Our Black laborers showed a truly wonderful sense of musicianship in the instinctive way they treated melody and harmony.  Hearing their singing in such romantic surroundings, it was then and there that I first felt the urge to express myself in music.

                                                                                            -- Frederick Delius



Frederick Delius in Florida

A Music-Performance Documentary Film for Public Television

In March 1884, a headstrong young Englishman sailed from Liverpool to the eastern coast of Florida. He had persuaded his father, a prosperous wool merchant, to allow him to leave the family business and try his hand at cultivating oranges. Of course, it was adventure, not orange-growing, that appealed to 22-year-old Frederick Delius, and the enterprise was short-lived. But Delius’ year in that sub-tropical paradise unlocked an urge for creation he had long felt within:

In Florida, sitting and gazing at Nature, I gradually learnt the way in which I should eventually find myself. Nobody else could help me. Contemplation like composition cannot be taught.

As a child, Frederick had exhibited extraordinary musical talent, but his father dismissed the notion of a musical education as frivolous. The young man’s unique experiences in Florida rekindled his desire for a life in music, and by 1886, he was enrolled at Leipzig Conservatory and studying with Edvard Grieg. Clear now about the course of his future, Frederick Delius became, in the words of world-famous conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, the “finest English composer in the last 200 years.”

Inspired by Florida’s magical landscape . . .

Frederick’s orange plantation, Solano Grove, lay on the moss-draped banks of the St. John's River, just west of St. Augustine and several hours downstream from Jacksonville. In 1884, both cities were little more than villages, though St. Augustine had been established by the Spanish in 1565. The interior of North Florida was mainly wilderness, pristine and breath-taking in its exoticism and Garden of Eden perfection.


Once settled at Solano Grove, Frederick secured a piano and befriended a well-educated music teacher, a Jacksonville church organist named Thomas Ward. It was Ward who first instructed Delius in composition theory and counterpoint, ultimately sparking the young man’s decision to defy his father and seek a musical education.

Frederick also absorbed the mysterious, seemingly primeval songs of his plantation workers, who were largely African-American and merely a generation away from Emancipation. A friend and biographer, Eric Fenby, recalls Frederick’s fond memory of “sitting up far into the night, smoking cigar after cigar, and listening to the workers and their subtle improvisations.”

Delius became immersed in the songs, rhythms and harmonies of his workers and the post-reconstruction American South, and these sounds influenced not only his compositional style but his entire artistic outlook. Indeed, he has been called "the last great apostle of Romantic   beauty in music.” His first orchestral work, Florida Suite, written in 1887, is a shimmering, lushly sensuous tone poem in four exquisitely evocative movements. It portrays a time, place and atmosphere as vividly and passionately as any orchestral work in musical history.

Discovering the roots of Florida Suite . . .

Frederick Delius in Florida (working title) is a 57-minute performance-documentary revisiting the youthful adventures of young Delius and exploring the multiple inspirations for Florida Suite and his subsequent compositions. Employing an on-camera host and narrator (e.g., opera baritone Thomas Hampson), and artfully interweaving symphonic performance, rehearsal footage, archival clips/stills and museum paintings, library and historical society sleuthing, and beautiful HDTV location and wilderness footage, the film will trace Delius’ historic movements and moments of self-discovery amid the mystical beauty of North Florida’s still-pristine natural world –all accompanied by the gloriously lyrical strains of Florida Suite.

The 2009 television production will involve most of the cultural and environmental anchor institutions of the Jacksonville-St. Augustine metropolitan area:



The overall project includes a website, high-profile public events, and programs of educational outreach for the area’s high schools and universities. Both the DVD edition of the program and a new companion CD will include the Jacksonville Symphony’s performance of Delius’ final composition, Songs of Farewell (1931), a magnificent 26-minute choral and orchestral work set to the poetry of Walt Whitman.    The film will be an imaginative, high-definition amalgam of four PBS signature series – Nature, American Experience, Great Performances and History Detectives.






Music is a cry of the soul. It is addressed and should appeal instantly to the soul of the listener. It is a revelation, a thing to be reverenced.


