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Today in WMH: An Inaugural Protest Concert


1/19 Today in Weird Music History: 1973.  Leonard Bernstein and Senator Eugene McCarthy organize a concert to counter President-elect Richard Nixon’s inaugural concert.  Many saw Nixon’s personal choice of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as insensitive given the continuing war in Vietnam.  Bernstein’s concert presented Haydn’s Mass in Time of War at Washington’s National Cathedral on the exact same day and time as the inaugural concert.  3000 people attended the concert indoors.  12,000 attended the concert, standing in the rain, outside the cathedral.



  1. Bernie Swain says:

    I and my wife-to-be were in the audience. that night. A friend waited in line from noon on for free tickets, and we ended up seated in the first pew–maybe 20 feet from Bernstein. The Columbia album depicts the scene, and we are visible on the cover. But the recording was made the day after, in an empty cathedral, and I am quite sure that performance lacks the electricity of the live one ( i have an old cassette of the live radio broadcast). The Mass is short, less than an hour, but Bernstein was limp with emotion by the end–he poured himself into the music and the pick-up choir and National Symphony (snubbed by Nixon that night in favor of the Philadelphia) played way over their heads. 40 years later, that night’s mark is still fresh. I mention it in my current post, “The Week That Killed the ’60s” at http://swaincrosscurrents.blogspot.com/ .

    • rlbaldwin2 says:

      I am honored to meet you! I am not surprised that attending that performance was one of those moments that lasts a lifetime. It is certainly an amazing story, and one that continues to demonstrate the power of music to peacefully make a positive statement for change and/or a strong statement in opposition. Enjoyed reading your blog, too. I look forward to exploring it more!

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