Members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at Carnegie Hall on May 11. They performed an evening-long piece about Lyndon Johnson and the social issues that surrounded his presidency.

Members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at Carnegie Hall on May 11. They performed an evening-long piece about Lyndon Johnson and the social issues that surrounded his presidency. /Jessica Rinaldi hide caption

itoggle caption /Jessica Rinaldi

Classics in Concert

Spring For Music: Dallas SymphonyWQXR-APM

When the Dallas Symphony Orchestra arrives at Carnegie Hall tonight, it will present August 4, 1964, a work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky and librettist Gene Scheer that is ambitious in every sense of the word.

Premiered in September, 2008 by the DSO, August 4, 1964 is a secular oratorio commissioned for the 100th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's birth. The work centers on the day two key issues in Johnson's presidency converged: the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement.

While researching in the LBJ presidential library in Austin, TX, librettist Scheer unearthed a remarkable historical coincidence: On the day Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered the bombing of North Vietnam (the Gulf of Tonkin incident), the bodies of three slain civil rights workers (Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney) were discovered in Mississippi. The day was August 4, 1964. The events eventually led to Congress declaring war on Vietnam, and also laid the groundwork for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Rather than creating a straightforward historical documentary, Scheer intertwined text from accounts of the activists' families, presidential phone calls recorded at the Oval Office and various newspaper articles and speeches to depict the feeling of the nation as a piece of art. Four soloists portray key figures (the mother of James Chaney, the mother of Andrew Goodman, Defense Secretary McNamara and President Johnson), supported by a Greek-style chorus and full orchestra.

The 70-minute work focuses on two themes — the tragic lament of the mothers of James Chaney and Andrew Goodman and the busy, testosterone-infused chatter of the Oval Office — woven together with a quiet, spiritual setting of a poem by Stephen Spender. The opening scene dramatically juxtaposes grieving mothers with the hustle and bustle of men planning the attack. The opposing threads come together again during McNamara's lament, in which he contemplates the implications of sending men to war under false pretenses (the bombing was based on what were later learned to be inaccurate reports of attacks on U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin).

The New York premiere will be special for more than just the orchestra. The families of Andrew Goodman and James Chaney, who were unable to attend the world premiere in Dallas, will hear the piece performed live for the first time at the Spring for Music festival.

Personnel

Jaap van Zweden, music director

  • Indira Mahajan, soprano
  • Kristine Jepson, mezzo
  • Vale Rideout, tenor
  • Rod Gilfry, baritone
  • Dallas Symphony Chorus (prepared by Don Krehbiel)
Program

Steven Stucky: August 4, 1964

[+] read more[-] less

More From Classical

Tiny Desk Concert with Jason Vieaux and Yolanda Kondonassis. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Tiny Desk

Jason Vieaux And Yolanda Kondonassis

Watch the Grammy-winning guitarist and acclaimed harpist play music influenced by Africa and Asia.

Viola da gamba master Jordi Savall leads his ensemble Le Concert des Nations in a performance at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall on Apr. 16, 2015. AJ Wilhelm for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption AJ Wilhelm for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

Jordi Savall And Le Concert Des Nations

WQXR radio

Hear the consummate master of early music lead an exhilarating program of French compositions.

Listen Loading… 2:21:40
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/347126561/401021961" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Tiny Desk Concert with Anonymous 4 on March 4. Emily Jan/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Emily Jan/NPR

Tiny Desk

Anonymous 4 With Bruce Molsky

The a cappella quartet, with banjo and fiddle, offers popular songs from the Civil War era.

András Schiff takes late sonatas by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert to Carnegie Hall. AJ Wilhelm/for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption AJ Wilhelm/for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

András Schiff Plays Mozart, Haydn, Schubert And Beethoven At Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

On March 10, hear the eminent pianist in a solo recital of sublime masterworks.

Listen Loading… 2:03:37
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/347112344/392189990" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Baritone Thomas Hampson brings a Civil War-themed program to Carnegie Hall Feb. 9, 2015. Kristine Hoebermann hide caption

itoggle caption Kristine Hoebermann

Carnegie Hall Live

Thomas Hampson Sings A World Premiere

WQXR radio

Hear the beloved American baritone sing a new work by Jennifer Higdon in this recital.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a concert of powerhouse orchestral works at Carnegie Hall. AJ Wilhelm for NPR Music hide caption

itoggle caption AJ Wilhelm for NPR Music

Carnegie Hall Live

The Chicago Symphony Plays A Colorful Concert

WQXR radio

Hear the CSO and its charismatic conductor Riccardo Muti in a program of Scriabin and Debussy.

Listen Loading… 2:00
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/347102210/382739058" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
Back To Top