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UW-Eau Claire Concert Choir to Perform on Presidents' Day in Washington, D.C.

RELEASED: Feb. 3, 2009

Dr. Gary Schwartzhoff
Dr. Gary Schwartzhoff

EAU CLAIRE — Eau Claire will be represented in the nation's capital for Presidents' Day this year when the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's Concert Choir and director Dr. Gary Schwartzhoff perform as the featured choir at the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Choral Festival being held over Presidents' Day weekend, Feb. 13-16, in Washington, D.C.

Schwartzhoff is artistic director for the event, leading his choir as well as several other high school, university and community choirs. Seven choirs comprised of 265 singers from Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Illinois and Wisconsin will perform.

The festival will culminate in an afternoon concert at 2 p.m. Feb. 16 — Presidents' Day — at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The choirs will perform with the McLean Symphony Orchestra of McLean, Va.

The UW-Eau Claire Concert Choir also will perform a solo evensong concert in the National Cathedral Feb. 15.

The festival is described as "a special choral salute marking the bicentennial of America's greatest president," but Schwartzhoff said the program is particularly fitting for Presidents' Day because although it is a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, it will feature words and music composed by or for several other presidents as well.

"The concert will open with Randall Thompson's 'Testament of Freedom,' set to words from selected writings by Thomas Jefferson and composed 1942-43 for the bicentennial of his birth," Schwartzhoff said. "Given the many performances of this work, the one that meant the most to Thompson was given by Serge Koussevitzky at Carnegie Hall in 1945. A Boston Symphony Orchestra performance had been scheduled when news came of the death of President Roosevelt. Instead of canceling the concert, Koussevitzky insisted that the concert be given, but made open to the public without charge. The concert concluded with "The Testament of Freedom" and "The Star Spangled Banner."

The second piece to be performed at the festival will be 'Words of Lincoln' by Earlene Rentz, who also set Lincoln's words to music, using texts taken from his addresses, letters and official documents. The piece includes parts of Lincoln's speech at the train station in Springfield, Ill., as he left for Washington, D.C., as well as his first and second inaugural addresses, the Gettysburg Address, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Schwartzhoff said the McLean Orchestra also will perform Aaron Copland's composition, "Lincoln Portrait." Commissioned by conductor André Kostelanetz and composed in 1942, the work is famous for the spoken recitation of Lincoln's words. It often is performed at national celebrations and many Americans have performed the recitation, including actors, musicians, politicians such as Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, and Copland himself. A well known recording of the piece was narrated by actor Henry Fonda.

Also on the program is a work by Ron Jeffers, a former UW-Eau Claire faculty member who is now director of the Oregon State University Choir. "Workin' for the Dawn of Peace" is a collection of Civil War songs arranged by Jeffers.

The concert will conclude with James Mulholland's arrangement of "America the Beautiful."

For more information about the Presidents' Day weekend activities, contact Dr. Gary Schwartzhoff at 715-836-4056 or schwargr@uwec.edu.

-30-

NW/JB

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