Symphony to Perform 1936 Piece by First Port of Stockton Manager

January 30, 2018


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Port Stockton March BC Allin

The only review of the performance of the “Port Stockton March” comes from the composer, who also was the port’s chief engineer and first manager, Benjamin Casey Allin.

In his autobiography, “Reaching for the Sea,” Allin wrote, “This tune was played on at least one occasion by the Stockton Symphony Orchestra to generous applause and my own satisfaction.”

Reviews of the symphony performances were not written for The Stockton Daily Evening Record when the piece was performed on Dec. 7, 1936, but contemporary audiences will be able to judge for themselves whether it merits generous applause.

The Stockton Symphony will open its Classics 3 performance Saturday at San Joaquin Delta College’s Atherton Auditorium by playing the “Port Stockton March.”

“About a year and a half ago, I was talking to Rick Aschieris, the current director of the port, and he said he had a piece called the ‘Port Stockton March,’ ″ conductor Peter Jaffe said. “He said if you read Benjamin Casey Allin’s autobiography, it said it was performed by the Stockton Symphony. He wrote it in 1936. It piqued my interest, and I said, ‘We’re going to play this piece.’ I was hoping to find the score they played.”

Aschieris didn’t have the full orchestra score.

That he had the piano sheet music for the march, which essentially is the melody, is almost miraculous.

“Amazingly enough it was in our own archives, but nobody was aware of it,” Aschieris said. “What we’ve done in the last few summers is hired interns, college students, to help us in recovering our history.”

Boxes and boxes of materials — the port’s documented history — are in a warehouse, and one of the interns came across the music in one of those boxes.

The notes on the cover of the sheet music report the “Port of Stockton March” was then performed on Dec. 7, 1936, by the Stockton Symphony Orchestra, directed by that group’s founding conductor, Manlio Silva.

The Stockton Daily Record listed the march in a short story about the symphony’s planned program.

Although that 1936 orchestral score didn’t exist, Jaffe created one for the 2018 edition of the symphony.

“When I look at a piece of music, I also hear it in my head,” said Jaffe, who has created as many as 100 orchestra arrangements in his career. “What immediately struck me was it sounded like a (John Phillips) Souza march. I decided to score it that way. There are some chimes to sound like ship’s bells and sounds of waves. It’s a lot of fun.”

Aschieris, who has invited port employees to attend Saturday’s concert that the Port of Stockton is helping to sponsor, said Jaffe’s interpretation matches Allin’s brief description of it in his autobiography.

“He’s talking about an earlier composition of his about his time in India and he says, ‘Another composition of mine, far different in spirit and more of a musical romp than a serious composition, was the ‘Port Stockton March,’ ” Aschieris said.

The piece is only a couple minutes long, but Jaffe said it’s a fun surprise for the audience, and Ashieris, for one, is anxious to hear it.

“I had a great time arranging it,” Jaffe said. “When you deal with a lot of scores written for entire orchestras, there’s a piano reduction. If you’re working on a show, a musical or opera or ballet, they’re always rehearsing with the piano reduction. When I look at a piece that’s written for piano, I pretend the piano is a reduction of something, and the full orchestra exists. I work backwards. It’s like a sculptor who sees a huge piece of stone and already sees what’s inside.”

Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or lgilbert@recordnet.com. Follow her on Twitter @lorigrecord.


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