Y.M.H.A. Orchestra

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Morris Simon leads an Orchestra Rehearsal at the Young Men's Hebrew Association at Second and College Streets in Louisville, Ky. Ca. 1920

Orchestra Beginnings

In 1932, as Nazism was rising dramatically in Germany, Louisville’s growing Jewish community was reaching its peak, with numerous synagogues, as well as civic institutions open to non-Jews, such as Jewish Hospital and the Y.M.H.A. (Young Men’s Hebrew Association). Founded in 1914 by Morris Simon, the Y.M.H.A. Orchestra drew its renowned talent from Jewish and non-Jewish corners of Louisville, uniting music lovers of different backgrounds. A program from the first ever Louisville Civic Orchestra concert on Monday October 17, 1932 at the Memorial Auditorium explains that one month earlier, the Y.M.H.A “tendered the symphony orchestra bearing its name to the city of Louisville,” renaming it the Louisville Symphony Orchestra. The Louisville Civic Arts Association declared that the new entity “forms the highest inherent expression of civic culture in the city’s history.” That first concert featured selections by Mozart, Verdi, and Liszt and concluded with an original 1929 composition by the orchestra’s Hungarian Jewish conductor Joseph Horvath called “The Y.M.H.A. March.”

On the eve of Nazism in Europe, German and Russian Jewish immigrants in Louisville were celebrating new frontiers in cultural collaboration with non-Jewish musicians. This orchestra would go on to become the Louisville Orchestra that we know and love today and launch a Jewish Community Center Orchestra as well. The result was that Jewish musicians fleeing Nazi Europe and arriving in this area found a rich and vibrant musical community in their new home.

Y.M.H.A. Orchestra