Depression with a capital “D” — a dismal time in 1930s United States. People were out of work, out of money, and the government seemed to be the only source of salvation; even then its power was limited. But there were a few good things: A New Deal for artists and the Federal Music Project, government programs to employ artists, maintaining imaginative conduits of culture, bolstering a country’s state of mind.
Leslie Amper, pianist, performer and lecturer, appreciates the government Depression programs for the arts. She will bring some of the 1930s beneficiaries to life in a presentation at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ. The presentation is titled “Creativity in Hard Times: The federal music project of the 1930s.”
Amper worked with the Smithsonian American Art Museum on its “1934 New Deal for Artists,” selecting and playing music that would complement paintings from the American scene. She then researched further the musicians and music that was developed out of the Federal Music Project.
“Everybody was suffering,” Amper said. “But 75 percent of the musicians were out of work because of the talkies.”
Musicians were not only affected by the Depression, but also by the technology that put voice onto film, which diminished the need for musicians to accompany silent films.
Amper’s program will include a piano performance wherein she plays music she’s discovered that was spawned during the 1930s.
The second part of the program involves storytelling, some historical recordings of music of the time, and an invitation for people in the audience to share their stories of the Depression Era.
Born in Pittsburgh, Amper’s career started with a critically acclaimed New York debut in Carnegie Recital Hall. She has performed in Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, as well as at Monadnock Musicʼs Virtuoso Piano Series. Amper is part of the Alcyon Chamber Ensemble and Jubilee Trio. She has also participated in Bostonʼs Emmanuel Music, celebrating Schumann, Schubert, Brahms and Debussy.
Amper tries to find a local and historical connection to every place she performs this show, and for Chautauqua Institution, it involves former Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and Buffalo Philharmonic conductor Franco Autori, who also spent time with the Federal Music Project.
Today’s performance is part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture series.