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starCopland got the musical ideas for El Salón México in Mexico itself - but part of the actual work on the score took place in Minnesota. When Copland was working out the orchestration, he was vacationing in a cabin on Lake Bemidji (with occasional side trips to Chicago, via Duluth).

So it is that the best-known classical piece to come out of Minnesota is a brilliant potpourri of Mexican dance-hall tunes.

star For as long as Billy the Kid and Rodeo have been popular, people have had a field day speculating how a Jewish composer from Brooklyn could write such convincing cowboy music.

One fact Copland like to cite in response is that his grandparents had lived in Texas for part of their lives. His grandfather owned a store in Dallas - for a while one of his employees was Frank James.

Joseph McCarthy
West Side Story poster
star Snappy crosstalk between composers:
Leonard Bernstein (referring to Copland's influence on his own music): "There are some actual quotes I can point to. There is a bar in West Side Story that I always cringe at. It's perhaps the most beautiful bar in West Side Story, too, but I always cringe because I know it's Aaron."

Copland: "I had an idea how you might cringe less. Just send me some of the royalties that you collect!"

star The Metropolitan Opera approached Copland with the idea of an opera based on Thornton Wilder's Our Town. Might this have been one of the great American operas? We will never know. Copland turned the offer down, since every scene in the opera seemed to him to call for slow music, and he couldn't imagine writing a whole opera in andante tempo.

star Copland didn't have a natural affinity for opera, but he admitted he was intrigued by the form - in fact, he referred to opera as la forme fatale.

starAfter Copland was summoned before the McCarthy hearings, there were those who wanted to keep their distance from him, though not necessarily his music.

For example: the Ed Sullivan Show observed Lincoln's birthday with a broadcast of Lincoln Portrait - without ever mentioning the composer's name.

star Copland's conducting career brought a welcome fringe benefit, in the form of the fees he was able to command.

Once, when Copland had bought a new car, a friend of his greeted him by saying, "Aaron, that doesn't look like a composer's car!" Copland responded, "It's not - it's a conductor's car."

star When Appalachian Spring first came out, there were musicians who questioned its chances at popularity; they thought performers would be unwilling to learn it because of the complex score.

They were right about the score - it's quite complex - but wrong about the popularity.

star As one of the most popular works for orchestra and narrator, Lincoln Portrait has attracted a wide range of "soloists." Among them: Copland himself, Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn, Adlai Stevenson, Margaret Thatcher, James Earl Jones, Carl Sandburg, Eartha Kitt, and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.

star If choreographer Agnes de Mille had taken no for an answer, Rodeo might never have been written.

After the success of Billy the Kid, she approached Copland with the idea of creating another Western ballet. Copland's first response was, "I've already composed one of those. Can't you do a ballet about Ellis Island?"

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