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Good News in History, October 19

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121 years ago today, the Pomp & Circumstance March by Edward Elgar premiered in Liverpool. In Canada and the U.S., the Trio section is often known simply as “The Graduation March” and is played as the processional tune at virtually all high school and college graduation ceremonies.

It was first played at such a ceremony four years later, at Yale University, where the Professor of Music Samuel Sanford had invited his friend Elgar to attend commencement and receive an honorary doctorate of music. Elgar accepted, and Sanford made certain he was the star of the proceedings, engaging an orchestra to perform parts from Elgar’s oratorio and, and as the graduates and officials marched out, Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1. was playing.

That title is taken from Act III of Shakespeare’s Othello, which waxes poetically about the glory of warriors going into battle. Elgar was in attendance at the premier of the piece in England when it was performed by the Liverpool Orchestral Society, and it was a “frantic” success. Two days later, the conductor recalled that the audience “…rose and yelled… the one and only time in the history of the Promenade concerts that an orchestral item was accorded a double encore.” WATCH Edward Elgar conduct the march at the opening of the London Abbey Road Studios in 1931, telling musicians, “Please play this tune as though you’ve never heard it before”… (1901)

– Photo by RUT MIIT

MORE Good News on this Day:

  • 241 years ago, at Yorktown, Virginia, representatives of British commander Lord Cornwallis formally surrendered to Gen. George Washington and the French commander, Rochambeau, turning the tide toward Independence for the American colonies (1781)
  • Happy 56th Birthday to Jon Favreau, the comedy actor-turned-director who starred in and directed Chef and also directed Elf, Iron Man, and Iron Man 2, andThe Jungle Book (1966)
  • Mother Teresa was beatified as a saint by Pope John Paul II during a ceremony in St. Peter’s Square (2003)
  • The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 12,000 for the first time, finishing the day at 12,011 (2006)

On this day in 1952, French biologist and physician Alain Bombard set sail in an inflatable boat just 15 ft long (4.5m) in order to prove that shipwrecked people could survive crossing an ocean. He took only a sextant and almost no provisions and survived by fishing and drinking a limited amount of seawater. He published a book about his trip entitled Naufragé Volontaire (Wrecked Volunteer), after completing his 2730 mile (4400km) voyage in nine weeks.

Also on this day in 1943, the first remedy for tuberculosis was identified by Dr. Selman Waksman, a Ukrainian-born, Jewish-American inventor, biochemist and microbiologist who had been studying the subject for years at Rutgers University. The professor’s team discovered streptomycin, the first antibiotic that could be used to cure tuberculosis—in fact, he coined the term antibiotics, to describe antibacterials derived from other living organisms and won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the work. He donated the licensing proceeds of his patents to fund a foundation for microbiological research at Rutgers.

Happy Birthday to John Lithgow who turns 77 today.

The Accountant Premiere on WB Pictures Snapchat 2016, Olja Antic, CC license / fair use

After winning his first Tony Award for his 1973 debut Broadway performance in The Changing Room, he later tried his hand at comedy in 1996 playing an alien from outer space in 3rd Rock from the Sun for which he received six consecutive Emmy nominations (winning three) during the show’s 6 seasons. Lithgow also voiced the evil Lord Farquaad in the animated film Shrek and earned Oscar nominations for supporting roles in The World According to Garp and Terms of Endearment.

He earned a degree in history and literature from Harvard (magna cum laude) in history and literature, where he later became the first actor ever to give a commencement address at the prestigious university. He also sings opera and has written best-selling children’s books, and his latest collection of comic satirical poetry is set for release this week: Dumpty: The Age of Trump in Verse. (1945)

And, 32 years ago today, Dances with Wolves, the epic Western film starring Kevin Costner, premiered. It was Costner’s directorial debut, too, and it won the Oscar for Best Picture.

A film adaptation of the book by Michael Blake set in the 1860s, it tells the story of a Union Army lieutenant who treks through the American frontier to find a remote military post, and how he dealt with the Lakota people who had been at war with the Army. He develops a growing respect and appreciation for their lifestyle and culture, and they develop respect for him. Learning their language, he is accepted as an honored guest by the Sioux after he tells them of a migrating herd of buffalo and participates in the hunt. After befriending a wolf, the tribe gives him the name ‘Dances with Wolves’.

Much of the dialogue is spoken in Lakota with English subtitles, yet the film was a box-office hit, grossing $424.2 million worldwide, after a budget of just $22 million. The sweeping 3-hour saga with its arresting cinematography was nominated for 12 Academy Awards—and won seven, including Best Picture, Best Director (for Costner), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Because of the film’s popularity among the Native community and lasting impact on the image of Native Americans, the Sioux Nation adopted Costner as an honorary member. WATCH the trailer… (1990)

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