Thomas Hampson’s 2009 “Song of America ” Project Celebrates the 250th Anniversary of the First American Song

Hampson Gives Twelve “Song of America ” Recitals between July 2009 and February 2010 and Sings Orchestral Concerts with American Songs at Summer Festivals and with the New York Philharmonic

On July 9, 2009 Thomas Hampson resumes the enthusiastically acclaimed “Song of America” project he developed with the Library of Congress and introduced in the 2005-06 season. This season’s national celebration additionally commemorates the 250th anniversary of what is recognized to be the first song written by an “American” (“My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free”, composed in 1759 by Philadelphian Francis Hopkinson). Drawing on the unparalleled collection of American songs housed at the Library of Congress, Hampson will present a unique series of recitals, educational activities, exhibitions, recordings, cybercasts and interactive online resources. Some recital venues will have lobby exhibitions of facsimiles from music archives of the Library, and joint efforts with local academic and cultural partners are planned to give a wide range of listeners access to America 's history as told through its rich array of song. A dedicated web site that will develop into a large-scale database of American composers, poets/writers, their songs, texts, and links to deeper resources will be launched in conjunction with the tour dates.

Hampson’s first two “Song of America” recitals this summer are in the heartland of Minnesota and Wisconsin ( Winona , MN on July 9 and Williams Bay, WI on July 12), and then he continues to two festivals: Ravinia (July 16) and Tanglewood (July 22). Other stops on his recital itinerary are San Francisco , Los Angeles , Portland , Santa Barbara , Boulder , Princeton and Atlanta . In separate stand-alone concerts at Tanglewood and the Grand Teton Music Festival, Hampson will perform orchestral songs by Virgil Thomson, Samuel Barber and John Adams that augment the “Song of America” tour without being directly linked to it.

"The ‘Song of America’ project has become a thrilling dream come true for me: criss-crossing our country singing the songs born of our life experiences as Americans in the language of our hearts and minds. These songs - our songs - say everything about the culture we call American. And when we sing our own songs, when we see through the eyes of our poets and hear with the ears of our composers the diary of our land, those who hear us will experience the best of what freedom of thought and purpose can achieve in the creation of great art. We need these songs in our cultural landscape." - Thomas Hampson

Critical and public reaction to Hampson’s first “Song of America” tour in 2005-06 was extremely enthusiastic and included an appearance on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America. The New York Times wrote about his performance at Carnegie Hall:

“Mr. Hampson conveys the idea of an oral tradition that it is his mission to pass on, with the closed-eyed intensity of a blind poet when he is singing, and the zeal of an evangelist when he is addressing the audience about its cultural heritage.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer called Hampson’s concert at the Kimmel Center “a thoroughly exceptional recital,” noting, “No recitalist is more charming. Hampson singing in his native language almost guarantees an extra zing. … The concert was a rare chance to hear his keen intelligence articulated at close range.”

Last year Hampson was appointed special advisor to the Library of Congress for his work in American song. He is especially interested in promulgating the ways American song continues to communicate the story of the country – its history and its spiritual inner life – through texts wedded to music.

It is significant that Hampson’s “Song of America” project also acknowledges the 250th anniversary of the first song composed in America , by Francis Hopkinson, one of the first American composers. He wrote "My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free" in 1759; it was published in 1788 in a collection of songs dedicated to George Washington, a friend of the patriot author. Hopkinson, also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as a lawyer, poet, inventor, painter, and judge, was not a dilettante, but rather a highly educated and cultivated man typical of the 18th century’s Age of Enlightenment.

Thomas Hampson was raised in Washington state. One of the most celebrated singers on the stage today, he has recorded dozens of America’s songs, presented a PBS special, and given master classes on American song (as he will on the coming tour) – all the while maintaining his position as a preeminent singer of opera and art songs in many languages, and as an expert on and editor of Gustav Mahler’s songs in particular. He was educated in the U.S. before moving to Europe to broaden his singing career, and has recently taken up residence in his home country once again. In the 2009-10 season, Hampson will be the New York Philharmonic’s first Artist in Residence. During the season, Alan Gilbert’s first as Music Director, Hampson will be guest soloist in three programs, tour with the orchestra to six European cities, and give a recital in Alice Tully Hall. He will also give master classes at the Juilliard School, and deliver three lectures entitled “Listening to Thought” in the orchestra’s Insight series.


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