Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Friends Seminary, Antonin Dvorak

LOOKING AHEAD by Wally Dobelis

You will be glad to know that Dvorak is going home, going home - to Stuyvesant Park. The splendid bronze bust by Ivan Mestrovic, freezing atop Avery Fisher Hall for 32 years, is coming to the secluded corner of Stuyvesant Park, across from where Antonin Dvorak lived and composed the New World Symphony, a hundred years ago, exactly. The great composer lived at 327 East 17th Street from 1892 to 1895, while teaching at the National Conservatory of Music, 126 East 17th Street, replaced by the Washington Irving Highschool. The "Going home, going home " words were written by one of his Black students, William Arms Fisher, in the 1920s, and have been sung often, most impressively by William Warfield, a Dvorak admirer.

There may be a risk of tourist traffic to Stuyvesant Square, but I don't think so . What is more important is to get the funds together to honor the major composer who first recognized the American contribution to the world, musically. American music really starts with Dvorak.

The problem is that, to place a statue in a public park, it must be accompanied by an endowment, to maintain it. If you have a Rodin or Maillol or Moore for us, beware, you still have to endow it.

Anyway, the Dvorak American Heritage Foundation has raised some bucks. The conservator's restoration fee is over $5,000, not bad for the restauration. We need funds for the pedestal, the plaque, and of course, the endowment. If you'd like to contribute, no matter the amount, write a check for SPNA, Dvorak Statue Fund, and send it to Box 332, Cooper Station, NY, NY 10276.

If your'e intrigued by the 32 years that the statue spent atop Avery Fisher, here's the story. A group of Dvorak admirers, Czechoslovak National Council of America, commissioned the statue, and gave it to the Philharmonic. Pending finalization of the design of Lincoln Center, it was put on top of a visualized roof garden, which never materialized. That's it, it was too windy.

The Dvorak statue is the end result of many years of community effeort to preserve the advorak heritage. The building where the composer dvelt is now replaced by the Maplethorpe AIDS residence. The statue placement is the result of unstinting effors of Jack Taylor, coorddinator, and Jan Hird Pokorny, architect of the design and the pedestal. But the main point is that Antonin Dvorak lived and walked here, the unkempt park that was donated to the city by the Stuyvesants, he sat there on the bench, he was part of us. We should be part of him, too.

Now, the Friends Fair, at 16th Street and Rutherford, on Saturday, May 13, 11 AM to 3 PM. I bring this up because my group of Friends parents, the Class of 1992, run the book sales . We have been invited and felt a part of the Friends community since 1978. It is not religious, it is sort of spiritual, attitudinal.I have many petty points to pick, but by and large the Quakers attitudes survive into the strife of the new millennium.As Friends School parents and sometime PTA participants, we have muddled through reforms and changes, with the our friends. These are the people who, as the Class of 1992 parents, continue to run the book part of the Fair.

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