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From sculptor to famous band master

City plays role in Bohumir Kryl’s legacy

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Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 1:15 am

About a year ago, local insurance agent Tim McCormick attended the reopening of the General Lew Wallace Study after its extensive remodeling project. McCormick and a small group of people were discussing the construction of Wallace’s famous “man-cave” when Joann Spragg, historian and former museum director, mentioned Bohumir Kryl, an obscure sculptor who created the study’s friezes.

Initially, McCormick did not recognize Kryl’s name. However, when Spragg mentioned Kryl was also a cornetist who played in John Phillip Sousa’s band McCormick’s became intrigued.

McCormick, who is musician himself and avid collector of antique phonographs and records, sought to learn more. His quest to discover Kryl’s life and legacy beyond his time in Crawfordsville has led to a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience that will be offered Sept. 22 at Wabash College.

The Project

In cooperation with the Wabash College Visiting Artist Series and the Michigan & International Antique Phonograph Societies, the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum will present The Bohumir Kryl Project from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 22 at Salter Hall on the Wabash College campus, with a pre-show program at 7:30 p.m.

“When I began making plans for this event a year ago, I had no idea how popular it would become, how it would take on a life its own,” said McCormick, who is president of the International Antique Phonograph Society.

Initially, McCormick approached the college with the idea to use Salter Hall as a forum to play Kryl’s recordings. He was simply seeking a place to share the recordings and the pure sounds produced on the antique phonographs.

Yet, as he learned more about Kryl, the event grew. “The Bohumir Kryl Project” will include a narration of Kryl’s life and live audio phonograph recordings of Kryl’s music. An hour-long concert band performance will follow featuring music Kryl wrote and performed during his lifetime.

The concert band performance will feature Curt Christensen as the cornet soloist. Christensen holds degrees from Juilliard and recently retired as principal trumpet from the U.S. Air Force Band. He is also expected to perform on his trumpet and discuss his career with Southmont band students on Friday.

The Conductor, John Richardson, has performed and studied with Kryl descendants and was formerly a member of the U.S. Marine “President’s Own” Band and White House Orchestra French hornist. The 40-plus member concert band will also feature members of the Montgomery County Civic Band, the Zionsville Concert Band and performers from across the United States.

Bohumir Who?

Kryl was born in 1875 in a small town near Prague, Czech Republic. He immigrated to the United States at the age of 14 in 1889. He became a talented sculptor and in 1896 was hired by Wallace to carve the limestone frieze on his Study in Crawfordsville. Kryl also worked on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis. While in Indianapolis, Kryl auditioned for John Phillip Sousa and was hired as the virtuoso cornetist.

Kryl joined several bands during his musical career, traveling and performing across the country and the world. In 1906, he formed his own band, the Kryl Bohemian Band. The band recorded works onto phonographs for world-class composers including Dvorak and Safranek. Kryl also wrote his own pieces, including “King Carneval” and “The Josephine Waltz.”

It is believed that Kryl returned to Crawfordsville in 1912 to play for a Chautauqua and again in the late 1940s for concerts at the Crawfordsville High School auditorium. He visited the Study on one occasion and discussed his work on the frieze with the curator.

McCormick said Kryl talked about a statue of Ben Hur he created for Wallace, but unfortunately the piece has never been located.

Word Keeps Spreading

Several Kryl descendants plan to make the trip to this event and some family members, who continue the Kryl family legacy by performing in symphony orchestras across the county, plan on playing in the band.

“We have people from across the United States traveling to Crawfordsville to be a part of this experience,” McCormick said.

Yet, equally as important to organizers is that members of the local community have an opportunity to attend the event.

McCormick stressed the event is free, but seating at Salter Hall is limited to 275, and tickets are required. The event is expected to be a “sellout.”

To reserve tickets, contact the Wabash College Box Office at 361-6411 or boxoffice@wabash.edu.

McCormick said organizers plan to have the event professionally recorded and a DVD offered for purchase at a later date.

For questions about the event, contact Larry Paarlberg, director of the Lew Wallace Study at 362-5769 or lpaarlberg@ben-hur.com.

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