CD93179 Dallas Symphony Orchestra in Concert, Carnegie Hall, 11/5/
From the NPR website:
The Dallas Symphony's Oratorio Of Ominous Events At Carnegie Hall
by BRIAN WISE
DALLAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Jaap van Zweden, music director
Steven Stucky: August 4, 1964
Indira Mahajan, soprano
Kristine Jepson, mezzo
Vale Rideout, tenor
Rod Gilfry, baritone
Dallas Symphony Chorus (prepared by Don Krehbiel)
(New York premiere)
May 11, 2011
When the Dallas Symphony Orchestra arrives at Carnegie Hall tonight, it will
present August 4, 1964, a work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky
and librettist Gene Scheer that is ambitious in every sense of the word.
Premiered in September, 2008 by the DSO, August 4, 1964 is a secular oratorio
commissioned for the 100th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's birth.
The work centers on the day two key issues in Johnson's presidency converged:
the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement.
While researching in the LBJ presidential library in Austin, TX, librettist
Scheer unearthed a remarkable historical coincidence: On the day Johnson and
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered the bombing of North Vietnam (the
Gulf of Tonkin incident), the bodies of three slain civil rights workers
(Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney) were discovered in
Mississippi. The day was August 4, 1964. The events eventually led to Congress
declaring war on Vietnam, and also laid the groundwork for the Voting Rights Act
Rather than creating a straightforward historical documentary, Scheer
intertwined text from accounts of the activists' families, presidential phone
calls recorded at the Oval Office and various newspaper articles and speeches to
depict the feeling of the nation as a piece of art. Four soloists portray key
figures (the mother of James Chaney, the mother of Andrew Goodman, Defense
Secretary McNamara and President Johnson), supported by a Greek-style chorus and
The 70-minute work focuses on two themes — the tragic lament of the mothers of
James Chaney and Andrew Goodman and the busy, testosterone-infused chatter of
the Oval Office — woven together with a quiet, spiritual setting of a poem by
Stephen Spender. The opening scene dramatically juxtaposes grieving mothers with
the hustle and bustle of men planning the attack. The opposing threads come
together again during McNamara's lament, in which he contemplates the
implications of sending men to war under false pretenses (the bombing was based
on what were later learned to be inaccurate reports of attacks on U.S. ships in
the Gulf of Tonkin).
The New York premiere will be special for more than just the orchestra. The
families of Andrew Goodman and James Chaney, who were unable to attend the world
premiere in Dallas, will hear the piece performed live for the first time at the
Spring for Music festival.
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