Newsletter Remembering JFK: A Vision of Possibility
The Kennedy Center in Washington DC celebrates the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's inauguration with a gala event on January 20, 2011 featuring the world premiere of Peter Lieberson's Remembering JFK: An American Elegy. Lieberson's newest work for narrator and orchestra was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra for this occasion and is repeated in subscription concerts January 22-24. The premiere performance is narrated by award-winning actor Morgan Freeman.
Peter Lieberson. After consulting with Kennedy speech writer Ted Sorensen* and reading through many of JFK's speeches, Lieberson selected the texts from three separate speeches: the call to public service given at the Massachusetts State Legislature just prior to taking office in January 1961; the Inaugural Address; and "The Strategy of Peace" the commencement address for American University in June 1963. Lieberson commented on how he was inspired by JFK's life and his words:
As I began reading through JFK's speeches, I was astonished that so much of what he said carried presentiments of what we need today a vision of what was possible for us as human beings who cohabit this planet....There is an elegiac quality surrounding this inspirational figure, since in the end he was not able to accomplish so much of what he wanted. But there was also a practical element in his understanding of human nature that couples with the visionary. I chose speeches that reflect both.
In crafting the music to combine with these words, Lieberson was inspired by the Op. 122 Chorale Preludes of Brahms. "Toward the end I work in a quotation from one of these. The poetry of the Lutheran chorale on which it is based has an elegiac quality but at the same time conveys a sense of renewal and rebirth and of the possibilities of basic human goodness."
* Ted Sorensen, the admired longtime counselor and speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy, died on Sunday, October 31st of complications from a recent stroke. He was 82. A tribute to his life's work is available to read in The Washington Post.