Choreography by Twyla Tharp
Music: Suite of Nineteenth Century American Favorites, See below
Music arranged by Donald Hunsberger
Costumes by Santo Loquasto
Lighting by Jennifer Tipton
World Premiere: Metropolitan Opera House, New York, 5/1/95
Original Cast: Julie Kent, Robert Hill, Christine Dunham, Charles Askegard, Amanda McKerrow, Parrish Maynard, Keith Roberts, Johan Renvall, Susan Jaffe, Gabrielle Brown, Elizabeth Dunn, Laura Martin, Rosalie O'Connor, Victor Barbbe, Ethan Brown, Chistopher Martin, Michael Owen
Beginning in the 1850's, the sound and spirit of America included the sentimental parlor song, the social music of vocal soloists and family groups such as the original Hitchison Family Singers, the "characteristic" or levee work or dance song, spirituals, music composed specifically for the theatre of the day, the stirring music of the town brass band, plus the small community social orchestra which performed for dance occasions. All this and more forms a vital part of our national musical heritage. The era before, during, and after the Civil War was a time of musical development that would lead to the popularization of the bands of Sousa and Gilmore and the eventual development of the country's symphony orchestras.
Two composers who contributed greatly to the development of youngAmerica provide a large portion of the musical material for Americans We. Stephen Foster (1826-1864) became one of the most popular song composers during the middle 19th century, writing for the parlor and for the minstrel stage. A set of instrumental dances arranged for social orchestra by Foster form part of the "Foster Set" in this ballet. Henry Fillmore (1881-1956) was a truly American bandmaster and composer. His many marches, gallops, instrumental novelties (rags and gliss compositions for the trombone), and incidental music accompanied many a circus presentation. The opening circus gallops in Miss Tharp's work have been interpolated into one composition in which they provide differing melodic and rhythmic styles. The title piece, Americans We, is one of Fillmore's most famous compositions.
These selections incorporate many of the indigenous American approaches to composition and performance styles. Also used in Americans We is one of the most sentimental songs to travel across the seas from its native British Isles -- Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms. Originally attributed to Irish and Scottish heritage, the song soon became part of America's musical heritage. In addition, Nicolo Paganini's flight of fancy Perpetual Motion has been set in a concerto-like style for two cornets and orchestra. This setting is very reminiscent of the cornet solos written at the turn of the century.
Source: Donald Hunsberger, orchestrater