Airs Tuesday, February 19 at 11:00 a.m. Classical New England from WGBH offers a companion radio program to the 2013 PBS series The Abolitionists: Let Freedom Sing: The Music of the Abolitionists.
Let Freedom Sing chronicles the idealistic artists, uncompromising personalities and powerful music of the era, and looks at how these forces combined to turn abolitionism from a scorned fringe movement into a nation-changing force. This one-hour special will be hosted by Noah Adams.
“Any good crusade requires singing,” reformers like to say, and in the 19th century, no cause was more righteous than the decades-long crusade to abolish slavery. An original WGBH-Classical New England production hosted by Noah Adams, Let Freedom Sing will profile such powerful figures as Henry Russell, the barnstorming Anglo-Jewish pianist and singer dubbed the master of “chutzpah and huzzah;” the Milford, New Hampshire-based Hutchinson Family Singers, remembered as America’s first protest singers; and abolitionist leader and newspaper publisher William Lloyd Garrison, whose “Song of the Abolitionist” (set to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne”) literally set the tone for the entire movement. Garrison believed strongly in setting stanzas to familiar melodies—for poetry, he held, was “naturally and instinctively on the side of liberty.”
And the program will explain how “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” evolved from a patriotic ditty penned in a half-hour by Reverend Samuel Francis Smith to a stirring anthem of equality famously sung by Marian Anderson in 1939 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial…and reprised by Aretha Franklin on the West Lawn of the US Capitol for the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009.