Choral Music Based On Great American Words09:27

This article is more than 7 years old.

Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" has been performed numerous times since Copland wrote the piece, shortly following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1942. Iconic voices including Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn and James Earl Jones have read Lincoln's words to Copland's music.

Here & Now's Robin Young will take on the challenge this coming weekend on a program that also includes more contemporary works that also take on American themes. They include David Conte's "Elegy for Matthew," which was written for Matthew Shepard, a gay man killed in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998, and Lee Hoiby's "Last Letter Home," which sets to music the final letter that a soldier sent to Iraq wrote to his wife and family.

Lisa Graham, music director of the Metropolitan Chorale of Brookline and director of choral programs at Wellesley College, speaks with Robin Young about some of the challenges in performing these and other choral works.

Choral Music Playlist

  • Aaron Copland, “Lincoln Portrait” performed by:
    • Henry Fonda & London Symphony Orchestra
    • Katherine Hepburn & Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
    • James Earl Jones & Seattle Symphony Orchestra

  • Lee Hoiby and Jesse Givens, “Last Letter Home” performed by Cantus

  • David Conte and James Geiger, “Elegy for Matthew” performed by the U.C. Davis Chorus and Orchestra, Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

  • Howard Hanson and Walt Whitman, “Song of Democracy” performed by Eastman School of Music Chorus, Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Howard Hanson, conductor

  • Halsey Stevens and Stephen Vincent Benet, "The Ballad of William Sycamore" performed by USC Choral Ensembles and Orchestra, conducted by William Dehning

  • Charles Ives, “Circus Band” performed by San Francisco Symphony and Symphony Chorus, Michael Tilson Thomas conductor

  • Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, “Wheels of a Dream” from “Ragtime-The Musical” performed by the Original Broadway Cast.


  • Lisa Graham, music director of the Metropolitan Chorale of Brookline and Evelyn Barry director of choral programs at Wellesley College.

This segment aired on March 14, 2014.