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Save a Lost Classic

We have heard of hidden gold. Sometimes it is there all along, just no one has thought to look very hard. In this case the gold is a piece of music and in the right hands it could be a global symphonic classic, right up there with the music we have heard from ancient Europeans composers wearing powdered wigs. This piece of music was created somewhere between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and the composer was born in Costa Rica. It should be known by all as a Louisiana classic.

As is, you can hear the composition in only one place, a first-floor exhibit room at the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Across the floor from the dazzling spiral steps is an exhibit about Huey Long. Though rich in design techniques, including an animated Long making speeches, the best known artifact in the room is the gun allegedly used to shoot the former governor. Not far away is another exhibit where a beautiful symphonic piece plays continuously. According to the sign, the piece is called “In Memoriam,” and it was written in 1935 by Castro Carozo.

Long had hired Carozo away from directing the band at the Roosevelt Hotel’s Blue Room in New Orleans to build a band at LSU and to create an anthem for Long’s politics. That anthem was “Every Man A King,” a bouncy piece of political propaganda celebrating Long’s “share the wealth” revolution.

On Sept. 10, 1935, the revolution lost its leader. For Long’s funeral, Carozo wrote his greatest and least known piece. Mournful undertones of “Every Man A King” are woven through the composition, which, according to the sign, was “handwritten, never published and never recorded.”

Years later, in preparation for a road show of the state’s archives, the original document was discovered “hiding in plain sight.”

Carozo led the LSU band as it performed the music at Long’s memorial service – and that was it. Other than the recording in the gallery it has never been played anywhere else. What a loss!

This piece of music needs to reach a larger audience, if not as a tribute to Long, certainly to Carozo. Many pieces of music from the classical era; i.e. The 1812 Overture, were inspired by political movements. This masterpiece shows that political causes can stir passion and elegance.

Long’s followers still await their coronation. The wait has been long. The time might best be filled by visiting museums. No telling what discoveries can be made.

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