ARTHUR FARWELL • Community Period
Costumes used in The Evergreen Tree, a Christmas Masque performed in 1917

Costumes used in The Evergreen Tree, a Christmas Masque performed in 1917

Farwell's "community" period shows him shifting focus from Native American culture to the broader masses of America and the world. His works become more engaged in community outreach and involvement. Farwell believed that pageants, masques, and community sing-ins were the most powerful musical mediums through which to fuse social and spiritual evolution. This socio-spiritual union was also consistently expressed through Farwell's own version of American nationalism. Farwell stated his aims clearly in his The New Gospel of American Music: “The New Gospel of music is this: That the message of music at its greatest and highest is not for the few, but for all; not sometime, but now; that it is to be given to all, and can be received by all.” In the 1910s Farwell served as director of the New York Music School Settlement and as director of music for NY Parks and Recreation. Between 1915 and 1917 Farwell produced numerous works according to his new gospel, including Pageant of Meriden, Pageant of Darien, The Evergreen Tree, and Caliban by the Yellow Sands, the latter involving 1,500 performers. Farwell's fusion of media lead him to realize some of the earliest multi-media performances. In 1916 Farwell helped stage a large-scale singing event called “Song and Light Festival.” Held in Central Park, the crowds reached near 30,000. “At one end [of the lake] the chorus and an orchestra performed from a stage lit by geometrically shaped lanterns that were specially designed by the architect Claude Bragdon, giving the whole a mystical aura, according to Farwell.” 

In 1918 Farwell moved to California, where in 1922 he founded the Theatre of the Stars, an outdoor theatre venu in the San Bernadino Mountains. "This theatre," Farwell wrote, "reaches toward the infinite. In it music and drama are lifted, at a single stroke, out of all the traditional conventions and artificiialities of their presentation. The way is cleared for the new and unexplored. The Theatre of the Stars is a challenge and a call to all who would build on the mountain tops a new and redeeming order of existence worthy of the best in our national life and character. It is a theatre and more than a theatre. It is the inauguration of a new movement, the pointing of a new way." There he staged numerous concerts and theatrical productions including some of his own, like The March of Man (1925). During this time Farwell also founded the Santa Barbara School for the Arts, and he was hired by the U.S. Army as the first "consultant on group singing." Farwell has explained how many of his community works came to him through a discipline of meditation, largely inspired by the new thought philosophy of Thomas Troward. Farwell developed a visualization practice that he called the "place of music" practice. In this practice he envisions an imaginary orchestra and in meditative audition he intuitively attends the spontaneously generated music of the orchestra. Unfortunately there are no available recordings of these large-scale works that I can share. 
Farwell (center) with the cast of "March of Man" at the Theatre of the Stars (1925)      .      
Dressed in white, Farwell's wife (Gertrude) stands above him

Farwell (center) with the cast of "March of Man" at the Theatre of the Stars (1925) .
Dressed in white, Farwell's wife (Gertrude) stands above him

The March of Man (1925) is a masque that was performed for the dedication of the Theatre of the Stars. In his description of the The March of Man, below, Farwell casts himself as "the seer," while the play itself seems deeply influenced by Farwell's prophetic interpretation of a series of visions he called "The Great City."

The rocks and trees, acting as rock spirits and dryads, awaken from their sleep only to remember the destructiveness of man. Their existence is threatened by woodsman cutting down a tree, an engineer planting a blast of dynamite, and party of revelers who start a forest fire. The elements create a great rain storm which extinguishes the fire. The World-Soul appears in the storm and prophesies the coming of Man who shall save the Nature Spirits. He comes as a Seer, and opposes the operations of the invaders especially that of the engineer, who claims he represents the progress of civilization—The March of Man.

The Seer, threatened with explosion of the dynamite, calls forth the spirits of the rocks and the trees, and confounds the invaders. The Seer then calls for a sign that the area shall be held sacred and inviolate. In response, the World-Soul sends him the Singer, whose prayerful song reaches the heavens as tone and light, awakening the celestial choirs and the light of the new day. 
The Song and Light Festival was huge success in New York when it premiered in Central Park in 1916. According to the New York Times, the event attracted over 60,000 attendees--the largest crowd ever gathered in Central Park at the time. For this massive project Farwell collaborated with Harry Barnhart, the conductor of the NY Community Chorus, and esoteric architect, Claude Bragdon. For the first part of the festival Barnhart conducted a series of classical and operatic orchestral works. The second half involved traditional folk tunes and hymns, to which the audience enthusiastically joined their voices. Bragdon's contribution was an array of intricately designed and illuminated geometric lanterns. His geometries were in fact rooted in his own esoteric research in what he called "projective geometry," "fourth dimensional geometry," and "organic design"--all of which was deeply influenced by Theosophy. 

“At one end [of the lake] the chorus and an orchestra performed from a stage lit by geometrically shaped lanterns that were specially designed by the architect Claude Bragdon, giving the whole a mystical aura, according to Farwell.” 
A color photograph from the "Song and Light Festival" in Central Park (1916)

A color photograph from the "Song and Light Festival" in Central Park (1916)

Another image from the "Song and Light Festival" (1916)

Another image from the "Song and Light Festival" (1916)

The cast from the "Pageant of Darien" (1913)

The cast from the "Pageant of Darien" (1913)

Farwell conducting a community performance in Pasadena, CA (1923)

Farwell conducting a community performance in Pasadena, CA (1923)

The Palm Sunday scene from the Pilgrimage Play (1921)

The Palm Sunday scene from the Pilgrimage Play (1921)