Composers Datebook®

Adolphe's 'Tyrannosaurus Sue'

Composers Datebook - May 21, 2024


Popular as the imaginary purple dinosaur Barney was with American kids in the 1990s, he got some competition from another dinosaur: a T. Rex named Sue. Sue was the nearly complete fossilized skeleton of a female T. Rex discovered in South Dakota, named after paleontologist Susan Hendrickson, the woman who found her.

Sue — the dinosaur, that is — ended up as a major display at the Field Museum in Chicago.

As part of the festivities surrounding the opening of the exhibit, on today’s date in 2000, the Chicago Chamber Musicians premiered Tyrannosaurus Sue: A Cretaceous Concerto, a work by American composer Bruce Adolphe that told Sue’s story. It was designed for children, in the style of Peter and the Wolf, or, in this case, “Sue eats Peter, the wolf, and anything else she can catch.”

Adolphe was a good choice for the project for, in addition to being a composer, author, educator and performer, he admits to being a big kid at heart, eager to share his enthusiasm for music with audiences of all ages.

Music Played in Today's Program

Bruce Adolphe (b. 1955): Tyrannosaurus Sue: A Cretaceous Concerto; Chicago Chamber Musicians; Pollyrhythm Productions 30001

On This Day


  • 1904 - American composer and jazz pianist Thomas “Fats” Waller, in New York City


  • 1895 - Austrian composer Franz von Suppé, 76, in Vienna


  • 1739 - Rameau: opera-ballet Les Fêtes d'Hébé, in Paris

  • 1892 - Leoncavallo: opera Pagliacci, in Milan at Teatro dal Verme, with Arturo Toscanini conducting

  • 1925 - Busoni: Doctor Faust, posthumously, in Dresden (completed by Philip Jarnach)

  • 1956 - Perischetti: Piano Sonata No. 7, at the Philadelphia Conservatory, by pianist Robert Smith

  • 1962 - Stockhausen: Momente for soprano, choruses, and instruments, in Cologne

  • 1980 - Jacob Druckman: "Prism" for orchestra, by the Baltimore Symphony, Sergiu Commissiona conducting

  • 1983 - Dave Brubeck: Pange Lingua Variations for chorus, jazz quartet, and orchestra, at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento, California, with Russell Gloyd conducting

  • 1987 - Harrison Birtwistle: opera The Mask of Orpheus, at the London Coliseum by the English National Opera, Elgar Howarth and Paul Daniel conducting

  • 2000 - Bruce Adolphe: Tyrannosaurus Sue: A Cretaceous Concerto, at the Field Museum in Chicago, by the Chicago Chamber Musicians

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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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