Event combines music with Berlin’s inspiring story
By Deb Silverthorn
The “Once Upon A Time, Stories Old and New” concert, celebrating the spirit and contributions of Irving Berlin, brings the art of the pen and musical notes together Sunday, Oct. 6. The afternoon’s activities begin at 2:20 p.m., with a concert by the Richardson Community Band (RCB) and a reading of Nancy Churnin’s book, “Irving Berlin, The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing,” starting at 3 p.m. at the Charles W. Eisemann Center for Performing Arts.
The day of family entertainment, free and open to the public, is presented by the RCB Richardson Community Band (RCB) and the Friends of the Richardson, with a grant from the Ann and Charles Eisemann Arts Innovation Initiative. Barry Samsula, of WRR 101.1, will emcee the event.
“Berlin’s lyrics captured his love for this country which welcomed his family when they fled Russia in the early 1890s,” said Churnin, who will read from her book at the event, and who will meet with attendees. “The young Jewish music man, famous for many songs — ironically his hits include ‘White Christmas’ — never forgot the country that gave his family a home.”
The afternoon’s activities include an “instrument zoo,” allowing kids to view instruments up close; “Kids Conduct,” with children taking the baton; and “Where in the World,” with guests placing stickers marking their ancestors’ origins.
“Berlin and his family came to the U.S. with almost nothing, and grew to become one of our legends. He remembered where he came from and shared his success,” said Robin Owens, conductor of the 70-plus volunteer member RCB. “I had an idea, and the Eisemann family’s support has made it a reality. Nancy’s book, our Jewish community friends, and a wonderful afternoon filled with experiences will pay a very special round of tribute.”
The RCB will also perform pieces tied to storytelling, including a musical setting to “Aesop’s Fables” (narrated by Samsula), “Moana,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and Edward Elgar’s “Enigma.” As is RCB’s tradition, the concert will end with a John Phillip Sousa march.
In honoring Berlin, who donated all royalties from “God Bless America” to the Girl Scouts of the USA and the Boy Scouts of America, concert organizers will recognize DFW-area Scouts, veterans and members of the Jewish community.
“Our members look forward to taking part in this tribute to the tremendous talent, patriotism and generosity of Irving Berlin,” said Steve Krant, commander of the Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post 256 of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA. “His music lifted the spirits of our troops in both world wars, and became an indelible part of the American experience — not bad for a Jewish immigrant from Russia.”
“Jews have been a part of the Scouts from the start,” said Stephen Shore, Dallas Jewish Committee on Scouting chair. “With John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, Jewish financier Mortimer Schiff was one of the first major contributors to the BSA’s founding. Area Scouts are honored to participate in this tribute to Berlin, an awesome example of how many immigrants helped make our country what it is, and what he helped make possible.”
Berlin’s lyrics and Jewish soul come together as he ends “God Bless America.” The United States had indeed become his “home sweet home,” and the music of that phrase comes from the ending of the Shema: Adonai Echad.
“Sing each to yourself and I promise you’ll feel the spirit of the song, and the prayer, in your heart in a new way,” Churnin said. “I’m blessed to help share Berlin’s story and it’s an honor to do so through this special event. I feel my own home sweet home, and my faith, come together, and I thank Irving Berlin for what he’s given me, and my country.”
For more information about this free event, visit richardsoncommunityband.org. For community members wanting to participate in the onstage tribute, email firstname.lastname@example.org.