Gas Station Soap Opera Saturday at 6 p.m. on The American Sound

One of the oldest gas stations on Route 66. Tune in for Virgil Thomson's music for the ballet "Filling Station" on The American Sound, 6 pm Saturday on Classical 101.(Photo: Marcin Wichary (Flickr))
One of the oldest gas stations on Route 66. Tune in for Virgil Thomson's music for the ballet "Filling Station" on The American Sound, 6 pm Saturday on Classical 101.(Photo: Marcin Wichary (Flickr))

Americans have always loved a good dish.  And (for once) I’m not talking about food here; I mean stories, scoop, skinny.

Even though sensational – and sensationalized – stories (unfortunately) hold a certain allure in the American imagination, nothing’s more satisfying than a story with all the dramatic peaks and valleys, all the twists and turns of a tilt-a-whirl – and that also happens to be completely true.

In short, we all love a good, old-fashioned, ripped-from-the-headlines yarn.

One such story was the inspiration for the ballet Filling Station, with music by American composer Virgil Thomson. Finished and first performed in 1937 – one year before Aaron Copland’s first “cowboy” ballet, Billy the Kid entered the world - Filling Station is a fanciful embodiment of a newspaper report about an incident at a gas station in the early days of the automobile. The work has been hailed as the first truly American ballet, and is chock full of the kinds of odd balls and drifters you’d expect to meet on the American highway: a young service station attendant; a clueless family looking for directions; a couple of scofflaw truck drivers; a state trooper; drunken revelers and a gangster. Add in a shooting, an accidental homicide and Thomson’s consciously kitschy, glitz-and-glamour score, and you’ve got the makings of a great American soap opera.

Join me Saturday at 6 p.m. for The American Sound, when you can hear Virgil Thomson’s complete music for Filling Station. We’ll also hear Earl Wild’s variations on a most likely American tune and an overture from the earliest days of the U.S.A.

Listen to The American Sound Saturdays at 6 p.m. on Classical 101!

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