Grand Finale Concerts
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) sponsored two historic concerts on Treasure Island on September 24, 1940, five days before the fair closed. The afternoon concert, held out-of-doors in the Federal Plaza, featured classical music, conducted in most instances by the composers themselves. Deems Taylor, the highly respected composer who narrated Disney's "Fantasia", was the Master of Ceremonies.
The evening concert, held in the California Coliseum, featured a cavalcade of popular music, with many of the composers performing their own songs. George M. Cohan made one of his last public appearances that evening, singing a medley of his tunes. Harold Arlen played the piano for his composition, "Over the Rainbow", while 14-year-old Judy Garland sang - The Wizard of Oz had been released the previous year. Hoagy Carmichael played "Stardust", and Johnny Mercer performed an enthusiastic rendition of "Jeepers Creepers". Alfred von Tizer sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", and W.C. Handy performed a cornet solo of "St. Louis Blues". Jerome Kern played "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "All the Things You Are" in what was only the second public performance of his career.
The evening concluded with Irving Berlin singing "God Bless America" while the audience rose to its feet and joined in. W.C. Handy wrote of Berlin's performance on Treasure Island in his autobiography: "It takes talent to write a song. None will deny that Berlin is talented, but it takes real genius to 'time' a song ... when the nation is in need of it. Irving Berlin is that genius, sane sympathetic, sincere and unaffected; one of the kind of men who have made America great. He is the Francis Scott Key of our time. God bless America!"
The outdoor afternoon concert of classical music was attended by 25,000 persons. For the evening concert, over 15,000 people squeezed into the California Coliseum, which only held 12,000 seats. 10,000 more gathered outside, where the concert was broadcast over loudspeakers. The counter at the front gate showed that total attendance on Treasure Island on the day of the concert was 66,805.