Composers Datebook®

Ron Nelson's "Rocky Point Holiday"

Composers Datebook for February 9, 2019


Rhode Island natives of a certain age wax nostalgia about Rocky Point, a popular family vacation spot on the Narragansett Bay side of Warwick, which operated from the late 1840s until its close in 1995. There was an amusement park with rides like “The Russian Toboggan,” “The Wildcat” and “Cyclone,” for the kids, while mom and pop might opt for a table at the Rocky Point Chowder House.

In 1966, the American composer Ron Nelson spent a summer holiday there. “It's such a small state, there aren’t that many places to go,” he later recalled. Still, his “Rocky Point Holiday” provided the inspiration—and the title—for a work commissioned by Dr. Frank Bencriscutto for his University of Minnesota Concert Band.

“Rocky Point Holiday” was first performed under Bencriscutto’s direction on today’s date in 1967, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, during the annual convention of the College Band Director’s National Association. But the piece really took off—a little like “The Russian Toboggan” perhaps?—when Bencriscutto’s band toured the Soviet Union in 1969.

Frank wanted an ‘American’ piece to open the program,” Nelson recalled, and “Rocky Point Holiday” fit the bill perfectly. Closer to home, Nelson’s jaunty score became a classic in the wind band repertory, and was chosen by the Garfield Cadets for their Drum Corps International championship program in 1983.

Music Played in Today's Program

Ron Nelson (b. 1929) Rocky Point Holiday Dallas Wind Symphony; Jerry Junkin, cond. Reference Recording RR-76

On This Day


  • 1834 - German composer Franz Xaver Witt, in Walderbach, Bavaria;

  • 1885 - Austrian composer Alban Berg, in Vienna;

  • 1909 - German composer Harald Genzmer, in Blumenthal, near Bremen;


  • 1740 - German composer, organist and teacher Vincent Lübeck, age c. 85, in Hamburg;

  • 1812 - German composer Franz Anton Hoffmeister, age 57, in Vienna;

  • 1960 - Hungarian composer Ernö (Ernst von) Dohnányi, age 82, in New York City;


  • 1722 - ; first documented concert performance of Handel: “Water Music” at the Stationer’s Hall in London (Gregorian date: Feb. 20); Handel’s “Water Music” had been premiered on July 17/28, 1717, during a famous royal barge excursion on the river Thames;

  • 1727 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 84 ("Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke") probably performed on Septuagesimae Sunday as part of Bach's third annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1725/27);

  • 1728 - Gay & Pepusch: ballad-opera, “The Beggar’s Opera,” in London (Julian date: Jan. 29);

  • 1812 - Beethoven: private premieres of "The Ruins of Athens" and "King Stephen" Overture and Incidental Music, as part of a production at the opening of a new theater in Pest, Hungary (see also Feb. 10 for offical public premiere);

  • 1886 - Mussorgsky (arr. Rimsky-Korsakov): opera “Khovanschchina,” posthumously, in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Feb. 21);

  • 1893 - Verdi: opera, "Falstaff," in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala; This was Verdi's last opera;

  • 1909 - Albéniz: piano suite, "Iberia," in Paris;

  • 1919 - Chadwick: symphonic poem "Angel of Death" in New York;


  • 1784 - Mozart finishes his Piano Concerto No. 14 in Eb, K. 449, and enters it as the first item in his own catalogue of his compositions; The concerto may have been performed by Mozart in Vienna on March 17 that year, and also outside Vienna at the home of Barbara von Ployer, one of Mozart's pupils, for whom the work was written.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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