LaBudde Special Collections | Paul Creston Collection

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Scope and Content of Collection

The Paul Creston Collection was donated to the University of Missouri-Kansas City by Louise Creston, Paul's wife, in 1987. The material has been organized into 19 series that occupy 89 boxes. Louise Creston acted as her husband's personal archivist, and for this reason, the material in Series VII: Correspondence and Series XV: Scrapbooks has remained in the order she organized it. Additional material was contributed by other sources in 1989 and can be found in the appendix. The earliest material in the collection are scores that date from 1922, and the latest material in the collection are obituaries and programs from Louise Creston's funeral in 1989.

The strength of the collection lies in the over 300 manuscript scores. The collection contains 102 of Creston's 121 works with opus numbers, and many of his works without opus numbers, including radio, film and television scores. Many of the opus numbers, especially those with much instrumentation contain more than one score. Thus, Creston's method of composing can be followed from the rough draft to the final published copy. The majority of the scores also contain annotations by Creston. The collection also contains 154 published scores, some of which are permanently out of print.

Another strength of the collection is the professional correspondence. In handling correspondence, Creston always typed a letter, copied it, signed it, mailed the signed copy to the recipient, and kept the original unsigned letter for his records. Thus the correspondence contains all of the letters, telegrams, and postcards sent to and from Creston. There is, however, very little personal correspondence.

Other highlights of the collection include Creston's writings on his own life and works, including program notes from 64 works, autobiographical sketches, lectures, diaries, and date books from 1944 to 1985. Creston's philosophy of life and music can be found in 11 notebooks kept by Creston on mysticism and occultism in Series VI: Writings Unrelated to Music, which also contains 40 of his poems. Besides the music manuscripts, manuscripts of both published and unpublished books and articles by Creston are an important part of the collection. Over 210 reviews of Creston's music and 470 concert programs from 1932-1985 can be found in their own series, and also in scrapbooks that were organized by Louise. The sound recordings series is contained on 140 tapes containing 255 recordings of 106 of his works, five interviews, and one lecture, which can be found in the Marr Sound Archives. The majority of the recordings are not published, and were originally recorded on reel-to-reel tapes. Other series in the Collection contain foreign language notebooks, biographical information, awards and honors, and scores and books owned by Creston, as well as over 130 photographs.

Some material from this collection, including books and sound recordings, can be found in the UMKC Library Catalog using the author search: Paul Creston Collection. Cataloged material is housed in Special Collections, the Marr Sound Archives, and the Music/Media Library.

Additonal print resources:

Biographical Sketch

Paul Creston was born Giuseppe Guttovergi on October 10, 1906, in New York City to Italian immigrant parents, Gaspare Guttovergi and Carmela Collura. At age eight, he began taking piano lessons and teaching himself how to play his brother's violin. Creston also pursued an interest in literature, writing his first poem at age twelve, and starting a novel a year later. Because of poor family finances, Creston's formal education ended after two and one-half years of high school. During high school, he was nicknamed "Cress" after a character he portrayed in a play. Later in life, he lengthened this name to Creston, chose Paul for a first name, and legally changed his name to Paul Creston in 1944. Creston worked at various businesses, banks, and insurance companies to pay for organ and piano lessons, while studying English, foreign languages, mysticism, music composition, and orchestration on his own. His piano teachers during this period included Gaston Dethier, Carlo Stea, and G. Aldo Randegger.

Although Creston had been composing as a diversion or past-time since age eight, his development as composer increased during the 1920s until 1932, when he finally decided to choose composition as his career. Creston learned how to improvise by working as a theater organist from 1926-1929, and eventually became the organist at St. Malachy's Church in New York City from 1934 to 1967. In July of 1927, Creston married a dancer, Louise Gotto (1903-1989), who influenced Creston in his ideas on rhythm and dance. His first premiere was in 1933 with the incidental music to a play Iron Flowers. The Crestons' first child, Paul Julian, survived only six weeks and was buried on the Crestons' tenth wedding anniversary, July 1, 1937. But on Thanksgiving Day, 1938, the Crestons were blessed with a healthy boy, Joel Anthony, and four years later, they had their third and last child, Timothy.

The success of Creston's early compositions created many new opportunities for him. From 1944 to 1950, Creston conducted a quartet on the radio program, The Hour of Faith, which aired each Sunday morning. Creston also worked as a composition instructor at over fourteen colleges and universities between the years of 1940 and 1962. In 1960, Creston received a U.S. State Department grant as an American specialist, which enabled him to lecture about American music for over a month in Turkey and Israel. He served as Professor of Composition and Orchestration at New York College of Music between 1963 and 1967, and in 1968, he became artist-in-residence at Central Washington State College in Ellensburg, Washington. During this time, he appeared as guest conductor and lecturer at many colleges and universities across the country. In 1975, he retired from Central Washington State College and moved to Rancho Bernardo, California, which lies on the outskirts of San Diego.

Creston wrote 120 compositions with opus numbers including piano pieces, songs, chamber music for various instruments, choral works, symphonic band works, and over 35 orchestral works including six symphonies. He is especially recognized for his contributions to the literature of neglected instruments such as the marimba, trombone, harp, accordion, and saxophone. His works have been widely performed by major orchestras and performing artists. In an orchestral survey prepared by Robert Sabin in the late 1950s, Creston and Aaron Copland shared first place in regard to the number of orchestra compositions and their performances by major American symphony orchestras.

Creston also composed works without opus numbers, especially for radio, television, and film. He composed for the children's radio program Storyland Theatre and for the dramatic portions of the radio program Philco Hall of Fame. Creston also contributed scores to the CBS-TV series The Twentieth Century, receiving a Christopher Award for the segment Revolt in Hungary. The documentary on poet William Carlos Williams, In the American Grain, earned Creston an Emmy award. In addition, Creston wrote numerous articles for music journals and authored two published books: Principles of Rhythm and Rational Metric Notation.

Among Creston's awards and honors are two Guggenheim Fellowships (1938, 1939), New York Music Critics’ Circle Award (1943), Citation of Merit from the National Association for American Composers and Conductors (1941), the Music Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1943), and the Citation of Honor from the National Catholic Music Educators Association (1956).

Creston was diagnosed with cancer in 1984, and died on August 24, 1985.

 

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