American Birthday Card

for Narrator and Orchestra

Peter Schickele

Rental
Publisher: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

"American Birthday Card" is a musical equivalent of that indigenous American institution, the humorous birthday greeting; like its visual counterpart it is brief and to the point, and its congratulations in terms of affectionate ribbing.
Musically, the piece consists of an easy-going, song-like tune played three times with various counter-melodies and changes in orchestration, leading to a grand, march-like rendition in which the composer?s fervent desire to write a work of commemorative Americana without quoting the country?s best-known song is thwarted by the forces of patriotic atavism (it must be said, however, that you have to be very alert to hear "Yankee Doodle Dandy" poking its head out of the top of the orchestra; symbolizing an eternal cultural tug-of-war in American, it might be said that the quotation is a populist touch that only the elite are likely to notice ? or is it a populist touch disguised in such an elitist fashion that nobody gives a hoot one way or the other?)
The texts spoken by the narrator are divided into three groups: the first three quotations concern the beginnings of the nation; the middle three are comments on this country by foreigners; and the last three observations are by some of our own sages. The authors quoted (in some case minor modifications were made for the sake of continuity) are:
1) Samuel Eliot Morrison
2) A New York City newspaper, 1776
3) King George III
4) Bayard Taylor, Charles Dickens
5) Arnold Toynbee
6) Ivan Golovin
7) Mark Twain
8) H.L. Mencken
9) Abraham Lincoln, Will Rogers.

"American Birthday Card" was commissioned by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and written in the spring of 1976. It was first performed on July 17, 1976 at the foot of the justly famous Gateway Arch, with then-senator Thomas Eagleton narrating, and Leonard Slatkin conducting.

Available on Rental

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Composition Date 1976
Duration 00:08:00
Orchestration 3 2 3 2 - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Str.
Premiere 17th July, 1976. Sen. Thomas Eagleton, narrator, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri.