In I HEAR AMERICA SINGING, we bring you the exciting story of American concert song and its cultural contexts. With Thomas Hampson as your host and guide, we invite you to embark on a multimedia journey to listen to what our great poet Walt Whitman called “our varied carols” and to learn about the composers, poets, writers, artists, ideas, and events that have shaped the American song saga.
This Web piece is a companion to the GREAT PERFORMANCES telecast THOMAS HAMPSON: I HEAR AMERICA SINGING. A production of Thirteen/WNET in New York, this television special spotlights enduring American classics by Stephen Foster, Leonard Bernstein, and others, performed definitively by Hampson, Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade, Dawn Upshaw, Harolyn Blackwell and Jerry Hadley. Also on hand for the gala evening are pianists John Browning and Craig Rutenberg, Jay Ungar, Molly Mason, and David Alpher. The special was recorded in concert at New York’s Town Hall and on location in Kentucky; Amherst, Walden Pond, and Concord, MA; and at Walt Whitman’s Camden, NJ home.
“Our songs have become as varied as our people,” maintains Hampson, who conceived the special and served as artistic director and creative consultant. “Because I’m an American singer I’ve always cared deeply about our songs.”
Choosing the telecast title from the famed Walt Whitman poem, Hampson stresses that what Whitman heard America singing in 1860 was a plethora of songs and styles: the hymns of the East, the cowboy songs of the West, the work songs of the North, the spirituals of the South. “All were part of the American experience, and provided the ground from which the American concert song sprang,” Hampson says.
We recommend that you first enter I HEAR AMERICA SINGING in either of two ways: through the Overview, which provides a narrative history of American concert song, or the Timeline, which presents that history in listed format. Also included is a Resources section, containing an extensive bibliography; and the Credits.