Historic Hood River
Hood River Music Festival
According to our photo archives there were at least two Hood River Music Festivals. This is from the August 1951 festival when the opera “Bridge of the Gods” premiered. William Schroeder was the composer, and Boris Sirpo directed the festival and apparently the opera. There was also a Sibelius concert, and the Hungarian String Quartet performed.
My recollection is the opera was based on the novel by Frederic Homer Balch (written while he lived in Hood River) but I cannot find a citation to verify. Hopefully someone will be more successful tracking down this thread.
I’m also told our research team is looking for a copy of the score of “Bridge of the Gods.” With the number of local folks involved in this production, I’ll bet someone has a copy in their family archives.
I remember going to a concert that Boris Sirpo conducted and I think the featured singer was Kathryn Oaks. Wonder if it was one of the two mentioned.
This was a HUGE event. Talk of the town. Yes it was based on the Balch novel and was put on by the Hood River Music Association. Sirpo was the man in charge of lessons and the orchestra of the Association. I was just a little girl then, but remember being so excited as I had two relatives that I know of in it. I recall my great aunt, who is one of the indian maidens on the stage dying black nylons and making them into braids for her hair. Her son is in the orchestra. I can see him, but it is too hard to explain where he is.
Also see a few others I can make out in the orchestra.
Prior to the show I was wandering around back stage. Why I don't know……..I saw this man with a beaver skin type hat on and I asked him if he was Daniel Boone and he said no, “I am Robert Merrell.” Do we know who Robert Merrell was, yes we do, he was an up and coming opera singer who wa the male lead in the show. Helen Oakes was the female lead.
The following morning on that football field was an open to the public, all denominations church service.
They had a youth choir and I was in that. Why we sang Finlandia, I don't know.
Oh yes, it was quite an affair…..Something special meant dress up, hats and all…..
Correction: Why I said Helen Oakes I don't know. Yes, her name was Katherine. Somewhere I have the program from that. I will have to see if I can dig it out.
Everyone in the audience wearing suits / nice dresses & hats.
Jeffrey W Bryant
The program would probably not be allowed nowadays due to political correctness.
What is the location of the photo?
I remember my older sister being an Indian maiden (on the stage) in this production. I think the performance was on the (at that time) high school football field.
They had their Boris Sirpo. We have our own Mark Steigner. We have been blessed with people of high talent who choose to stay in our small community.
As Charlott says these concerts were huge events. They were held on what is now the Middle School football field. Even I who can't sing a note today sang in one of the choirs and I remember Ezio Pinza of the NY opera sang one of the years. Boris Sirpo introduced many young people to music in that era. An up and coming musician was Edith Kilbuck, a harpsichordist who played internationally and was a professor of music at Lewis and Clark. If anyone has memories of her or her mother who taught math in the junior high school the museum would love to hear your recollections.
Sirpo came from Portland every Saturday. In the morning he gave private violin lessons down under what is the jewelry store on Oak Street, across from the big clock. I know this for fact, as my cousin took a private lesson each Saturday morning and I have sat through numberous ones. His wife Margretta “Greta” came with him and patiently sat through all those lessons. In the afternoon there was orchestra held in the downstairs of the library. I have sat through numerous of those affairs with my aunt. Sirpo was from Finland and had taught violin there. He settled in Portland in about 1941 where he taught violin at both Lewis and Clark and Marylhurst. There was a time he took what was known as the Little Chamber Orchestra, 16 girls and some were from Hood River on tour to Europe. He did an awful lot for music in Hood River.
The stage for Bridge of the Gods was located at the west end of the football field.
You would have sung Finlandia because Boris Sirpo was in the states originally to raise money for Finland his native country and the war effort they were engaged in.
Paula Sisson Akbar
My beloved violin teacher Dorothy McCormick was a student of Boris Sirpo and played in the Bridge of the Gods orchestra. She took over his orchestras and conducted and taught violin many in HR for years. I even remember playing for Mr. Sirpo when I was little. So many stories to tell. PS Katherine Oaks was my French teacher at Wy'east HS.
This was before my time of course Paula but I do remember Boris Sirpo and of course Clayton Hare–he used to conduct the Hood River Senior and Junior Orchestra's too at the library and of course, our beloved Dorothy McCormick. I believe Mr. Sirpo was Russian if I am not mistaken.
Hazel Eskew Schaller
My sisters and i were singers and we participated in the performance
And concerts in hood river on what was the high school football field. It was the experience of a lifetime. We were Greatly honored to perform in such a magnifacent. Performance.
I acquired an actual mens choral score from that 1951 performance about a year ago and also an actual program that is in fair condition. Someone had submitted it to Ebay but did not list the previous owner. Kathryn Oakes–one of my former instructors–was a featured soloist for that performance. Boris Sirpo actually conducted the Hood River senior and junior orchestras hen I was a little girl a few years before his death. One of his students was my violin teacher, Dorothy Lingren McCormick.
I actually have an original mens choral score from the 1951 performance and actually programs from that festival. Also an envelope first issue advertising the 1948 performances in pristine condition.