Welcome! Open up our Mann Music Room: Vault to read about iconic moments in the Mann and Philadelphia's rich music history. Choose a story from our archives below and click to learn more about the events that made us who we are today.
July 8, 1930: Inaugural Robin Hood Dell Concert
Held on July 8, 1930, the inaugural concert at the new Robin Hood Dell was the culmination of a city-wide effort to establish a summer home for The Philadelphia Orchestra and to make symphonic music available to the wider public. Some 12,000 attendees heard Orchestra assistant conductor Alexander Smallens lead the ensemble in a program of Wagner, Mendelssohn, Strauss, and Beethoven, the first of eight weeks of nightly concerts that summer.
July 21, 1930: Eugene Ormandy at Robin Hood Dell
On July 21, 1930, two weeks after it opened, the Robin Hood Dell hosted its first guest conductor, a relatively unknown thirty-year-old Hungarian-born musician named Eugene Ormandy. It was Ormandy’s first appearance in Philadelphia. His concerts were well-received and he was invited back several times. In 1936 he was named conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra, a post he would hold for 44 years.
July 21, 1930: Marian Anderson at Robin Hood Dell
When world-renowned contralto Marian Anderson, a Philadelphia native and hometown favorite, made her first appearance at the Robin Hood Dell on July 18, 1940, she set an attendance record at the venue. She performed at the Dell six more times over the next quarter century. Her final singing appearance on June 28, 1965, part of an international farewell tour prior to retirement, also set a record with over 35,000 in attendance.
August 3, 1933: World Premiere of Samuel Barber's Overture to the School for Scandal
On August 30, 1933 at the Robin Hood Dell, The Philadelphia Orchestra gave the world premiere of a piece by a young local composer who would go on to become one of the greatest American composers of the twentieth century. The composer was twenty-three-year-old Samuel Barber, a native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, and the piece, Overture to the School for Scandal, was Barber’s first composition for orchestra.
July 10, 1943: Judy Garland First Solo Concert
On July 10, 1943, 21-year-old Judy Garland gave the first concert of her career at Robin Hood Dell in Philadelphia. Already a star and longtime veteran of stage and screen, Garland had never performed as a solo artist in a concert setting until her Robin Hood Dell appearance. The concert was a success and would add another dimension to the career of the talented singer / dancer / actress.
July 6, 1945: Frank Sinatra at Robin Hood Dell
Frank Sinatra never appeared as a regularly scheduled performer at the Robin Hood Dell or Mann Music Center, but he sang a few songs in an impromptu appearance at the Dell in July 1945, when he came to hear a concert by his friend, vocalist Dinah Shore.
June 28, 1949 – July 15, 1976: Leonard Bernstein at the Robin Hood Dell and Mann Music Center
The great American conductor, composer, pianist, and teacher Leonard Bernstein performed at the Robin Hood Dell and its successor venue, the Mann Music Center, five times over the course of thirty years. His first appearance was in 1949; his last in 1979. His role varied in the different engagements: sometimes as conductor, other times as conductor and pianist, and still other times as conductor, pianist, and composer.
July 25, 1949: Duke Ellington First Concert with Symphony Orchestra
Duke Ellington, one of the greatest bandleaders and composers in the history of jazz, was continually at the forefront of musical innovation and experimentation over his fifty-plus-year career. His first pairing of his big band with a symphony orchestra was at the Robin Hood Dell in July 1949, when the Duke Ellington Orchestra joined forces with the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra for a groundbreaking concert.
Blog Entries by Jack McCarthy, Historian, The Mann Center for the Performing Arts
The Mann Center traces its history to the Robin Hood Dell, which opened in 1930 in East Fairmount Park as a summer home for The Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1976 the organization moved to a new venue in West Fairmount Park. Originally called Robin Hood Dell West, it was later renamed the Mann Music Center in honor of its longtime director and benefactor Frederick Mann, and subsequently renamed the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.