To commemorate the 40th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 2003, Fred Bronstein, then president and CEO of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, had the idea to have the orchestra perform Bernstein’s Mass. The piece was written to celebrate the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington and had never been performed in Dallas.
An invitation was extended to Sen. Ted Kennedy to attend, but as we’ve learned, the senator never returned to Dallas after his brother’s death. Bronstein says he was touched, however, by the “beautiful” letter that Sen. Kennedy sent to him thanking him for the invitation.
“I think what is significant about the letter, particularly now with his passing, is, he never came to Dallas after his brother was assassinated. And I think he and the family never really talked about Dallas,” Bronstein said by phone from St. Louis, where he is now the president and executive director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. “And so I think this letter is particularly interesting, because it acknowledges the importance of the performance and the appropriateness of the performance.”
Bronstein even read the letter to the audience before the Mass was played. He says the response to both the letter and the performance was a first for Dallas.
“It meant a lot to read it at the performance because of the history and the coming to terms of that history. I would actually say the performance that weekend on that anniversary – and a number of people in Dallas commented on it – it was the first time that the anniversary had been acknowledged in a way that was not negative. It was positive. It wasn’t about the assassination, it was about the life. And I think Sen. Kennedy understood that.”
Click the audio player to hear Bronstein read the letter: