Ann Wyeth McCoy A Christmas Fantasy Program Notes
A young Ann Wyeth composed this piece and, aged 19, entered it in a competition for young composers held by the Philadelphia Orchestra. It was premiered the next December, conducted by music director Leopold Stokowski.
Ann’s father N.C. Wyeth first came from Wilmington to Chadd’s Ford, to study with Howard Pyle, founder of what came to be called the “Brandywine School” style. The family had multiple connections to Wilmington’s DuPont company, but settled in Chadd’s Ford, and to this day they are active and influential in the creative life of Delaware and Chester Counties. N.C. Wyeth’s pupils included John McCoy, who Ann married the year after Christmas Fantasy’s premiere. Ann’s two daughters remain active painters – a recent exhibition was in July this year in Rockland County, Maine, where the family also has long-standing ties. Ann’s younger brother, Andrew, painted his most famous work, Christine’s World, in Maine, and it’s now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Ann Wyeth McCoy painted throughout her life, and studied music seriously while young: she studied piano with William Hatton Greene, director of his own piano school in downtown Philadelphia, and Harl McDonald (1899-1955), faculty at the University of Pennsylvania and composer of four symphonies.
Christmas Fantasy’s most present feature is the trills and ornate writing over more slower moving, chorale-like material – the musical equivalent of tinsel, and reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakoff’s “Christmas Eve” Overture. Near the ending, it has what could be a hint of “Good King Wenceslas,” then a direct but short quotation from Adestes Fideles (“O Come, All Ye Faithful.”) Like some other works by Wyeth held in the Fleisher Collection (including the Orchestral Suite for Children, and the tone poem “Maine Summer”), it’s gentle and pleasant, and a nice discovery for performers and listeners alike.
The Wyeth Christmas Fantasy was provided by the Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia.