Aaron Copland is considered one of America's greatest composers. Among his most famous works is a tribute to an iconic figure in American history. In 1942, Copland wrote A Lincoln Portrait, which features a full orchestra playing while a narrator reads excerpts from Lincoln's speeches and other writings.
There's been a long list of notables who have performed A Lincoln Portrait: Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, Walter Cronkite and Margaret Thatcher, among many others. The latest addition to that illustrious list is Tony Award-winning actor and singer Brian Stokes Mitchell, who has made a new recording of Copland's work for NPR Music with The President's Own, the United States Marine Band.
Stokes, as he likes to be called, is best known for his leading roles on Broadway. He was Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, the title character in Sweeney Todd and Fred Graham in Kiss Me, Kate. On TV, he's had roles on shows including Glee and Frasier. "I'm kind of a chameleon as a performer, and people have been taking advantage of that," he says.
Stokes says it was difficult to figure out the right tone of voice and delivery he should use to read Lincoln's words. "We know what we want a president to sound like — which is hard to do," he says.