Temple to Music – 1812, too

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The Temple to Music at Roger Williams Park, in Providence. (Photos by David Brussat)

We attended a pops concert of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra on Friday evening, a free event sponsored by the Rhode Island Foundation and held at the Temple to Music, on the grounds of Roger Williams Park. … Ah! Rhode Island!

Anyhow, the program included, as a finale, Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” a favorite of mine, which has been absent for a couple of years, alas, from the program of the Fourth of July celebration hosted by the city of Providence at India Point Park. A second of two Sousa marches served, by way of encore, to reward the crowd for its fine taste.

The park was mobbed, and we ended up after the intermission down in the children’s dancing semicircle just before the stage within the temple. It was a great place to sit on a blanket, joined by our friends Dan, Shoko and Caroline (who is Billy’s age). The kids did not dance but paid close attention to Billy’s computer games, undeterred by beautiful music or beautiful scenery. Dad lay back, closing his eyes, listening to the music through a gentle din. Ah, such bliss! I sat up every few moments to gaze upon, and photograph, the Temple to Music, which changed colors with every new item on the program, which was conducted by Francisco Noya.

The Temple to Music was erected in 1924 to the design of architect William T. Aldrich, who also designed the RISD Museum of Art in 1926 – the real one, on Benefit Street – and, of recent note, the Bodell House on Balton Road, upon whose land five new houses are arising. The Bodell survives in spite of the subdivision of its grounds.

So last night the temple was lit in a succession of hues, which follow in order. The shots show the temple under the influence of bold or subtle coloration and falling darkness. The cloudy backdrop seen through the temple provided a mildly brooding ambiance on this fine evening. This may best be seen in the concluding video of the Philharmonic playing (I think) a bit from the Batman movie overture, or something like that. It was delicious, as was the entire evening, in spite of massive traffic jams, parking strategy dilemmas and the unaccountably successful trek back to the car (I found it and returned to retrieve Billy and Victoria.

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About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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15 Responses to Temple to Music – 1812, too

  1. Eric Daum says:

    I grew up not too far away and spent many happy afternoons chasing my sister up and down the steps of the Temple to Music, picnicking in its shadow, sledding past it on cold winter afternoons. I am convinced, it is one of the pivotal Classical genes of my architectural DNA. I love that building. I think better than the backdrop for an orchestra, it is best experienced in a lonely Romantic idyll.

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    • I agree, Eric, which does not mean it isn’t great as a backdrop for an orchestra. I have no doubt that anyone growing up near the temple would have felt a similar effect, as I did growing up in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial and sundry other American classics.

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  2. Steve says:

    Actually, both the US Air Force and US Navy bands played Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” the last two years at the Providence Independence Day Celebration.

    Nicely done. Another sign of the city’s great cultural character. Ahh, PROVIDENCE!!!

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    • Did they, Steve? That is so wonderful! I wish I had known. It would drain away some of the sour feelings I’ve had. Was it impossible to advertise that as they had always advertised the presence of the Rhode Island Philharmonic?

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      • Steve says:

        Great question. I do not know the answer, but I will connect with PVD Culture & Tourism to see what there plans are for 2018 and go from there.

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  3. Just wonderful! Thanks for sharing, David!

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  4. How utterly wonderful! I especially enjoyed the video…and I will kick myself until next year’s performance so I will be sure to get there! 😉

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  5. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing this, David. Wish we were there. When I was a kid, my father took me many a Sunday morning to our great park, and The Temple was a regular stop.
    I recall, though never appreciated, many a concert there and at the other band shell near the carousel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ed! I have never seen a concert in the gazebo behind the Casino – that’s the one you’re talking about, right? More should be done to use the park as a venue for events, as perhaps was the case in the past – even if I’m not sure I’d want to avail myself of each one! Certainly this concert yesterday evening serves as a template for what should be happening at RWP.

      Ed, I terribly miss your excellent reminiscences in the Journal!

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    • A Subscriber says:

      You’re lucky, Ed; all I remember of the Park is being taken to see Alice the Elephant in a dreary, dirty and very, very smelly enclosure – and she looked as though she were in a prison cell. Those must’ve been in the days when idiots were running things there – 1954/1955.

      Many decades later, I returned to the Park for the first time since being a toddler and was astounded, not only by its overall beauty, but also by the excellence of the Zoo. I’d lived in San Diego by then and I knew a good zoo when I saw one.

      Thanks, Dave.

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