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Coolidge Uncut

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The following is a guest post from Senior Music Specialist Robin Rausch.

Marjorie Short, filmmaker.
Marjorie Short, filmmaker.

In 1995, documentary filmmaker Marjorie Short was looking for work in Washington, DC, and doing research at the Library of Congress for a new project on historical music performance. Music Specialist Raymond White suggested she contact Cyrilla Barr, professor of musicology at Catholic University, who was ten years into a biography of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, the great patron of chamber music and benefactor of the Library’s Music Division. Short had never heard of Coolidge, but was captivated by her story, especially when she learned that Coolidge had commissioned Aaron Copland’s much-loved ballet for Martha Graham, Appalachian Spring.

Dr. Barr enjoyed the support of then Music Division chief Jon Newsom, who believed the Coolidge story was important and needed to be told. She arranged for Short to meet Newsom and all three discussed the possibility of a documentary film on Coolidge. Newsom commissioned Short to create an eight-minute promotional video, and a proposal and budget for an hour-long documentary on Coolidge’s life and legacy. The brief biopic was completed in 1996. A longer documentary still awaits funding.


Chamber Music: The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge is open to the public Monday-Saturday from 8:30am-5:00pm in the Performing Arts Reading Room.
Chamber Music: The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge is open to the public Monday-Saturday from 8:30am-5:00pm in the Performing Arts Reading Room.

Fast forward almost twenty years and today Marjorie Short’s eight-minute Coolidge video, The Great Lady of Music, forms the centerpiece of a new exhibit: Chamber Music: The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. Created to commemorate Coolidge’s 150th birthday and the 90th anniversary season of concerts at the Library of Congress, Chamber Music features approximately 50 items— letters, photos, original music manuscripts, and more—that document Coolidge’s remarkable story.

As part of our Founder’s Day celebration, this Saturday, October 31st, Marjorie Short joins exhibit curators Robin Rausch and Caitlin Miller at 12:30 in the Whittall Pavilion to discuss the challenges of telling a life story in the briefest way possible, from an eight-minute film to a 50-item exhibit.




Friday, October 30, 2015
6:30pm Panel Discussion, “A leading role: a conversation on women in the music world,” Jane Chu, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts; Margaret Lioi, President and CEO, Chamber Music America; Astrid Schween, Cellist, Juilliard String Quartet.

8:00pm Concert, Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble: The Soul’s Messenger

Nightcap Conversation with Meredith Monk (following the performance)

Saturday, October 31, 2015
12:30pm Pre-concert Conversation, “Coolidge Uncut: A Conversation with the Coolidge Exhibit Curators and Filmmaker Marjorie Short”

2:00pm Concert, Pomerium

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