NEW! Our Poets & Patriots recording release recital is now on YouTube, click here.
To order your physical copy of our commemorative double CD edition with artwork and full color booklet, choose the quantity and click the “Buy Now” button below. A full description of the project follows.
For the past two years, music historian Mark Clague has been working with choral director Jerry Blackstone, producer Andrew Kuster, and audio and video engineer Dave Schall to record 37 different tracks for a “tuneful history” of the United States national anthem. Featuring award-winning talent from among the students and faculty of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Poets & Patriots is a tour de force of pioneering research brought to life with exceptional artistry. We couldn’t be prouder of the result!
The 2 CD set of audiophile-quality recordings tells the history of the Banner from broadside ballad to national anthem. Disc One traces the exuberant melody — To Anacreon in Heaven — from London in 1775/76 to Francis Scott Key aboard ship in the Chesapeake Bay. Disc Two explores how Key’s increasingly popular song becomes the one and only choice as the nation’s anthem. Many listeners will be surprised to hear the original upbeat “victory song” 1814 musical arrangement of Key’s anthem, not to mention the many alternate lyrics that explain the drinking song misnomer of the anthem and explore how the song reshaped American identity through political protest.
Musical variety is introduced through a variety of ensembles (men’s, women’s, and mixed choruses, tenor, baritone and soprano solos), differing accompanying instruments (harpsichord, fortepiano, and piano), plus instrumental variations on the anthem tune for piano and organ. Related songs such as the de facto nineteenth century US anthem “Hail Columbia” and the African American Hymn (Lift Every Voice).
Beginning with a parody written by Francis Hopkinson one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Poets & Patriots demonstrates how the club tune of an amateur musicians’ club in London, England gathers increasing patriotic resonance in the young United States in lyrics commenting on contemporary politics and celebrating holidays of national import such as the Fourth of July and George Washington’s birthday. We’ve recorded “When the Warrior Returns,” an Anacreontic song that Key himself wrote in 1805 to celebrate the heroism of naval officer Stephen Decatur after a dramatic victory in the Tripolitan War. It’s this tune that proves Key knew the melody of the future anthem long before the British navy approached Baltimore in September, 1814.
We’ve also recorded lyrics that build and comment upon Key’s “Banner” in the effort to reshape American identity. These lyrics argue for the abolition of slavery or the prohibition of alcohol. During the Civil War, both the North and South claimed ownership of Key’s song, but each also produced parodies that mocked their opponent and celebrated the virtues of their own political position. The recording closes with a number of early twentieth-century arrangements, including Igor Stravinsky’s gorgeous version, recorded here in its complete form with all three verses for the first time. Click here to view the complete track listing.
The vocal talents of University of Michigan graduate-level voice majors make up the choir and our soloists, while Professor Scott Piper (tenor) brings his energy and dramatic textual interpretations to three solo renditions. Click here to view a list of talent credits.
To lend the disc additional acoustic variety, we have included virtuoso variation sets for organ and piano performed by organ professor James Kibbie and DMA student Jeannette Fang.
Both the recordings and an accompanying Star Spangled Songbook will be available for purchase in early 2014. The project has been supported generously by the University of Michigan Office for Research, the faculty research fund of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and the Star Spangled Music Foundation.
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