Sunday, April 13, 2014

Byron Hanson: Biographer Louis Nicholas says Thor Johnson conducted "first performance of 'Of New Horizons' by Ulysses Kay."

Ulysses Kay (1917-1995) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,

Byron Hanson, Archivist at Interlochen Center for the Arts, April 9, 2014:


This may be familiar to you already, but in following up our recent dialogues regarding Ulysses Kay I checked Thor's biography ["Thor Johnson American Conductor" by Louis Nicholas] and read that while in the Army, Thor guest conducted the New York Philharmonic for "Army and Navy Night" at Lewisohn Stadium on July 29, 1944. Eugene List played "Rhapsody in Blue" and the program included the first performance of  "Of New Horizons" by Ulysses Kay, Mus. 2nd U.S. Navy. The author says that Kay had been a student at Tanglewood when Thor was there; that would have been in either 1940 or 1941.

An appendix to Dr. Nicholas's book indicates that Thor actually commissioned "Of New Horizons" but I don't know if that means any money was involved. Thor was not a wealthy man during the war years, but came into money later during his decade in Cincinnati and did indeed commission many works. He habitually encouraged composers, commissioned many, and gave world or American premieres of well over 200 works.

Nicholas also mentions that Thor included a work of Kay's in a concert of all new works he conducted with the Juilliard Orchestra on March 10, 1947. You could probably find reviews, notices or programs of what works were played on that occasion.

Byron Hanson

Interlochen Center for the Arts

Byron Hanson also wrote on April 10, 2014:

The C. F. Peters miniature score for "Of New Horizons" has a couple pages of information regarding other performances of the work, some of which Ulysses conducted.


AfriClassical accessed Columbia University Libraries/Information Services:

On March 10, 1947 Of New Horizons of Ulysses Kay was performed by the Juilliard Orchestra and Chorus at Carnegie Hall, under the direction of Thor Johnson and Robert Shaw, conductors.

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