On This Gay Day: Composer Aaron Copland died in 1990

Aaron Copland captured the sound of America 

American composer Aaron Copland died on this day in 1990, just a few weeks after his 90th birthday.

Born in New York in 1900, his family were immigrants who had come to America from Lithuania via Scotland, along the way changing their name from Kaplan to Copland. The young Aaron Copland began composing music at an early age and went on to study at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

After further study in Paris, and travelling around Europe he returned to the USA where he began his career as a composer.

His works involve slow changing harmonies, which many feel capture the wide openness of the American landscape and evoke a feeling a patriotism.

Appalachian Spring is one of the most admired works by composer Aaron Copland, surpassed perhaps only by his earlier work Fanfare for the Common Man.

Appalachian Spring (A Ballet) was commissioned by choreographer Martha Graham, and the work made it’s debut at the USA’s Library of Congress on October 30, 1944 with Graham dancing the lead role.

Copland later spoke about how it amused him when people told him the score perfectly captured the feeling of the Appalachian Mountains, because the decision to name the piece Appalachian Spring came after the music was written. He had originally simply titled the piece Ballet for Martha, and it was Graham who suggested naming the piece, taking inspiration from a Hart Crame poem.

Over his life Copland created over 100 works. He was very private about his personal life, but it widely accepted that he was gay and comfortable with his sexuality. Throughout his life he had a number of companions who travelled with him, they were usually talented young men who worked in the arts.

Jason Collins was born on this day in 1978

Professional basketball player Jason Collins was born on this day in 1978. Born in Los Angeles, just a few minutes ahead of twin brother Jarron, he became the first person in his sport at a professional level to share that they were gay.

He made his announcement at the end of the 2012-13 season, the following year he was a free agent and didn’t play again until 2014 when he was signed by the Brooklyn Nets. While Collins made the history books in basketball, he is also the second player to come out while playing professional sports in the USA. Soccer player Robbie Rodgers who was playing for the LA Galaxy shared his sexuality in 2013.

During his career Collins played for the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawkes, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards and the Nets.

OIP Staff


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