Laurel the Graves of Our Dead

Composer John Purifoy compared the words of Abraham Lincoln to scripture. He set parts of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address to music in his new work, “Chronicles of Blue and Gray.” Purifoy spoke with me about his composition for a public affairs radio show. You can download or stream the half-hour conversation at the link below.

“Chronicles of Blue and Gray” was commissioned by the Knoxville Choral Society. They will sing its world premiere performance during their annual Veteran’s Day concert on Saturday, November 10 at the Tennessee Theatre. The evening begins with a pre-show chat with Purifoy and conductor Dr. Eric Thorson at 6:00 p.m. The concert starts at 7:00 p.m. with a selection of patriotic music. Purifoy’s 45-minute orchestral piece will be heard after intermission.

In addition to Lincoln’s speeches, he used poems about the Civil War including “The Blue and the Gray” by Francis Miles Finch. Purifoy tells an interesting story about Walt Whitman volunteering in a military hospital that Lincoln visited regularly. Whitman’s poem “Oh Captain! My Captain!” is about his sorrow over the death of the president.

During the interview, John Purifoy and I talk a little about his 1985 composition “We Hold These Truths.” It includes the words of Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt set to music. I also make a reference to the interesting PBS documentary, “Death and the Civil War,” which I wrote about recently.

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