Discovering the Music of America's Founding Fathers

Oct 8, 2017

What was the sound of Philadelphia in the late 18th century? As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, Dolce Suono Ensemble is going to historic sites to perform music favored by the leaders of the new republic.

Dolce Suono Ensemble performs Music in the Second Capital on Sunday, October 15th, at 3 pm at Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

One of the most exciting things was delving into Thomas Jefferson's music collection. He was a very serious and accomplished violinist and he played with a lot of friends at his house.

Radio script:

Susan Lewis: It was the new world, in a time before recordings. America’s founding fathers were forming a government. But there was also music.

[Music: Mozart's Flute Quartet in D Major, Dolce Suono Ensemble]

SL: Mimi Stillman, artistic director of Dolce Suono, says George Washington, for example, loved dancing;  Thomas Jefferson, brought home music from his trips to Europe.

[Music: Corelli's Trio Sonata, from Opus 1, Dolce Suono Ensemble]

MS: One of the most exciting things was delving into Thomas Jefferson’s music collection. He was a very serious and accomplished violinist and he played with a lot of friends at his house.

SL: Music was being written  in Philadelphia -- by the likes of Benjamin Franklin, and lawyer  Francis Hopkinson --  including  music amateurs could share at home:

[Music: Hopkinson, Beneath the Weeping Willows Shade]

MS: For untrained musicians to sing, to play, it’s often a very accessible score form. So you can tell by looking at it. It’s  a melody and bass line or a simple let’s say piano part that could be adapted by a guitarist. Or if you don’t have a singer you could play a melody on flute or violin…

SL: And there was also music in the streets, reflecting the spirit of the new country,

[Music: Yankee Doodle]

MS: If you think a little bit about what the new world might have meant to some of the founding fathers. Freedom, liberty, a promised land. This idea of possibility and a new birth...

SL: Music connecting with the past and shining a light to the future.

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