Evening salutes American composers

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 17, 2010 7:30 AM

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If President Obama ever suffered a loss of words, Honest Abe’s legacy could act as a tag team and spring into the ring.

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present,” President Lincoln spoke in his annual message to Congress in 1862. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.”

American composer Aaron Copland also found these words useful in 1942 when he composed his classical orchestral work Lincoln Portrait. Narrated excerpts of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches accompany this commemoration of the World War II American war effort.

Today, in celebration of Presidents’ Day, the UI Symphony Orchestra and conductor William LaRue Jones will present a patriotic program of music at 7:30 p.m. in the IMU Main Lounge. Admission is free.

“Anytime you listen to the words that Lincoln spoke during the crisis times of his day,” Jones said, “[his words] speak of the kinds of topics that are just as relative today as they were 150 years ago.”

Jones sought James Leach, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa and current chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, to read the speech excerpts in the UI’s performance of Lincoln Portrait.

“Chairman Leach has begun giving talks on civility in today’s society,” Jones said. “What [Leach] has to talk about matches up very well with the speeches Lincoln was giving during his presidency.”

Other selections included in the orchestral program include William Grant Still’s In memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy, Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story: Symphonic Dances, and a violin solo to Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane, rapsodie de concert, for Violin & Orchestra.

— by Caroline Berg

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