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Richard Bales (Composer, Arranger)

Born: February 3, 1915 - Alexandria, Virginia, USA
Died: June 25, 1998 - Lake Ridge, Virginia, USA

The American conductor and composer; Richard (Henry Horner) Bales, attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, and then went on to study music at at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York (Mus.B., 1936), at the ]uilliard Graduate School in New York (1938-1941), and conducting under the late master conducto Serge Koussevitzky at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood (summer, 1940).

In 1935 Richard Bales made his conducting debut with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.; then was conductor of the Virginia-North Carolina Symphony Orchestra (1936-1938). In 1942 he became the first music director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and in 1943 founded the National Gallery Orchestra. He organized, promoted and presented Sunday concerts for more than four decades. He retired from the National Gallery in the summer of 1985 after 42 years as assistant director for music. In that period, he was responsible for 1,786 free concerts in the museum's Garden Courts, and he raised the National Gallery Orchestra from a fledgling ensemble to a level of musical eminence. He was a prominent figure in the Washington area for over fifty years. He also was music director of the Washington, D.C., Cathedral Choral Society (1945-1946). In 1960 he received the Alice M. Ditson Award. During his long tenure at the National Gallery of Art, he introduced numerous works by American composers, both old and new.

Richard Bales was also very well known for his compositions of music relating to the American Revolution and the Civil War. The most well known are The Confederacy, The Union, and The Republic. The latter has been performed at every presidential inauguration since 1955. He composed over 35 pieces of work, been a guest conductor for many of the nation's best orchestras, performed for presidents and foreign heads of state and received numerous honors and awards.

Richard Bales died on June 25, 1998 at the health care center at Lake Ridge. He had Parkinson's disease.


Music for Strings (1940)
From Washington's Time for Strings (1941)
National Gallery Suites: I (1943), II (1944), III (1957), and IV (1965)
Theme and Variations for Strings (1944)
Music of the American Revolution, Suite No. 2 for Strings (1952)
Stony Brook Suite for Strings (1968)
Fitzwilliam Suite for Strings (1972)
The Spirit of Engineering, suite (1984)

Sarcasms for Violin, Viola, and Cello (1937)
String Quartet (1944)
Reverie and Virginia Reels for Violin and Piano (1989)

Piano pieces, including the suite To Elmira with Love (1972; orchestrated, 1983)
Diary Pages for 2 Pianos (1978), and Aaronesque (for Aaron Copland's 80th birthday; 1980)
Various vocal scores
Choral pieces, and songs
Film scores and many transcriptions and arrangements


Source: Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Alexandria.lib Website; Obituary in Washington Post (June 27, 1998);
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2011)

Richard Bales: Short Biography | Arrangements/Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Richard and Betty Bales (Alexandria.lib)

Obituary in Washington Post (High Beam)



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