March 7, 2006 Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and Baritone Thomas Hampson Celebrate "Creativity Across America" in Detroit

Veterans History Project Event and Vision Vocal Choir Master Class Highlight Detroit Tour Stop

Press Contact: Trish Taylor Shuman (202) 707-1940 | Erin Allen (202) 707-7302

The internationally acclaimed baritone Thomas Hampson will give the sixth performance in his 11-city “Song of America” tour at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15, in Max C. Fisher Hall of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. This program is being presented in partnership with the Michigan Opera Theatre.

“The ‘Song of America’ tour with Thomas Hampson continues as part of an unprecedented national program from the Library of Congress to celebrate creativity across America,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “America is a wellspring of new ideas in music, literature, poetry, film and other forms of artistic expression. We want to celebrate the energy and inventive spirit that are such an integral part of our cultural history, and I cannot think of a more accomplished ambassador for the first part of our initiative than Tom.”

Hampson said, “To me the most interesting thing in learning about American song is to realize what our poets and composers have in common: It’s a driving need to tell a story about ourselves and about our becoming this American society.”

According to one critic, describing Hampson’s vocal powers, “There are very few areas of the opera and concert repertory that this industrious singer isn't willing to investigate, but singing songs seems to be the one thing he loves to do most of all. Besides, how many other singers today could fill Carnegie Hall with a program exclusively devoted to a celebration of American song?”

Hampson’s long-standing collaboration with the Library of Congress grew out of a vision shared with Billington: to honor the history and preservation of American song and to introduce new audiences to the breadth and depth of the Library’s unparalleled collections of musical scores and recordings.

Educational outreach staff from the Library of Congress will conduct three teacher institutes to support the teaching of young people who might not be familiar with the variety of American song and history. “Making a Statement Through Poetry and Song,” an institute for local K-12 educators will be held at local colleges. Invited teachers will learn how to incorporate the Library’s unique online collections into their classrooms to encourage critical thinking skills among their students.

Each concert is customized to highlight special contributions of the host city’s eminent musical traditions of composers and musicians with displays of original musical manuscripts of their work. Detroit is no exception. Original manuscripts of Ferde Grofe’s “The Life of Henry Ford” and a selection of sheet music from turn-of-the century Detroit, including “Wait Til the Sun Shines Nellie” and “In My Merry Oldsmobile,” will be offered on public viewings alongside treasures from the Library like Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.”

Other features of the “Song of America” tour include Hampson master classes and an a cappella performance by Vision, a high school, all male choir that represents some of the strongest voices from one of Detroit’s public schools, the Detroit School of Arts.

Other features planned for Detroit include showings at the Detroit Film Theater of select films restored by the Library of Congress, and a Veterans History Project ceremony and presentation with Detroit World War II veteran Charles Remsburg at the John D. Dingell Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The “Song of America” concert repertoire spans from the nation’s founding to the present day and emphasizes American songs’ context in society. The performance will include national favorites such as Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer,” the folk anthem “Shenandoah” and many rarities such as Harry T. Burleigh’s “Ethiopia Saluting the Colors.”

A native of Spokane, Wash., Hampson has long been regarded as one of the most passionate advocates for American song, which he has championed throughout his career. His companion CD, titled “Song of America” (EMI Classics), is a 20-track collection created in association with the Library. The album features songs that Hampson will sing on the tour, as well as many other favorites and lesser-known gems.

Friends of the Library of Congress and members of its private sector advisory group, the James Madison Council, have made possible the “Song of America” tour. It is one of the first in a series of events in the Library’s broader celebration of “Creativity Across America.”

The Library is the world’s largest library with more than 130 million items in nearly all languages and formats. It serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both through its 21 reading rooms on Capitol Hill and its award-winning Web site at

Events in conjunction with the concert:


  • Teacher Institute at the Oakland University, Friday, March 10
  • Teacher Institute, Grand Rapids Amway Center, Monday, March 13
  • Teacher Institute, Warren Macomb County Community College, Tuesday, March 14


“Salute to Michigan Veterans & Veterans History Project Book Talk,” John D. Dingell Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 4646 John R St, Detroit, Tues. March 14, 10 a.m. Speakers will include: James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress; Brig. Gen. Donald L. Scott, USA (Ret.), Deputy Librarian of Congress; Bob Patrick, director of the Veterans History Project; Michael K. Wheeler, director, John D. Dingell VA Medical Center; Tom Wiener, author of “Voices of War” and “Forever a Soldier”; and Charles Remsburg, veteran.

Remsburg, a Detroit resident featured in the book “Forever a Soldier,” will be interviewed about his wartime experiences during the program. A book-signing and reception will follow the program, which is free and open to the public.

Questions (202) 707-4918.

FILM SERIES Detroit Institute of Art

  • “The Big Parade” – Sunday, March 12, 7 p.m.
  • “Wings” – Sunday, March 19, 7 p.m.
  • “The Wedding March” – Sunday, March 26, 7 p.m.

CONCERT in Detroit’s Max C. Fisher Hall, at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15

Public viewings of treasures from the Library of Congress An a cappella performance by Vision, Detroit School for the Performing Arts male choir.

“Song of America concert featuring Hampson and pianist Craig Rutenberg. For tickets and information, contact (313) 576-5111,


PR 06-052
ISSN 0731-3527