. Interchanging Idioms: As Thomas Hampson’s “Song of America” Radio Series Takes Off, Baritone Returns to US for Concerts

Monday, December 26, 2011

As Thomas Hampson’s “Song of America” Radio Series Takes Off, Baritone Returns to US for Concerts

As his 13-week “Song of America” radio series fans out successfully across the American airwaves, Thomas Hampson returns to the US for a series of high-profile concerts, recitals and a company role debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, all featuring signature repertoire. He begins by collaborating for the first time with Gustavo Dudamel, with whom he will perform Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (Jan 13-15). “Song of America” recitals, with pianist Craig Rutenberg, follow at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (Jan 22), and in Clinton, MS (Jan 24), Nashville, TN (Jan 26) and Sarasota, FL (Jan 30). Hampson then teams up with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for Brahms’s Requiem and Dvorák’s Bible Songs (Feb 3-5), before heading to New York for his company role debut as Verdi’s Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera (six performances March 15 – April 9).

Hampson’s “Song of America” project reached a new high this fall with the introduction of a 13-week “Song of America” radio series. The project – which began as a collaboration with the Library of Congress, presenting recitals and outreach activities – has taken Hampson to cities across America, presenting his explorations of both beloved and unjustly neglected music that, in his words, “says everything about the culture we call American.” Conceived and developed by Hampson, the new radio series is syndicated by the WFMT Radio Network of Chicago to public radio stations across the country. Each hour-long program – narrated by Hampson – focuses on a particular topic that sheds light on a larger theme in American history, and includes approximately 40 minutes of songs drawn from archival and modern recordings, plus stories and insights about the people and events that inspired those songs.

While many stations began airing the series in the fall, it will also be heard on many additional stations starting in 2012, including WQXR 105.9 FM in New York, which will broadcast the programs on Sundays at 9 pm, starting on January 8. The series, which was made possible by the Hampsong Foundation and the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, will also be offered to members of the European Broadcasting Union and to stations in other countries around the world. A list of the 208 stations and translators participating thus far is available at www.songofamerica.net/radio, which also houses various online resources to complement the 13 programs.

Stations already airing the series have been enormously pleased with the responses they have received from listeners (some of whose comments appear under a separate heading below), and programmers have offered their own words of praise. Caitriona Bolster, Music Director for KWAX-FM in Eugene Oregon, comments: "This is a series that should be required listening for anyone interested in American social and cultural history, literature, and music. Thomas Hampson does a superb job of bringing the past to life with a directness and passion that are irresistible.”

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