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the anti-lincoln portrait

When I moved to Cincinnati, I had no idea that the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra had a long tradition of premiering new works1 and that both Fanfare for the Common Man and A Lincoln Portrait are included in this list.

A Lincoln Portrait was premiered in Cincinnati in May 1942: it was supposed to be premiered at President Eisenhower's inauguration, but because Aaron Copland's sympathies were a little too pinko, the performance at the White House was banned.2

Recently, I've been thinking about this piece since I too wrote an orchestra piece with narration, and my piece is being premiered in Cincinnati seventy years after the Lincoln Portrait premiere. What is the intention of A Lincoln Portrait? What was the purpose? Why did Copland need a narrator? In fact, while discussing how to contact the narrator for my piece,3 the conductor blurted out, "This is the anti-Lincoln Portrait."

I suppose my piece will not have you jump out and yell "AMERICA!!!!!"4 That's okay: it's not appropriate to stand up and yell in a concert hall anyway.


1. They recently premiered Philip Glass's Cello Concerto No. 2, “Naqoyqatsi.” Did I also see Philip Glass perform "Music in Similar Motion" with eighth blackbird? Yes, yes I did.

2. "Lincoln Portrait, A." In The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 2nd ed. rev., edited by Michael Kennedy. Oxford Music Online, (accessed April 11, 2012).

3. It is confirmed: the narrator of my piece will be Cincinnati local Ron Esposito. I'm excited.

4. NSFW!!!

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