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Primary Creator: WGN Studio Orchestra
Extent: 32.0 cubic feet
Arrangement: The collection is organized into five series: Series 1, Marion Claire correspondence, 1940-1950, arranged chronologically; Series 2, Tams-Witmark Music Library rental records, 1940-1950, arranged chronologically; Series 3, Theatre of the Air, 1940-1950, which is arranged into 4 sub-series according to format (Sub-Series 1, Scripts; Sub-Series 2, Manuscript Vocal parts; Sub-Series 3, Orchestral parts; and Sub-Series 4, Full scores and over-sized parts) and then arranged by accession number; Series 4) Scripts and Programs, arranged in rough chronological order; and Series 5) WGN Music Library, arranged by accession number. Accession numbers were either established by the WGN library staff or by UIUC Music Librarian Jay Alien in conjunction with his cataloging project of the early 1960s.
Date Acquired: 00/00/1957
Formats/Genres: Sheet music
Consists of scripts, programs, production notes, correspondence, music library rental records, sheet music manuscripts, and music scores with annotations that document the WGN Studio Symphonic Orchestra from the 1925 to 1956. Of special note are the music scores, parts, production notes and scripts of the "Theatre of the Air," which include orchestral works and orchestrations to accompany vocal works (many in special arrangements by Rosario Bourdon and others, with reduced instrumentation suitable for theater or salon ensembles). Also of interest are the scripts from the University of Chicago's series called "The Human Adventure."
The Chicago-based WGN radio station began its life in 1923 as WJAZ, a small Zenith-owned station broadcasting out of the "Crystal Room" studio in the Edgewater Beach Hotel. In 1924, the Chicago Tribune, under Col. Robert R. McCormick, assumed control of the station and gave it the call letter WGN (for World's Greatest Newspaper). That same year, WGN took over station WDAP, assuming control of its programs, as well as its studio. WGN provided its listeners with local and world news, live broadcasts of political and sporting events, and many music and theatrical programs. In the early days of radio, live music was an integral part of the listening experience. "The Theatre of the Air", which ran from 1940-1956, was produced before a live studio audience and broadcast across the country via the Mutual Broadcasting System. In 1943 "Theatre of the Air" moved to the Medinah Temple, where 3,000-4,000 people could watch the famous singer Marion Claire perform with the WGN Studio Orchestra. Col. Robert R. McCormick would often lend his voice to the program, speaking on historic topics like the Revolutionary War. The WGN Studio Orchestra also played for other programs, such the University of Chicago's "The Human Adventure Series," and music-drama presentations like operettas and musicals. The WGN Studio Orchestra developed an extensive music library to support these productions. Although radio broadcasts of live musical productions may be a thing of the past, WGN still operates at frequency of 720 kHz, and has since 1927.
Acquisition Source: WGN Radio Station
Acquisition Method: Gift originally given to the Music Library and then later transferred to the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music in 2012.
Processing Information: Acquired by UIUC in 1958 by University Extension and transferred to University Library in early 1960s. The collection was then transferred to Music Library in 1962 and cataloged by Jay Allen and staff as a circulating collection. Some vocal scores have been withdrawn from the WGN collection or transferred to other stack areas within the Music and Performing Arts Library since 1965. After the Music Library moved to its present location during the 1970s, the WGN collection was packaged in new folders, and shelved in numerical order in Special Collections. During the 1990s the collection was repacked into 163 shipping cartons and placed in storage. Each carton was labeled as to the portion of the WGN accession-number sequence it contained, with a small amount of unnumbered material in cartons at the end of the entire series. In 2009 the record group moved to the Music and Performing Arts Library, where it was processed to archival standards as part of the Library's Special Collections. Published versions of pieces without annotations have been removed from the record group.