An Appreciation
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A painful lesson…

Today is the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
It’s one of the most famous speeches in American history, not only for brevity of its content, but for the emotion of that content.

And for the conveyance of that emotion, specifically, and the emotion of the man, generally, I can’t think of any better example than Leonard Bernstein conducting Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait… with the composer himself performing the narration.

Now Copland was no Henry Fonda or James Earl Jones, who both have produced versions of this work…
But anytime you can have a record of the creative artist performing their own work, I think that version might better be preserved, rather than not…

And (of course) Bernstein was Bernstein…
And in the PBS special, produced about the process of this recording, Bernstein was seen taking exception to Copland’s reading of his own work.

And Copland took no exception to Bernstein’s exception…
It was a truly remarkable moment…
One which proved an old teacher’s adage that “… sometimes a composer needs a conductor to tell them what they were thinking…”


Below is the full text of this seminal moment in American history, which is engraved inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


God help us all, if we can’t learn the lessons embodied in the circumstances which produced this document…




Image found here.



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