As mentioned here last week, baritone Thomas Hampson is traveling the United States this fall with a performance project called Song of America. On November 12, he gave the first recital of this tour, in Overland Park, Kansas. Paul Horsley reviewed the concert (Taxpayers to Library of Congress: We are the world, November 14) for the Kansas City Star, with an opening line that reads like a paid product placement:
Tall, charismatic and as square-jawed as the Marlboro man, Thomas Hampson is in many ways an ideal representative of American song.What is even stranger is, after praising the project's goals and the performance, the main criticism of the selection of songs:
This program seemed at once too ambitious and not far-reaching enough. Hampson is to be applauded for limiting himself to a small handful of traditions here, chiefly those of Anglo-Saxons and African-Americans. As the home of the U.S. Copyright Office, the Library of Congress has perhaps a preponderance of tunes whose authors were steeped enough in “the system” that they somehow managed to copyright their tunes. But what does it say when the library fails to acknowledge a vast array of songs from Hispanic, Italian-American, Cajun, Slavic and heaven knows what other traditions? Such inclusions would have made this fine recital into a mish-mash, it’s true (despite the fact that Hampson sings eloquently in several languages). But a nod toward these traditions might make the project seem slightly more reflective of the America that we in fact live in.Hampson went next to give the same recital in Fort Worth, Texas, on November 15, which Wayne Lee Gay reviewed (Baritone gives a vocal tour of the American musical landscape, November 16) for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
The next eclectic set began with African-American composer Henry T. Burleigh's dramatic setting of Walt Whitman's tribute to a newly liberated slave woman, Ethiopia Saluting the Colors. The first half closed with three familiar and dramatic James Joyce settings by Samuel Barber. Writer-composer Paul Bowles' Blue Mountain Ballads, setting four poems of Tennessee Williams in a popular style tinged with little rhythmic ironies, definitely belongs on the short list of American musical masterpieces. William Grant Still's Grief, with text by LeRoy Brant, likewise is an overlooked masterpiece, evoking sorrow without sentimentality through a wonderfully economical harmonic and melodic vocabulary.Hampson received a grade of A in this review, which mostly listed what was on the program. As far as I can tell, he is mostly singing what I heard him do at the Library of Congress last December. If that's true, I am disappointed that neither reviewer mentions the songs of Elinor Remick Warren.
The schedule breaks off for now and does not resume until this winter. Hampson will take his project to such out-of-the-way locales as Philadelphia (January 8), St. Paul, Minnesota (January 17), Carnegie Hall (January 19), Detroit (March 15), West Palm Beach (March 19), Oxford, Mississippi (March 21), Chicago (May 28), Omaha, Nebraska (May 30), and San Jose, California (June 3). None of those venues is exactly the hinterland.