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Littlefield Work to be Performed in Phila., May 2

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from the publicist:

Philadelphia Sinfonia

April 6, 2010


Philadelphia Sinfonia Resurrecting Lost American Ballet for Kimmel Center Performance

Philadelphia Sinfonia, an award-winning youth orchestra led by Music Director and Conductor Gary D. White, has found and painstakingly pieced together the parts and score of a ballet, Café Society, composed by prominent American composer, Ferde Grofe, and will present this work in a multimedia performance at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center on May 2, 2010. The composer's son, Ferde Grofe, Jr., plans to attend and is the honorary chair of this historical event.

An original piano reduction score of the ballet is owned by a Sinfonia parent and dance historian, Sharon Skeel, and was shown to Gary White in the summer of 2009. The work was commissioned by early 20th Century Philadelphia choreographer, Catherine Littlefield, for her dance company known both as the Littlefield Ballet and the Philadelphia Ballet Company. It was premiered in Chicago, during a residency Littlefield held with the Chicago City Opera Company in 1938, but was subsequently performed by her company in Philadelphia; its last known performance was also here; in 1942, a concert version was performed by the Pennsylvania W.P.A (Works Projects Administration) Orchestra. Catherine Flaherty, Littlefield's niece, is also expected to attend the concert.

Fragile instrumental parts and a score were eventually found in The Fleisher Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia, the only known location of extant parts in the world. Additional research in the Ferde Grofe archives at the Library of Congress allowed Maestro White to fill in the missing notes and phrases in these parts and score, and the orchestra has begun to rehearse the piece.

Café Society is a satire; it is fun; and it has much of the flavor of the jazz and big band music of its time. Grofe's interest in uniting jazz and classical elements made him an ideal choice for the collaboration with Catherine Littlefield. Littlefield was known for works with American themes, a number of them lighthearted and combining elements of classical ballet with musical theater. Ferde Grofe shared her interest in Americana and the blending of orthodox and popular forms. Both had worked in vaudeville and movie palaces, and they both held the view that art should be entertaining. In many respects they foreshadowed the currently popular trend of blending jazz and classical genres. They viewed music and dance as whole art forms, not strictly divided into separate categories.

The ballet that resulted from their collaboration is comic and satirizes the fashionable club scene of their day. It opens with a cab whistle and the flashy entrance of Club 2222 (too-too-too-too)! As the orchestra is playing at the Kimmel Center in May, a video montage of archival material will be shown above the musicians, tracing the history of the writing of this work, including rare film footage of the original dancers and photographs of the ballet's legendary composer.

The public is invited to the concert in the Perelman Theater of the Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, on Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 3:00 PM. Tickets will be available at the Kimmel Center box office a month ahead of the performance.

This concert closes Philadelphia Sinfonia's thirteenth season and also includes Franz Schubert's Rosamunde Overture; Mikhail Glinka's Russlan & Ludmilla Overture and Polovetsian Dances by Alexander Borodin.

Philadelphia Sinfonia is composed of 100 musicians ranging from exceptional middle school students through college-level musicians from the tri-state area. The orchestra performs a local concert series each year and tours internationally every two years – in July 2009 Philadelphia Sinfonia returned from a critically-acclaimed tour to Argentina. In 2007 Sinfonia was selected by The Philadelphia Orchestra as its Side-by-Side Program partner and in 2008 was named the Commended Winner in the 2008 Mark of Excellence "National Orchestra Honors Competition".

For more information about Philadelphia Sinfonia or directions to the concert, please visit www.philadelphiasinfonia.com or call 215-351-0363.

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In response to my queries, the sender explained that the program

doesn't include any actual dancing, but it will include a montage featuring footage of Catherine and Dorothie Littlefield and the Philadelphia Ballet Company in a performance of Cafe Society (around 1938). This footage was taken by critic Ann Barzel, a Littlefield friend. As far as I know, there is only about 55 minutes of Littlefield-related film in existence, all taken by Barzel and housed in Chicago's Newberry Library (I think there is a copy at the Dance Collection as well). There will also be still shots of the Littlefields included in the montage.

Littlefield is one of those dance figures who should be better known and I thought that your readership might be interested in at least hearing about this event.

I thought this opportunity might be valuable enough to share this rare opportunity to grab a lost bit of ballet history.

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