Thomas Hampson continues his impassioned advocacy for American song with the introduction this October of “Song of America”, a 13-week radio series that reveals American classic song – poetry set to music by American composers – as a vibrant diary of the American experience. Hampson conceived and developed the series, which is co-produced by the Hampsong Foundation and the WFMT Radio Network of Chicago and will be syndicated by the network to public radio stations across the country. The network will also offer the series to members of the European Broadcasting Union and to stations in other countries around the world. Each hour-long program 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 from Hampson about the people and events that inspired those songs. Several programs also feature interviews with experts from related fields. Programs include Stephen Foster, dedicated exclusively to the 19th-century songwriter who is considered the father of American music; Whitman and Music, examining the great poet and the music that shaped him as well as his deep influence on American composers; “There Is No Gender in Music”, exploring the contributions of American women composers; and Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, which traces the roots and influences of the great 20th-century poet who gave jubilant voice to the lives of African Americans. A full list of programs follows below.
Steve Robinson, Executive Producer and General Manager of the WFMT Radio Network, invited Hampson to create the series as an expansion of the baritone’s ongoing critically acclaimed “Song of America” project, which began in 2005 as a collaboration between Hampson and the Library of Congress. Robinson observes: “Tom is one of the preeminent performers of American art song and we’re thrilled to be working with him on this series. He brings immense scholarship to the project and, more than that, a passion not only for song but for American history and culture that shines through in each program. Nothing quite like this series has ever been heard on American radio, and to bring it to so many stations over the WFMT Radio Network is very exciting.”
Many stations have already expressed interest in the series. A list of participating stations will be posted at www.songofamerica.net, which will also house various online resources to complement the 13 programs.
Thomas Hampson comments: “It has been a great thrill to work so closely with the WFMT Radio Network on this very special project. The network represents the best of what public radio has to offer today. I am extremely grateful for their support and very excited about this series.”
The radio series, funded by the Hampsong Foundation, is produced by WFMT’s Carolyn Paulin. The Coordinating Producer is Miriam Lewin (Lavine Production Group), who has led a team of accomplished writers in taking Hampson’s vision and vast knowledge of the topic and shaping it into 13 distinct programs. The writers, many of them well known in the radio field, include Julie Burstein (creator and founding executive producer of Studio 360 from PRI and WNYC); Naomi Lewin (afternoon host on WQXR in New York and producer/host of Classics for Kids and Metropolitan Opera intermission features); Jeff Lunden (arts reporter for NPR news shows and producer of award-winning radio documentaries on Broadway and Tin Pan Alley); Terrance McKnight (WQXR evening host and producer/host of All Ears); Pierre Ruhe (former chief music critic of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and executive director and editor of ArtsCriticATL.com); James Sinclair (Executive Editor of the Charles Ives Society); and others.
The recordings that will be heard in the “Song of America” series feature some of the most prominent American singers of the past 100 years, including David Bispham, Alma Gluck, Marian Anderson, Nelson Eddy, Paul Robeson, William Warfield, Leontyne Price, Jan DeGaetani, Donald Gramm, Marilyn Horne, Susan Graham, and Renée Fleming – as well as material drawn from Thomas Hampson’s own far-ranging catalog.
The recording selections include settings by American composers from Francis Hopkinson (who wrote the first home-grown American song in 1759), Stephen Foster, Henry T. Burleigh and Arthur Farwell, who all had a profound influence on shaping American music, to today’s prolific song composers including Michael Tilson Thomas, George Crumb, Ned Rorem, Lori Laitman and Jake Heggie; from lesser-known composers like Charles Griffes, Amy Marcy Beach, Walter Damrosch, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Margaret Bonds, Elinor Remick Warren and John Duke to 20th-century masters such as Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein.
The programs also showcase poets whose work these composers found irresistible, including American icons like Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes, and other masters such as Edwin Arlington Robinson, Vachel Lindsay, Stephen Crane, Carl Sandburg, Sara Teasdale and Paul Goodman.
The “Song of America” radio series is part of Thomas Hampson’s multi-platform “Song of America” project. Initially developed by Hampson in collaboration with the Library of Congress in 2005, and now a program of the Hampsong Foundation, it examines connections between poetry, music, history and culture from the perspective of classic song. Drawing on resources from the Library’s unparalleled collection, the project has so far presented two national tours; independent recitals in 22 states and 13 countries; numerous master classes, exhibitions and broadcasts; the web site www.songofamerica.net – an interactive web site of American composers, poets and songs complementing the radio series; and two commercial recordings: Song of America – Music from the Library of Congress and Wondrous Free – Song of America II.
“The ‘Song of America’ project has been a dream come true for me,” says Hampson, “giving me unforgettable opportunities to tour our country while singing the songs born of our life experiences as Americans in the language of our hearts and minds. These songs – our songs – say everything, through the eyes of our poets and the ears of our composers, about the culture we call American. We need these songs in our cultural landscape and the WFMT Radio Network is the finest platform they could have.”
“Song of America” radio series: production details and programs
The production team for the Song of America radio series includes:
Executive Producer: Steve Robinson
Artistic Director and Host: Thomas Hampson
Producer: Carolyn Paulin
Coordinating Producer: Miriam Lewin
Project Manager: Christopher Dingstad
Researcher: Christie Finn
The programs and writers, in broadcast order, are:
American Characters (Miriam Lewin)
Stephen Foster (Naomi Lewin)
Whitman and Music (Pierre Ruhe)
Many Are the Voices (Miriam Lewin)
War Cries (Sheila Gaffney & John Michel)
Ives the Chronicler (James Sinclair)
Champions of American Song (Sheila Gaffney)
Arthur Farwell, American Pioneer (Jeff Lunden)
“There Is No Gender in Music” (Christie Finn)
Emily Dickinson: Letter to the World (Christie Finn)
Songs We’ve Always Sung (Julie Burstein)
Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance (Terrance McKnight)
Places That Sing To Us (Miriam Lewin)
“Song of America” will be available to public radio stations from October 1, 2011.