Sono Luminus proudly presents Celebrating the American Spirit, performed by Essential Voices USA and directed by Judith Clurman, which reconfigures musical expressions of nationhood. EVUSA comes together with guest soloists and instrumentalists, including singers Kelli O’Hara and Ron Raines, and composer-arranger Larry Hochman. There is even a new lyric by Sheldon Harnick, the famed lyricist of Fiddler on the Roof. From beginning to end, EVUSA delivers imaginatively conceived performances that articulate new visions of community and civic responsibility in the 21st century.
At the core of the CD is “Sing Out Mr. President”, a series of sixteen newly commissioned works set to quotations by U.S. presidents stretching fromRead more George Washington to Barack Obama. Judith Clurman initiated this inventive project in response to 9/11, after she conducted the Juilliard Choral Union in a wrenching memorial concert at a firehouse in New York City. She felt a need to contribute creative responses to the tragedy, and she commissioned a cross-generational group of composers to set presidential texts. Her purpose was at once educational and artistic. Clurman observes, “I wanted a project where high school kids could learn music by living composers at the same time as they studied a president.” The composers involved in the project represent a refreshingly flexible range of aesthetic orientations, stretching from Broadway to the concert hall. Some wrote canons, others ranged freely. The list of composers is a who’s-who of modern composers including Nico Muhly, Samuel Adler, Paul Moravec, and many more.
The musical aphorisms of “Sing Out Mr. President” form a kind of American songbook for the 21st-century: a re-imagining of patriotic expression, couched in thought-provoking newly composed sound-bites. The pieces consistently convey respect for the nation and its ideals, yet they deliver no rubber stamp on traditional tropes of national ambition.
Surrounding “Sing Out Mr. President” is a combination of recently composed works and well-known tunes that are newly arranged by Larry Hochman, providing up-to-date perspectives on national chestnuts. Diverse voices take center stage, starting with Laurie Hochman, who at age eight wrote a melody for “The Pledge of Allegiance,” which was gorgeously arranged by her father. Another female then steps forth: Emma Lazarus, a Jewish American of the late 19th century, who wrote the sonnet “The New Colossus” that graces the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Lazarus’s sonnet has been set here by composer David Ludwig. A new lyric by Sheldon Harnick graces “Reason to be Thankful,” composed by Larry Hochman. There are recent compositions by Stephan Paulus, Jennifer Higdon, and Marc Shaiman, as well as works by Leonard Bernstein and Irving Berlin. Hochman contributes paired instrumental arrangements of “America the Beautiful” and “America” that portray the U.S. as both “positive” and “troubled,” as he puts it. The CD culminates with the patriotic anthem “God Bless America,” which has been completely reconceived. Rather than strutting national power, which is the norm with this tune, the version sung here by Broadway star Kelli O’Hara is wistful and ruminative, and the result is more a supplication than an assertion of global primacy.
1. The Pledge of Allegiance - Laurie Hochman
2. The New Colossus - David Ludwig
3. Reason to be Thankful - Larry Hochman
4. Hymn for America - Stephen Paulus
5. Take Care of this House - Leonard Bernstein
Sing Out Mr. President
6. Washington Round - Michael Gilberston
7. John Adams’ Prayer - Jake Heggie
8. Opinion Is Power (Jefferson) - Larry Hochman
9. Round (Madison) - Milton Babbitt
10. One Man With Courage Makes A Majority (Jackson) - Nico Muhly
11. The Ballot Is Stronger Than the Bullet (Lincoln) - Jason Robert Brown
12. A Theodore Roosevelt Round - Thomas Cabaniss
13. I Believe in Democracy - Andrew Lippa
14. Admonition of FDR - Samuel Adler
15. Truman - David Ludwig
16. Eisenhower Round - Paul Moravec
17. Freedom’s Road (JFK) - Robert Beaser
18. Moral Courage (Reagan) - Jesse Wiener
19. an Ode (Clinton) - Zachary Wadsworth
20. A Simple Oath (Bush) - Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum
21. With Hope and Virtue (Obama) - Georgia Stitt
22. It Gets Lonely in the White House - Irving Berlin
23. The Stars and Stripes Forever - John Philip Sousa
24. Two Paraphrases on American Anthems - Larry Hochman
25. A Seed of Grain - Theme from The American President - Marc Shaiman
26. A Quiet Moment - Jennifer Higdon
27. American Dream - Larry Hochman & Laurie Hochman
28. God Bless America - Irving Berlin Read less
Works on This Recording
Washington Roundby Michael Gilberston Performer:
Ron Raines (Voice),
Kelli O’hara (Voice)
Essential Voices USA
John Adams’ Prayerby Jake Heggie Conductor:
Essential Voices USA
Hymn to Americaby Stephen Paulus Conductor:
Essential Voices USA
Reason to be ThankfulNovember 19, 2012By Eileen Pollock (New York, NY)See All My Reviews"I can't think of any song more fitting for Thanksgiving than the beautiful Reason to be Thankful, one of the meaningful songs of American celebration on Judith Clurman's new album. It is beautifully sung and the lyrics by Sheldon Harnick are touching. All the songs are worthy of mention, but I'll especially point to Take Care of This House, performed with pristine beauty tinged with vulnerability by the national treasure Kelli O'Hara. And a new discovery for me (though it's been around since 1962, written by Irving Berlin) is It Gets Lonely in the White House, sung by Ron Raines with rueful meaning. The centerpiece of this CD is a series of new pieces by well known contemporary composers, each utilizing a quote from the most important Presidents set to music. The Essential Voices perform this material, often very complex, with superb musicality and perfect diction. The liner notes are detailed and informative, very helpful in understanding the background of the pieces. Judith Clurman has produced a masterpiece of Americana which distills the essence of our country. Whiplashed between hurricane and a bruising national election, the calm and poise of this music are soothing, patriotic, yet never sentimental. Highly recommended."Report Abuse
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