Thomas Hampson prepares for last three stops on 11-city Library of Congress “Song of America” Tour

NEW YORK, N. Y. May 8, 2006 – Internationally renowned baritone Thomas Hampson brings his widely acclaimed, eleven-city “Song of America” tour to a rousing conclusion with 3 performances this spring. With Daniel Barenboim, the renowned pianist and outgoing Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Hampson will give a recital on Sunday, May 28 in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. Hampson and Barenboim have had a close artistic relationship and personal friendship over the course of many years and this will be their third recital together in Orchestra Hall in recent seasons. Additional performances teaming Hampson with long-time recital partner Wolfram Rieger follow soon after: on Wednesday, May 31 in Omaha, Nebraska at the Holland Center for the Performing Arts, and on Saturday, June 3 in San Jose, California at the California Theater.

“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, and broaden the national constituency for the Library,” 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.”

Hampson’s “Song of America” tour has been an enormous success with audiences and critics alike. His singular artistry combined with feature stories in major daily newspapers, enthusiastic reviews and high-profile media appearances – including a performance on the popular morning television program Good Morning America and a feature story on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition – have helped give this remarkable singer a national platform for espousing his belief in the power of song to tell the story of America. Reflecting on his experience with the tour, Hampson commented:
“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.”

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 have been hosting 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 special events accompanying upcoming recitals are as follows:

Chicago and outlying areas (Memorial Day weekend, May 27-28):
Saturday morning, May 27: Veterans History Project
Veterans from World War I through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the civilians who supported them are coming forward to record their stories for the growing archives at the Library of Congress. The goal of the Veterans History Project is to collect, preserve and share with current and future generations the first-hand accounts of all of America’s war veterans. Authorized by Congress in 2000, the Veterans History Project is the largest nationwide oral history and documentation effort in history. As part of the Song of America tour, the project will be saluting all Illinois veterans and the outstanding efforts of Illinois VHP partners and participants. For more information visit

Saturday afternoon, May 27: Film series at the Gene Siskel Film Center
The Library of Congress holds the largest collection of American-produced motion pictures in the world. On May 27th, Greg Lukow, Chief of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound division and Dr. James H. Billington will present a brief introduction to the Library’s preservation efforts and present a festival of short films that have been preserved by the Library. Two of the short films to be shown will include the wildly entertaining animated film What’s Opera, Doc? and the short film Jammin’ the Blues.

Additional films will be shown at the Gene Siskel Film Center ( as follows:

At the Gene Siskel Film Center
May 6 (5.15) and 8 (6): Cat People
May 13 (5.15) and 17 (6): Morocco
May 14 (3): Wings
May 21 (3): The Italian; A Corner in Wheat; The Great Train Robbery
May 22 and 25 (both at 6): Shadow of a Doubt
May 26 (6) and 29 (5): The Maltese Falcon
May 27 (3:00) TBA (Lukow Program)
May 27 (5:30) and June 1 (6): Twelve O’Clock High
May 29 (3) and 30 (6): Casablanca

Sunday May 28: Concert with display of these treasures from the Library of Congress:
• The Stars and Stripes Forever, John Philip Sousa, original manuscript
• Of thee I Sing, George Gershwin, original manuscript
• God Bless America, Irving Berlin, original manuscript
• Fanfare for the Common Man, Aaron Copland, original manuscript
• Gully Low Blues, Louis Armstrong, copyright deposit
• A Perfect Day, Carrie Jacob-Bond, original manuscript
• Chicago (That Toddling Town), Fred Fisher, published sheet music

Omaha (May 29 – May 31):
The Omaha concert will pay tribute to the men and women of the military and their families. Those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families will be honored guests for the concert.

Treasures on display will include:
• The Stars and Stripes Forever, John Philip Sousa, original manuscript
• Of thee I Sing, George Gershwin, original manuscript
• God Bless America, Irving Berlin, original manuscript
• Happy Trails, Dale Evans, copyright deposit and published sheet music
• Charles Rutlage (from 114 Songs), Charles Ives, published version with Ives’s emendations
• A Cowboy’s Life (from Rawhide), Charles Rosoff and Eddie Cherkose (Baseball Music Collection)

San Jose (June 1-June 3):
During the concert a collection of historically significant and rarely seen musical treasures will be available for viewing including:

• American Indian Melodies, Arthur Farwell,vol 1, no. 2 (Wa Wan Press) first edition
• Sure on this Shining Night, Samuel Barber, original manuscript
• The Stars and Stripes Forever, John Philip Sousa, original manuscript
• Of thee I Sing, George Gershwin, original manuscript
• God Bless America, Irving Berlin, original manuscript
• Someday my Prince Will Come, Frank Churchill, (from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) copyright deposit and published sheet music
• San Jose, Leo Edwards, published sheet music
• Laura, David Raksin, original sketches, published sheet music (N.B.: Raksin was the first member of his profession invited to deposit his film music in the collections of the Library of Congress)
• California Angels ‘A-Ok!, Dick Winslow, Baseball Music Collection
• Dark Star, Mickey Hart and Jerome (Jerry) Garcia (Grateful Dead), copyright deposit

What the Critics Are Saying

“At Carnegie Hall on January 19, in the third month of the Library of Congress-sponsored “Song of America” tour, which runs through June, its singing spokesman, Thomas Hampson, offered a sample program to a near-capacity audience. As part of the ‘Creativity Across America’ tour, these concerts are designed to show American audiences some largely overlooked riches of their cultural heritage… Hampson, versatile, personable and communicative, is a perfect choice for the job…The baritone’s singing was as varied and well-matched as his program. His informal manner and asides to the audience belied subtle interpretive skills.”
– John Freeman/Opera News

“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

“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 2006 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”

Thomas 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 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

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 .

Upcoming performances by Thomas Hampson in the “Song of America” tour

May 28: Symphony Center, Chicago, Illinois (Daniel Barenboim, piano)

May 31: Holland Performing Arts Center, Omaha, Nebraska (Wolfram Rieger, piano)

June 3: California Theatre, San Jose, California (Wolfram Rieger, piano)