Charles Edward Ives (1874-1954)

Known for his independence from musical fads and his flair for experimentation, Charles Edward Ives was truly a native son of Danbury. His father George, who had served as a Civil War band leader, was Charles' most influential teacher and had engaged himself in various musical experiments. Thus it was that Charles interwove fragments from traditional patriotic marches and hymns with the unconventional techniques acquired from his father. Unfortunately, Danbury residents and Americans in general were not receptive to this native son. When several of his orchestral works premiered in New York, Los Angeles and Boston during the 1930's, the audiences were openly hostile.

The bulk of Charles Ives's music was composed during the years between 1896 and 1916. During that time span, he graduated from Yale (1898), formed a very successful insurance company with Julian Myrick (1907), and married Harmony Twitchell (1910).

It was not until well after he stopped composing that a changing public revised its assessment of his music. Finally, in 1947 Charles Ives was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the Third Symphony he had written forty years earlier. By then a wealthy man due to success in his insurance business, he gave away the $500 prize money.

When he was a boy, he disliked being called a piano player by his peers. When much ado was made about his music and he was asked what he liked to play, he would retort: "Shortstop!" He also rowed and played tennis and football.

Mrs. Charles (Harmony Twitchell) Ives. "(Harmony) was never in doubt that Charles Ives was a genius, and so he was never in doubt." — a friend of the family.

"The piano drew Mr. Ives like a magnet. He couldn't sit still for long, and it seemed like he couldn't keep away from (it)."—Christine Loring, secretary for Charles Ives.

"My things were done mostly in the twenty years or so between 1896 and 1916. In 1917 the war came and I did practically nothing in music. I did not seem to feel like it. We were busy at the office at this time with the extra Red Cross and Liberty Loan drives and all the problems that the war brought…"

Charles Ives constructed this "shanty" on top of a mountain in the Ridgebury section of Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1903. Perhaps the panorama available from this spot inspired Ives to begin his "Universe Symphony". He envisioned two orchestras playing across from each other on mountaintops overlooking a valley. "If only I could have done it. It's all there—the mountains and the field," he said.

The Fourth of July had been forgetten in a safe until Julian Myrick (Charles Ives' business partner) asked Ives if he wanted it thrown away. "Why, Mike! God that's the best thing I've written!"

"Mrs. Ives never once said, or suggested, or looked or thought there must be something wrong with me—a thing implied, if not expressed by almost everybody else, including members of the family. She never once said: 'Now why don't you be good and write something nice the way they like it.' Never. She urged me on my way to be myself and gave me her confidence that no one else since Father had given me."—Charles Edward Ives

[The photos shown from the collections of Danbury Museum & Historical Society Authority.]