Orchard City: Medford, Oregon 1913
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The Orchard City: Medford, Oregon 1913 was commissioned by the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon for the celebration of its 25th anniversary in 2013. The YSSO is the premier instrumental music performance organization for musicians ages 6 to 23 in its region. This includes the Oregon communities of Medford, Grants Pass, and Ashland, among others. The Orchard City is a symphonic fantasy on Medford in the year 1913, just after the peak of its “orchard boom”.
I began work on The Orchard City by immersing myself in the history of Southern Oregon in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Of great help were the people of the Southern Oregon Historical Society who directed my attention to the online archive of historic Oregon newspapers at http://tinyurl.com/SOHistNews. Other resources included Ben Truwe’s wonderful web site Southern Oregon History, Revised at http://tinyurl.com/SOHistory, and Images of America: Medford by Kevin Keating; Arcadia Publishing 2011.
I next composed three original short pieces in popular musical styles of the 1913 era. I entitled these “Roxy Ann Peak”, “City Life 1913” and “Hymn of Thanksgiving: Medford, Oregon November 27, 1913.” These three pieces were then interwoven and placed in the context of the extended overture or tone poem which is The Orchard City.
The piece begins with a theme meant to express the enthusiasm, excitement, and Western flair of the place and time. In the years 1905 – 1910 Medford had quadrupled in population to almost 9,000 people in response to the “orchard boom”. The ideal growing conditions for pears, apples, and more, along with an extensive railroad system to take product to markets far and wide in a timely manner created a bonanza for those ready to get their hands dirty. In 1913 there were three distinct train lines running in and out of town. Medford boasted a new Carnegie library (1912), an opera house, several movie theaters, and over 18 miles of paved streets, among other amenities.
The next section of the piece is a serene “view” of the burgeoning town seen from Roxy Ann Peak, a 3,576 foot mountain adjacent to modern-day east Medford. The peace is interrupted by the clatter and noise of a locomotive building up a head of steam. To Medford by Rail takes us to the hustle and bustle of this young metropolis. City Life is built on a ragtime theme including Vaudeville and a Saturday Night Dance. There are a few quotes from two songs composed in the day, now in the public domain: L’il Liza Jane by Countess Ada de Lachau (1916), and Come, Josephine in my Flying Machine by Frank Fischer (1910). The latter tune will be familiar to those who have seen James Cameron’s film, Titanic.
After the excitement of the town there is a Hymn of Thanksgiving for all of the bounty that nature has bestowed on this growing community. A return of the original theme rounds off the piece.
The orchard boom saw the most rapid growth that the area has ever experienced. Although the boom went bust before World War I, Medford and the Rogue Valley continues to grow. Today the Medford metropolitan area alone has a population of over 207,000. The Rogue Valley is home to Naumes Inc., the Bear Creek Corporation (Harry and David), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Southern Oregon University, Britt Festivals, Rogue Valley Symphony, Rogue Opera, Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon and many more fine organizations.
It has been a great honor to create a piece to celebrate the great work of the YSSO. It is an institution that has made a great difference in the lives of many young people in the area. Congratulations on its Silver Jubilee!

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