Thursday, July 3, 2014

Star Spangled 200th at LOC

You had to hear it to believe it, the July 3rd tribute to our national anthem at the Library of Congress, celebrating a very rich 200th  birthday. Spokane-born baritone Thomas Hampson was the man in charge, more or less, humorously and tunefully assisted by University of Michigan musicologist/professor Mark Clague ( a former bassoonist, these are really talented men), for a two-hour program - free to the most eager  as most of these things are and, equally free, now on the Web under various headings. Do check especially Our  often-maligned patriotic verses began in 1775 - the music anyway - as a tribute to the sixth century BC Greek court poet Anacreon by members of London's Anacreontic Society (yes, keep reading, it gets better). The  ancient  poet had apparently "entertained his tyrannical patrons with lyrics celebrating wine, women and song" - BUT the society varied its interests, by having two hour symphonic music to head up its meetings. It was a musical society, the tune composed by one John Stafford Smith, presumably a member.
Oh, it gets better. The program of "Poets and Patriotism," included renditions of the anthem in German and Spanish, as well as the Abraham Lincoln 'Letter to Mrs. Bixby" set to music by contemporary composer Michael Daugherty. And anyone wishing to know why this most 'athletic melodies" (i.e. Star Spangled Banner) took root should consult LOC.  History is as complicated as the humans who make it happen. Hampson is a marvel, his voice a miracle of nature. He stood tall and commanding to the end when the entire audience stood for the final rendition, hands over hearts, fronting the University of Michigan men's alumni choir.  I may never have or see a better holiday/anniversary celebration.

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