke's "Carnival Overture" was given its premiere by the Boston Pops Orchestra. His 1944 sabbatical was spent in New York City, where he was chair of the National Association of American Composers and Conductors and arranged a series of four concerts of contemporary chamber music.

Duke's association with John Seagle and the Seagle Colony, the summer school for singers in Schroon Lake, New York, began in 1951, when his daughter Karen attended a session. From then until his death, Mr. Duke almost always made an annual visit to the colony. His operas, "Captain Lovelock" and "The Sire de Maletroit," were written for the Opera Guild at the colony and were first performed there. Duke wrote other pieces for the colony (e.g., "Lord, Bless This Food") and was often present for workshops or performances of his music.

John Duke was honored by this hometown of Cumberland, Maryland, when April 1, 1957, was declared "John Duke Day." Other honors included the American Society of Composers and Publishers Standard Award to composers, which he received for twenty-two consecutive years (1963-84). The Peabody Conservatory Alumni Association bestowed on him its Award for Distinguished Service in 1969.

John Duke retired from Smith College as professor emeritus in 1967. He remained active as a composer, writing 126 of his 265 catalogued songs after that time. He died in Northampton on October 26, 1984.

From the guide to the John Duke Papers RG 42., 1916-1984, (Smith College Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Bilodeau, Jana. [Central State University Music Department ... presents Jana Bilodeau, soprano, Cheryl Willis, soprano, and Kelley Alig, tenor] [sound recording] : [Monday, April 26, 1976, 8:00, Choral Room, Music Building / assisted by Rodne Brown, baritone ; accompanied by Frances Spurlock, Leslie Orvis, and Connie Jo Russell]. University of Central Oklahoma, Chambers Library
creatorOf Chickering, Allison. Cantata Singers, and, Undergraduate opera workshop [sound recording] University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Semans Library
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. Here in this spot with you / music by John Duke ; sonnet by Robert Nathan. Smith College, Neilson Library
creatorOf John Duke Papers RG 42., 1916-1984 Smith College Archives
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. Bells in the rain / music by John Duke ; lyric by Elinor Wylie. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Berryman, Joy. [Central State University Music Department presents Joy Berryman and Kristi Nagode ... in recital] [sound recording] : [8:00 p.m., Monday, March 17, 1980, Music Building-Choir Room / accompanied by Betsy Banks]. University of Central Oklahoma, Chambers Library
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. Wild swans / music by John Duke ; lyric by E. St. Vincent Millay. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Copland, Aaron, 1900-1990. Aaron Copland oral history. Yale University Library
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. Hesperus the bringer / text by Lord Byron after the Greek of Sappho ; music by John Duke. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. On a March day / poem by Sara Teasdale ; music by John Duke. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn WFCR Radio Broadcast Collection MS 741., 1954-1987 Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. XXth century / music by John Duke ; lyric by Robert Hillyer. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. [Four poems by Edwin Arlington Robinson / music by John Duke]. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Atkins, Irene Kahn, 1922-. Major figures in American music [A-E] : [oral history]. Yale University Library
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. Melody in E flat : cello and piano / John Duke. University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University Libraries, UNCG University Libraries
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. Catalog / music by John Duke ; words by Rosalie Moore. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. Three sonnets by Edna St. Vincent Millay : set for voice, viola and piano / by John Duke. University of Colorado Boulder
creatorOf Bartlett, Bonnie. [Sopranos Bonnie Bartlett, Peggy Snell, assisted by Rebecca Washecheck] [sound recording] : [in recital : Sunday, April 24, 1977, 4:00 p.m., Choir Room 135]. University of Central Oklahoma, Chambers Library
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. John Duke papers, 1916-1984. Smith College, Neilson Library
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. At the aquarium / music by John Duke ; words by Max Eastman. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Diercks, John. Oscar J. McCullough collection, 1955-1992 / compiled by Shelley McCullough Gotterer. Hollins University, Wyndham Robertson Library
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. Dirge / music by John Duke ; words by Adelaide Crapsey. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. Northampton hymn / words by Dorothy Duke ; music by John Duke. Smith College, Neilson Library
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. Concerto in A major : for piano and string orchestra / John Duke. Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Library
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. Overture in D minor : for string orchestra / John Duke. Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Library
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. For a dead kitten / music by John Duke ; [text] by Sara Henderson Hay. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Duke, John, 1899-1984. [Songs / Duke.]. Smith College, Neilson Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bartlett, Bonnie. person
associatedWith Berryman, Joy. person
associatedWith Byron, George Gordon Byron, Baron, 1788-1824 person
associatedWith Copland, Aaron, 1900-1990. person
associatedWith Crapsey, Adelaide, 1878-1914 person
associatedWith Duke, Dorothy Macon person
associatedWith Eastman, Max, 1883-1969 person
associatedWith Gauthier, Eva, 1885-1958. person
associatedWith Hay, Sara Henderson person
associatedWith Hillyer, Robert Silliman, 1895- person
associatedWith Millay, Edna St. Vincent, 1892-1950 person
associatedWith Moore, Rosalie person
associatedWith Nathan, Robert, 1894-1985. person
associatedWith Robinson, Edwin Arlington, 1869-1935 person
associatedWith Sappho. person
associatedWith Smith College corporateBody
associatedWith Teasdale, Sara, 1884-1933 person
associatedWith WFCR (Radio station : Amherst, Mass.). corporateBody
associatedWith Wylie, Elinor, 1885-1928 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Northampton (Mass.)
Subject
Violoncello and piano music--Scores and parts
Songs (Medium voice) with instrumental ensemble
Songs (medium voice) with piano
Songs (Medium voice) and piano
Songs
Composition (Music)
Songs with piano
Overtures--Scores and parts
String orchestra music--Scores and parts
Music--Manuscripts--Facsimiles
Concertos (Piano with string orchestra)--Scores and parts
Occupation
Librettists
Function

Person

Birth 1899-07-30

Death 1984-10-26

Americans

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