Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lincoln Portraits

This post is inspired by an entry in the Lincoln Blog.

Years ago, I played saxophone in a middle school band and our band leader decided that we would play Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait. Mr. Higgins was an avid Civil war buff. In the middle of rehearsal, he would regal us with stories from Grant's Memoirs. He would vividly describe the horrors of the camp operating tents. This naturally made an impact on my young, impressionable mind.

Since the Lincoln Portrait is an orchestral piece, Mr. Higgins had to score it for us. Since I was one of his favorites, he gave me a solo. I got to play the main melody to the piece.

However, the most interesting part of our Lincoln Portrait was our narrator. Mr. Higgins picked one of our janitors to utter Lincoln's words. I forget his name but he was a black man of medium height. He had a deep, booming voice. I remember how moved I was when he uttered the words "...and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the Earth." I own a recording of the Portrait with Henry Fonda as narrator. Though I am naturally biased, I think our guy said it better.

But that was not my last Portrait. Several years later, my uncle, a conductor at Brookyn College, did his own version. He picked a diplomat from the Russian Embassy as his narrator. The man did well. His pronunciation was perfect. Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear the words of the Gettysburg Address uttered with a distinct Russian accent.

I'd to hear your Lincoln Portrait stories, if you have any. I'm always in the market for a good yarn.

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