Monumental Music for President’s Day on Symphony @ 7

Mount Rushmore National Memorial(Photo: wikipedia)
Mount Rushmore National Memorial(Photo: wikipedia)

This evening on Symphony @ 7 for President’s Day, we have a work inspired by the monumental sculpture of four American presidents carved into the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Mount Rushmore by Michael Daugherty is a dramatic oratorio from 2010 for chorus and orchestra, and we’ll have a recent recording with the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale led by Carl St. Clair.

The sculpting of the monument itself was accomplished between 1927 and 1941.  The Mount Rushmore National Memorial has become a national icon with it’s four presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln stoically and majestically peering down at the nearly three million visitors who make the trip to the site annually.

The four sections of the oratorio are appropriately titled for the presidents as they appear from left to right when viewing the monument.  The music expresses various aspects of the presidents’ character and lives, and the texts sung by the choir are from writings of the period and the subjects themselves.

“George Washington” includes a verse from Chester, Revolutionary War Anthem by William Billings, and a quote from a letter Washington wrote to the Marquis de Lafayette in 1784.  “Thomas Jefferson” has a quote from a song composed for him by Maria Cosway (believed to be a romantic interest) while Jefferson was the minister to France in 1786.  And there’s a short quote from Jefferson himself.

“Teddy Roosevelt” gets part of a speech he made at the Grand Canyon in 1903 (having a great interest in conservation) and a bit of Rock of Ages, a hymn by Augustus Montague Toplady.  For “Abraham Lincoln,” what could be more appropriate than the Gettysburg Address to conclude the work?

We’ll begin the hour with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, but the real musical treat for this evening is this “monumental” music from Micheal Daugherty on President’s Day on Classical 101.