Celebrating the American Spirit

Celebrating the American Spirit


Artist: Essential Voices USA, Judith Clurman (conductor)

Composers: Samuel Adler, Nico Muhly, Milton Babbitt, Jake Heggie, Paul Moravec, Jennifer Higdon, Irving Berlin, Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum, Jason Brown, Robert Beaser, Larry and Laurie Hochman

Format: 1 CD


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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 from GeorgeWashington to Barack Obama. Judith Clurman initiated this inventive project in response to 9/11, after she conducted the Juilliard Choral Union in a wrenchingmemorial 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 rangeof 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 beencompletely 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.

Notes by Carol Oja.

Track List

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

Total time: 54:17
Release date: October 2012
UPC: 053479216229

Judith Clurman…leads her forces here with great skill, spirit, and assurance; and her soloists are outstanding.
— Lindsay Koob, American Record Guide

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