Some Brits in New York

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Monday, June 10, 2019

On today’s date in 1939, the King and Queen of England were in New York City. Despite the perilous situation back home in Europe, their royal majesties George and Elizabeth Windsor crossed the Atlantic to attend the 1939 World’s Fair, and sample exotic native delights such as a hot dog picnic with President Franklin Roosevelt.

That same evening at Carnegie Hall, another visiting Brit, conductor Adrian Boult, led the New York Philharmonic in premiere performances of three brand-new works by leading British composers of the day, including the world premiere of the Seventh Symphony of Arnold Bax, a work commissioned by the British Council and dedicated to the American people. Also premiered that night was a virtuoso Piano Concerto by Arthur Bliss and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ set of variations for strings and harp on the old English carol, “Dives and Lazarus.”

The music critic for The New Yorker, covering the premieres, wrote: “The symphony wandered, as Bax symphonies seem to do, yet wandered into many characteristic eloquences. The variations were soundly charming, and the piano concerto was a roaring triumph.”

There seems to be no documentation on the quality of the hot dogs served to their royal majesties, but we’re willing to bet they, too, were top-notch.