                                                                                     -- Frederick Delius







Sandy MacDonell (executive producer) served for several years as executive producer at the Miami/Atlanta-based Siebke-Ross Productions and was recently involved in merchandising and marketing projects with Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. He was producer for “Sea Search,” a syndicated series on underwater exploration, and “It’s Your Money,” a series on financial planning featuring host Jim Barry. Mr. MacDonell began his film career in advertising before moving on to public service campaigns and documentary films for such organizations as Save the Children Foundation and the Catholic Archdiocese of Florida.     

BIO of Sandy MacDonell


Mr. MacDonell entered into the film and television industry in the late 70’s and produced hundreds of regional, national and international commercials for clients that include Oldsmobile, Toyota, Anheuser-Busch and Motorola.


Additionally, he created many ad campaigns for the Latin American market, including Cervesa Suprema, Sunbeam Corporation, Colgate-Palmolive and numerous American brewing companies.  His many award-winning public service campaigns included topics such as child abuse, obesity and drug abuse.


Mr. MacDonell has also produced promotional campaigns for Miami CBS and ABC affiliates, Eastern Airlines, and numerous, highly successful syndicated ad campaigns for the telecommunications industry featuring George Kennedy and Leonard Nimoy.


Documentary productions have taken Mr. MacDonell to India, Bangladesh, Haiti, Brazil and England to produce films on such topics as world hunger and East Pakistan’s struggle for statehood. Among others, Save the Children Foundation, The Catholic Archdiocese of South Florida, Thames Television of London and the British organization, Oxfam, have all utilized footage and program segments from his documentary work.


Syndicated series produced by Mr. MacDonell include “Sea Search”, a series on underwater exploration, an exercise series hosted by South African fitness expert Janet Sloan, a vegetarian cooking series and “It’s Your Money”, a series on financial planning featuring host, Jim Barry.


 Mr. MacDonell was executive producer at Miami/Atlanta based Siebke-Ross Productions for several years.  Additional television work includes segments for “Good Morning America”, promotional campaigns for the California-based financial company, Transworld Systems.   Recently, Mr. MacDonell was involved in merchandising and marketing projects with Walt Disney World Studios and Universal Studios.


Mr. MacDonell lives in South Florida with his wife, Charlene, and their son, Ryan.

James Arntz
(producer/writer) is a veteran creator of PBS music specials and biographical documentaries. He has produced musical biographies of Irving Berlin, Bing Crosby, Doris Day and Julie Andrews; performance shows with Billy Joel, Patti LaBelle, Johnny Mathis and Rosemary Clooney; classical music specials with YoYo Ma, Chicago’s Lyric Opera, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Israel Philharmonic; and, most recently, a performance documentary, Les Paul – Chasing Sound! about the 90-year-old guitarist who invented the solid-body electric guitar and multi-track recording. Arntz’s documentary about klezmer music, Itzhak Perlman: In the Fiddler’s House, received a 1995-96 Primetime Emmy Award and the Montreux Festival Rose d’Or (grand prize).    

LES PAUL – CHASING SOUND! (2007)   Biographical performance documentary celebrating the guitarist-inventor’s 90th birthday (Paulson Productions, Washington, D. C., Icon Television Music, Los Angeles and American Masters/WNET, New York).

 JOHNNY MATHIS:  WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL! (2006).  Fiftieth anniversary performance special taped in Atlantic City (PBS and Connecticut Public Television).            

FURY (2002).  Nuevo flamenco music and dance special taped in Madrid (TV Matters, Amsterdam; American Public Television Service and WPBT /Miami).      

CLASSIC YO-YO MA (2001).  Career retrospective with Emanuel Ax. Daniel Barenboim, Bobby McFerrin, Tan Dun (PBS and Towers Productions, Chicago).

PIANO GRAND!  A  SMITHSONIAN CELEBRATION (2000).  Music gala taped in Washington, D.C., with Billy Joel, Diana Krall, the Lebeques, Dave Brubeck, Jerry Lee Lewis, others (EuroArts Media, BBC, NHK, Smithsonsian Productions and Maryland Public Television).  Silver Prague Award.

PEOPLE & PIANOS – 300 YEARS (2000).  Performance-documentary  history of the piano with Ivgeny Kissin, Daniel Barenboim, others (EuroArts Media, Smithsonian Productions and Maryland Public Television).

