“Song of America” Continues with Three Concerts in March
NEW YORK, N. Y. February 27, 2006 – Following three performances in January that included a triumph at New York’s Carnegie Hall – and an appearance on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” – the internationally renowned baritone Thomas Hampson continues his 11-city “Song of America” tour with three concerts accompanied by recital partner Craig Rutenberg. Hampson will sing at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit, Michigan on March 15, the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach on March 19 and the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi in Oxford on March 21. The tour is sponsored by the Library of Congress, which holds the largest collection of American music in the world.
“Hampson’s narrative powers were perhaps the chief glory of the evening…There are very few areas of the opera and concert repertory that this industrious singer isn’t willing to investigate, but singing songs seems to be the one thing he loves to do most of all. Besides, how many other singers today could fill Carnegie Hall with a program exclusively devoted to a celebration of American song?”
– Peter G. Davis/MUSICAL AMERICA
“Launched in November 2005, the ‘Song of America’ tour with Tom Hampson is part of an unprecedented national program that the Library of Congress is initiating to celebrate creativity across America,” said Dr. James H. Billington, the 13th Librarian of Congress. “America is a wellspring of new ideas in music, literature, poetry, film and other forms of artistic expression. We want to celebrate the energy and inventive spirit that are such an integral part of our cultural history, and I cannot think of a more accomplished ambassador for the first part of our initiative than Tom.”
“This has been one of the most rewarding recital experiences I’ve had in a long time – especially in America. I can really feel the enthusiasm that audiences have for this repertoire: they understand and are connecting with the storytelling the composers and poets have presented them with and they are seeing this music as a narrative of their own experiences. I feel swept up in the momentum that has been building – in this reinvigoration of our culture – and this has been an uplifting and entirely positive experience for me,” said Hampson, describing his experience with the “Song of America” tour.
Each recital by Hampson features songs by American poets and composers – from the 1700s to the present day, including Psalm settings, hymns, folksongs, cowboy songs, war songs and African- American spirituals – all from the Library’s vast collections. In addition to the recitals, Hampson and the Library will host many special activities in each metropolitan area throughout the year, including master classes, teacher training institutes, conservation workshops and displays of rare treasures from the Library.
Highlights of the “Song of America” recital in March include a pre-concert performance a cappella performance by Vision, an all-male high-school choir representing some of the strongest voices from one of Detroit’s public schools, the Detroit School of Arts.
In West Palm Beach, Ted Kooser, the Poet Laureate of the United States, will participate in pre-concert activities highlighting the power and beauty of poetry and the historical lyrical legacy that America’s great poets have contributed to the soundtrack of American music. Additionally, Thomas Hampson will sing “A Heartland Portrait” in West Palm Beach. This new work by composer Stephen Paulus is set to stirring and picturesque words by Kooser and was given its U.S. premiere in January at a “Song of America” concert in St. Paul, Minnesota.
What the Critics Are Saying
“Tall, charismatic and as square-jawed as the Marlboro man, Thomas Hampson is in many ways an ideal representative of American song. [Hampson] is a recitalist and opera star of international renown, and his recital Saturday of more than two dozen American songs showed off the full range of his vocal and histrionic skills.”
– From Paul Horsley’s review in the Kansas City Star
“Thomas Hampson is a man with a mission. …Words just tumble from his mouth in an amazing display of acuity, exuberance, and truly dizzying speed. He speaks with the zeal of a true evangelist.”
– Anastasia Tsioulcas reporting in the January issue of The Gramophone
“Mr. Hampson’s baritone, all oiled walnut, is one of the loveliest around, and he can croon exquisitely. The audience ate him up.”
– From Scott Cantrell’s review in the Dallas Morning News
In His Own Words: Thomas Hampson on “American Song”
“To me, the most interesting thing in learning about American song is to realize what our poets and composers have in common: it’s a driving need to tell a story about ourselves and about our becoming this American society.”
– From the liner notes to the “Song of America” CD on Angel/EMI Classics
“American song is about the myriad stories of America – epochs, social philosophies and the very visceral experience of this country as found in the work of our poets and composers. Each country has its own emphasis in poetry and music. Trying to find our Schubert or our Brahms is a complete waste of time. The German Lieder tradition is about serious philological forms of expression. In America, once we woke up with Whitman, it’s always been about the person.”
– From an interview with Scott Cantrell in the Dallas Morning News
About the “Song of America” Tour and “Creativity Across America”
Hampson’s “Song of America” tour is part of an unprecedented national program by The Library of Congress celebrating “Creativity Across America”. Hampson, a native of Spokane, Washington, has long been seen as one of the most passionate advocates for American song, championing the cause throughout his career with recitals, recordings, multimedia projects and television programs. His long-standing collaboration with the Library of Congress grew out of a vision shared with Dr. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress: to honor the history and preservation of American song and to reveal to new audiences the breadth and depth of the Library’s unparalleled collections of musical scores and recordings. Having spent countless hours at the Library in research and discovery of its vast music collection, Hampson observes: “The richness of the Library’s music collections lies not only in the coverage of American concert, popular, ethnic and folk music but also in the wealth of European concert music, opera scores and librettos, as well as the symphonic and chamber music of the 20th century.”
Highlights of the “Song of America” tour include Hampson master classes with students; showings of select films restored by the Library of Congress; a Preservation Workshop with a team of specialists from the Library showing people how to preserve their own mementos; and public viewings of treasures from the Library, including important musical manuscripts. The manuscript treasures include both rarities – such as Louis Armstrong’s “Gully Low Blues” – and seminal works like Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” as well as documents chosen especially for each tour market. Some concert cities will feature appearances by Poet Laureate Ted Kooser discussing the creative process of writing poetry.
The “Song of America” tour also provided an occasion for the creation of a new work – Hampson gave the world-premiere performance of a song cycle by Stephen Paulus, “A Heartland Portrait”, featuring texts by America’s current Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser, in St. Paul in January 2006. The piece was commissioned by John and Linda Hoeschler, members of the Madison Council – the private fundraising body for the tour and other Library of Congress projects.
A primary goal of the “Song of America” tour is to reach out to young people, who might not be familiar with the great depth and variety of American song and history; most stops on the concert tour will include an educational component in which Hampson will interact with students. Additionally, the Library will send its educational outreach staff to each concert city to conduct daylong teacher institutes for local K-12 educators. Invited teachers will learn how to access the Library’s unique online collections and how to analyze documents to encourage critical thinking skills and generate lesson ideas.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, holding more than 130 million items in nearly all major languages and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both onsite in its 21 reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning web site at www.loc.gov
Friends of the Library of Congress and members of its private advisory group, the James Madison Council, have made the “Song of America” tour possible.
The “Song of America” tour is being produced in collaboration with IMG Artists, Barrett Wissman, Chairman.
For more information on the Library’s celebration of “Creativity Across America,” visit the Library’s Web site at www.loc.gov/creativity/hampson .
Upcoming Performances by Thomas Hampson in the “Song of America” Tour
Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit, Michigan
(Craig Rutenberg, Piano)
Kravis Center, West Palm Beach, Florida
(Craig Rutenberg, piano)
Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
(Craig Rutenberg, piano)
Symphony Center, Chicago, Illinois
(Daniel Barenboim, piano)
Holland Performing Arts Center, Omaha, Nebraska
(Wolfram Rieger, piano)
California Theatre, San Jose, California
(Wolfram Rieger, piano)