The American Legion Band of the Tonawandas may have performed all over the nation and even in several international venues, but for some reason it can’t stay away from Chautauqua.
As the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra begins its 2014 season, the hope is that it represents an ending as well. Over the course of a season chock-full of sterling soloists and contemporary classics, all eyes will be on the eight guest conductors vying to become the ninth music director of the CSO.
At the opening of the 1918 Season, Arthur E. Bestor, Chautauqua Institution president, gave an address titled “Mobilizing the Mind of America,” a title that might be said to reflect a general attitude of the platform that summer. It was important to win the war, no doubt. But there were other things to be done and other lessons to be learned.
“This war is different from all the wars which have gone before,” Bestor said. “It is a war of nations, not of armies. It involves all the material resources, all the mechanical and scientific mobilization of entire populations.”
For United States citizens, it was something new.
The European War Symposium at Chautauqua was convened hastily, following the series of declarations of war issued, one upon the other, in late July and early August of 1914. The first lecture, “The European War from the German Point of View,” was given on Aug. 4 by Dr. Hans E. Gronow. There would be three more.
Gronow was a professor at the University of Chicago and head of the department of German in the Chautauqua Summer Schools. The Chautauquan Daily reported that he had been born in the Baltic Province, educated at German universities and served in the German army.
The Daily reported that Gronow addressed “a mammoth audience in the Hall,” and the number of people who attended the address was “evidence of the deep interest Chautauquans are taking in the war which threatens to disrupt all Europe.” Gronow, the paper said, had lived in the United States for so many years that he declared himself almost American in feeling: “Anyone who heard him Tuesday afternoon, however, would never doubt that the German blood within him runs just as strongly as ever.”