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MEDITATIONS ON CBS RADIO WORKSHOP

THE CBS RADIO WORKSHOP teamed famed journalist Edward R. Murrow and other commentators with the music of Norman Dello Joio in an epic broadcast on June 23, 1957. Murrow opened with comments on a new word of the era: fallout. However, he gave this word a broader meaning than its deadly implications.

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Edward R. Murrow, 1908 – 1965, American broadcast journalist.

In describing an entirely different sort of fallout, Murrow mentioned gunpowder, originally a Chinese invention to generate a lot of happiness from a lot of noise. He likened these fireworks as beneficial cultural fallout analogous to Ecclesiastes 3, as expressed in the King James Version of the Bible.

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Ecclesiastes Chapters 3 and 4, King James Version of the Bible, an original edition, 1611. Image from kingjamesbible.org.

American composer Norman Dello Joio earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for his Meditations on Ecclesiastes. The CBS Radio Workshop combined Dello Joio’s music, the biblical source and commentary to offer a particularly moving radio experience.

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CBS Radio Workshop, an experimental dramatic radio anthology, 1956 -1957.

A word on the CBS Radio Workshop, “dedicated to mans imagination: the theater of the mind.” Its predecessor, the Columbia Workshop, ran from 1936 to 1943 and returned in 1946 – 1947. Delights of the CBS Radio Workshop were broadcast from January 1956 through September 1957.

Many of the programs are available today through archive.com and are also scheduled on SiriusXM’s “Radio Classics.” In addition to Meditations on Ecclesiastes, I especially like Colloquy #1 – Interview with William Shakespeare. This is an entertaining romp with Dr. Frank C. Baxter, in his day job Professor of English, University of Southern California, chatting with eminent Elizabethans about who actually wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

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Norman Dello Joio, 1913 – 2008, American composer.

Alfredo Antonini conducted the Columbia Symphony String Orchestra performing Dello Joio’s Meditations on Ecclesiastes. Speakers were the Very Reverend Laurence J. McGinley, Rabbi Theodore L. Adams, Dr. Oswald Hoffmann and Senator John F. Kennedy.

Father McGinley, President of Fordham University, opened with, “While frightened children terrorize our city streets and our own fear mushrooms into brooding clouds over the Pacific, we have lost in our uneasy day the sense of structure… the seasons around us and in their slow rotation, the permanence of the Creator.”

“To every thing there is a season,” McGinley quoted Ecclesiastes and, with this, Dello Joio’s graceful and stirring score began.

Rabbi Theodore L. Adams, President of the Synagogue Council of America, offered the words of an ancient Rabbinic sage: “Man is half angel, half brute. Our task is to redeem man from his brutish impulses so that he may realize the divine in his nature.”

Quoting from Ecclesiastes, Rabbi Adams recognized, “… a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted… a time to break down, and a time to build up.” Dello Joio’s accompanying music addresses these dualities; parts of it are strident, other parts lyrical.

Dr. Oswald Hoffmann represented the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. He began, “The sun rises and sets; the rains descend on the just and on the unjust…. Each new age… discovers what is ever old and ever new.”

Dr. Hoffman’s Ecclesiastes quotation was, “… a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.” Dello Joio’s accompanying music reflects these sadnesses and joys.

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Profiles in Courage, by John F. Kennedy, 1957.

In June 1957, Senator John F. Kennedy was best known for his book Profiles in Courage, which, like Dello Joio’s Meditations on Ecclesiastes, earned a Pulitzer Prize that year.  Kennedy said, “We live today in an age of juxtaposition. Our capacity for destruction and for dissension mixes with our desire for brotherhood and equality among nations and men.  From these conflicting forces, the future will emerge with, we hope, an awareness of good as well as evil, of hope instead of despair.”  

His quote from Ecclesiastes was “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

Ed Murrow’s closing comments came from Ecclesiastes, 9:12. “For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in the evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.”

Concluded Murrow on a hopeful note, “These words, so many hundred years old, and this music of today is the fallout of our cultural tomorrow.” For these, thank you, CBS Radio Workshop. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016

One comment on “MEDITATIONS ON CBS RADIO WORKSHOP

  1. William jones
    June 9, 2016

    A lot of coincidences in here for me: my father was hired as a professor at Fordham under Fr McGinley, my mothers favorite bible passage was that one from Ecclesiastes, and my parents sold their autographed copy of a Profiles in Courage in the late 60s for $700 and purchased a buffet which my brother now has. Thanks for the memories!

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