Bernstein used a giant page from Beethoven's score to illustrate his lecture.
Bernstein used a giant page from Beethoven’s score to illustrate his lecture.

The Omnibus television series of the 1950s and ‘60s has been called “the most successful cultural magazine series in the history of U.S. commercial television and a prototype for the development of programming on educational television.” One of its most popular and innovative undertakings was a seven-part series—plus a bonus eighth performance—Leonard Bernstein made for the program between 1954 and 1958.

Now the Arizona Senior Academy is showing those eight episodes on separate dates this summer in the Academy’s Great Room. The first, to be shown at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (June 15) will feature Bernstein’s analysis of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

The lecture, entitled “Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony,” involved Bernstein explaining the work with the aid of musicians from the former NBC Symphony Orchestra (later renamed the “Symphony of the Air”) and a giant page of the score covering the floor. Original broadcast on Nov. 14, 1954, it is regarded as the best remembered of the Bernstein episodes.In it, the conductor demonstrated what the music might have been like if Beethoven had left some of his discarded music sketches in the symphony.

Subsequent broadcasts of Bernstein’s Omnibus lectures to be shown by ASA will cover jazz, conducting, American musical comedy, modern music, J.S. Bach, and grand opera, plus a bonus program of selections from Handel’s Messiah.  These programs were made available in the U.S. in a DVD set in 2010.

Omnibus was created by the Ford Foundation, which sought to increase the education level of the American public. The show was produced by Robert Saudek, who believed that Omnibus could “raise the level of American taste” with educational entertainment.

The show was broadcast live, primarily on Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m. EST, from November 9, 1952 until 1961. The series won more than 65 awards, including seven Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards.

Written by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer

More Info on attending an event
Academy Village is an active-adult community located off Old Spanish Trail six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East. Its residents support the Arizona Senior Academy, a non-profit charitable organization whose mission includes offering free concerts and lectures to the public.

These events are held in the Great Room of The ASA Building adjacent to the Academy Village Community Center. Due to the popularity of cultural events, non-residents who wish to ensure priority seating are advised to make reservations by email at info@arizonasenioracademy.org or by phone at (520) 647-0980. To learn more about the Academy, go to www.asa-tucson.org.

Parking for visitors is in the lot behind the Community Center. All parking spaces in front of the Academy building are reserved.

Watch Leonard Bernstein’s Historic TV Series: June 2016
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