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March 7 , 2006

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and Baritone Thomas Hampson Celebrate "Creativity Across America" in West Palm Beach

Poet Laureate of the United States Ted Kooser to Give Pre-concert Reading

The internationally acclaimed baritone Thomas Hampson will give the seventh performance in his 11-city "Song of America" tour at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 19, in Dreyfoos Hall of the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"The ‘Song of America’ tour with Thomas Hampson continues as part of an unprecedented national program from the Library of Congress to celebrate creativity across America," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "America is a wellspring of new ideas in music, literature, poetry, film and other forms of artistic expression. We want to celebrate the energy and inventive spirit that are such an integral part of our cultural history, and I cannot think of a more accomplished ambassador for the first part of our initiative than Tom."

Hampson said, "To me the most interesting thing in learning about American song is to realize what our poets and composers have in common: It’s a driving need to tell a story about ourselves and about our becoming this American society."

According to one critic, describing Hampson’s vocal powers, "There are very few areas of the opera and concert repertory that this industrious singer isn't willing to investigate, but singing songs seems to be the one thing he loves to do most of all. Besides, how many other singers today could fill Carnegie Hall with a program exclusively devoted to a celebration of American song?"

Hampson’s long-standing collaboration with the Library of Congress grew out of a vision shared with Billington: to honor the history and preservation of American song and to introduce new audiences to the breadth and depth of the Library’s unparalleled collections of musical scores and recordings.

Each concert is customized to highlight special contributions of the host city’s eminent composers and musicians by displaying original musical manuscripts of their work. West Palm Beach is no exception. Selections of early editions of Florida songs dating back to the 1840s, including Florida’s official state song, "Old Folks at Home" by Stephen Foster, and the copyright deposit from Jimmy Buffett’s "Margaritaville," will be on display. Original manuscripts of other composer’s works like "Florida by the Sea" by Irving Berlin, Copland’s "Appalachian Spring" and Gershwin’s "Porgy and Bess," will also be available for public viewing at the concert.

The West Palm Beach stop will also include Ted Kooser, the Poet Laureate of the United States, who will participate in pre-concert activities highlighting the power and beauty of poetry and the historical lyrical legacy that America’s great poets have contributed to the soundtrack of American music. Additionally, Thomas Hampson will sing "A Heartland Portrait." This new work by composer Stephen Paulus is set to stirring and picturesque words by Ted Kooser and was given its U.S. premiere by Hampson in January at a "Song of America" concert in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The "Song of America" concert repertoire spans from the nation’s founding to the present day and emphasizes American songs’ context in society. The performance will include national favorites such as Stephen Foster’s "Beautiful Dreamer," the folk anthem "Shenandoah" and many rarities such as Harry T. Burleigh’s "Ethiopia Saluting the Colors."

A native of Spokane, Wash., Hampson has long been regarded as one of the most passionate advocates for American song, which he has championed throughout his career. His companion CD, titled "Song of America" (EMI Classics), is a 20-track collection created in association with the Library. The album features songs that Hampson will sing on the tour, as well as many other favorites and lesser-known gems.

Friends of the Library of Congress and members of its private sector advisory group, the James Madison Council, have made possible the "Song of America" tour. It is one of the first in a series of events in the Library’s broader celebration of "Creativity Across America."

The Library is the world’s largest library with more than 130 million items in nearly all languages and formats. It serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both through its 21 reading rooms on Capitol Hill and its award-winning Web site at www.loc.gov.

Events in conjunction with the concert:

LECTURE Saturday, March 18 4 p.m.

Hampson speaks about the cultural history of American song

CONCERT Kravis Center’s Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. Concert Hall. at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 19

  • Public viewings of treasures from the Library of Congress
  • Pre-concert reading by Poet Laureate of the United States Ted Kooser
  • "Song of America" concert featuring Hampson and pianist Craig Rutenberg. For tickets and information, contact (561) 832-7469 or (800) 572-8471, www.kravis.org.

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PR 06-053
03/7 /06
ISSN 0731-3527

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