THE COLLEGE OF COMEDY (1997, 1999, 2001).  Stand-up comedy series hosted by Alan King (Great Performances/WNET, New York).

ISRAEL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA 60th ANNIVERSARY GALA (1997).  Performance documentary taped in Tel Aviv with Isaac Stern, Maxim Vengerov, Itzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham, Pinchas Zukerman, Zubin Mehta, Daniel Barenboim (EuroArts Media and Great Performances/WNET, New York).  Silver Prague Award.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – THE RADIO PLAY (1997).  Christmas drama with Sally Field, Nathan Lane, Bill Pullman, others (PBS and KCET/ Los Angeles).

JULIE ANDREWS:  BACK ON BROADWAY (1995).             Performance documentary highlighting Broadway’s Victor/Victoria and a career retrospective with Carol Burnett, Dick Van Dyke, James Garner, others (Great Performances/ WNET,  New York).

ITZHAK PERLMAN:  IN THE FIDDLER’S HOUSE (1995).  Performance documentary about history of klezmer music, taped in Krakow and New York with The Klezmatics and others (Great Performances/WNET, New York).  1996 Emmy Award and the Montreux Festival Rose d’Or  (grand prize).

THE REAL McTEAGUE (1993).  Performance special combining new William Bolcom opera, McTeague, with scenes from Von Stroheim’s silent classic Greed.  Collaboration with Bolcom, filmmaker Robert Altman, Studs Terkel and Chicago Lyric Opera (National Endowment for the Arts, WTTW/Chicago, and Great Performances/WNET, New York).

DORIS DAY:  A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY (1992).  Career retrospective with Tony Randall, John Updike, others; hosted by Rober Ebert (PBS and WTTW/Chicago).

MICHAEL FEINSTEIN & FRIENDS (1991).  Big band music special with Rosemary Clooney and the Duke Ellington Orchestra (PBS and WTTW/Chicago).

GOING HOME TO GOSPEL WITH PATTI LABELLE (1990).  Gospel music special taped in historic South Side African-American church (PBS and WTTW/Chicago).

MOZART BY THE MASTERS (1989).  Concert special with Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Victor Borge and Chicago Symphony Orchestra (PBS and WTTW//Chicago). .

__________________________ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THE PRODUCTION TEAM_____________________



(Executive producer/musician) is a seasoned documentary film maker and creator of many award-winning public service ad campaigns.  His filmmaking has taken him to many countries including England, India, Bangladesh and Brazil. He has produced programs for Thames Television of London and the British organization, Oxfam.  His work, on subjects as varied as world hunger, East Pakistan’s struggle for statehood, underwater exploration, and diet and exercise, has been viewed on Good Morning America and ABC and NBC affiliates around the country.  An accomplished professional musician, MacDonell is well schooled in all forms of classical and popular music, having performed with stars such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Tom Jones.   






(Producer/writer) is a veteran producer/writer of PBS music programming.  His many and varied productions include the award-winning Les Paul – Chasing Sound, for American Masters; career retrospectives such as Classic Yo-Yo-Ma, Julie Andrews: Back on Broadway and Doris Day: A Sentimental Journey; an operatic film, The Real McTeague, with Robert Altman; The Israel Philharmonic 60thAnniversary Gala; Going Home to Gospel with Patti LaBelle; and Piano Grand!, a Smithsonian  Institution gala hosted by Billy Joel.  His documentary film about klezmer, Itzhak Perlman: In the Fiddler’s House,  received a 1996 Primetime Emmy and Grand prize at the Montreux Festival.   

JOHN R. PAULSON             



(Director/editor) is a creator of award-winning documentary programming for broadast television, museum exhibition, and DVD and digital delivery.  He served as director, cinematographer, editor and producer of the 2007 documentary film, Les Paul – Chasing Sound, which  received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination, a Hugo Award and the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for “Best Music Documentary in Broadcast Television.”  The Les Paul biography is now in worldwide distribution on television and home video.  Formerly a filmmaker with Smithsonian Productions, Paulson specializes in productions about music, history, the fine and performing arts, and world cultural traditions.  His acclaimed film on Woody Guthrie was the central feature of a 3-year Smithsonian Institution exhibition that toured the country.

 For more information on the film project "Frederick Delius in Florida", e-mail Sandy MacDonell.


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