Nicholas Provenzale portrayed young Abraham Lincoln in a few selections from Joseph Baber's forthcoming opera River of Time, at the Our Lincoln program Sunday night at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Below: Jim Sayre delivered The Gettysburg Address as Lincoln. Copyrighted LexGo photos by Joseph Rey Au.
U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Kentucky) opened Sunday night's Our Lincoln presentation at the Singletary Center for the Arts saying, "The arts are how we tell our story."
For the next two-and-a-half hours, a wide array of Kentucky artists proved that point.
Our Lincoln celebrated the Kentucky native who became one of the United States' most pivotal Presidents with primary source art, created in his day, and works that are being developed to this day in tribute to Abraham Lincoln. In two-and-a-half hours, the audience got to see how art can tell our story from the full gale of a symphony orchestra and chorus to the simplicity of words, read by a woman whose voice has been nurtured by her Central Kentucky roots.
Our Lincoln director James Rodgers constructed the evening so that pieces such as Kentucky Poet Laureate Jane Gentry Vance reading Edwin Markham's Lincoln, The Man of the People and the Lexington Philharmonic, Lexington Singers and Lexington Singers Children's Choirs' rendition of Jay Flippin and Rodgers new setting of Jesse Stuart's Kentucky is My Land informed the overall story. One of the best juxtapositions was emcee Nick Clooney recounting the Battle of Perryville followed by Lexington native and Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist Nathan Cole performing the mournful Ashokan Farewell with his wife and fellow CSO violinist Akiko Tarumoto.
And there was Kentucky Chautauqua performer Jim Sayre showing how life can become art, with a recitation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
This evening didn't have a lot of precedents. The closest thing to it in recent Lexington arts history was the Spirit of America Benefit Concert for the Victims of Sept. 11, 2001, which was held at Singletary Oct. 9, 2001, featuring the Philharmonic, Singers, the American Spiritual Ensemble and numerous other soloists and groups. Though Lincoln met a tragic end and presided over a tragic war, this event was a celebration of the fact that Kentucky produced a great President. And in that celebration, we were reminded that the Bluegrass has also produced a lot of great artists who can tell his story.
~ The American Spiritual Ensemble, definitely one of the highlights of Our Lincoln, will be part of festivities Tuesday, Feb. 12, in Hodgenville. This is the big Lincoln ceremony that will be attended by First Lady Laura Bush and all of that good stuff. If you want to watch, the ceremony will be carried on C-SPAN3 -- don't ask me where to get C-SPAN3 -- and streamed at c-span.org, starting at 10:30 a.m. EST.