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CHARLES IVES: CONNECTICUT'S FAMOUS MUSICAL SON

    by Anya Laurence

     He was born on October 20, 1874, in Danbury, Connecticut, the son of a bandmaster who had seen service in the Civil War. As a young child, Charles Edward Ives played the drums in his father George’s band, which was most likely his introduction to music. At the age of fourteen, Charles became a church organist and began to compose music for the services. He attended Hopkins School in New Haven in 1893, where he became captain of the baseball team.
   The next year he entered Yale University, where he studied music with Horatio Parker, a famous composer of the time. For his senior thesis, Ives composed his First Symphony, under the supervision of Parker. In 1892 he had composed Variations on ‘America’, for organ, which was said to have been ‘fiendishly difficult’. The piece was apparently written for a celebration of the Fourth of July, in Brewster, NY.


Charles Ives

   Charles Ives was named an “American Original” because of his use of such devices as polytonality, tone clusters and other experimental musical paths, one reason why his music was not popular for most of his lifetime. For this reason he went into the insurance business, saying that his children should not be made to starve because of his dissonances. Ultimately, he owned his own business, Ives & Co., later known as Ives and Myrick, and he stayed with insurance until his retirement.
   Until the time of his marriage to Harmony Twichell in 1908, he worked as church organist in New Jersey, New York, New Haven and at the Second Congregational Church in Danbury. Harmony was the daughter of the famous Connecticut preacher, Rev. Joseph Hopkins Twichell, who was born in Southington, CT in 1838, and was pastor of the Asylum Hill Presbyterian Church in Hartford.
  


Charles Ives at Hopkins Grammar School
   Charles was ill from 1918 when he suffered a heart attack. Plagued by illness from then on, he did little more than revise his compositions. After winning the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1947 for his third symphony, Ives began to be recognized among fellow musicians. One, in particular, was Leonard Bernstein, conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, who began to perform Ives’ music in 1951.


Charles Ives' studio in Washington Heights, NY

Charles Ives house in
Danbury, CT
    Charles Ives composed three symphonies, two string quartets, several songs, the Emerson Concerto, psalm settings and many other works. He developed diabetes around the time of his heart attack and died of a stroke in New York City, on May 19, 1954, at the age of 79. His organ work, Variations on ‘America’ may be found on YouTube.
   The original site of the Ives house in Danbury, built in 1784, was 210 Main Street, but it was later moved twice to accommodate other buildings. The present site of the one and a half story wood frame house with beaded corner board and two brick chimneys is 7 Mountainville Rd., and is owned by the Danbury Museum and Historical Society.

Charles Ives home in Redding, CT

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