If you have been yearning for a chance to hear "Bunker Hill" by Andrew Law, the "Ode on Science" by Jezeniah Sumner or the "Ode on the Fourth of July" by George Garnett, you will have your chance tomorrow night when Richard Bales' "The Republic" has its television premiere in a performance by the National Gallery Orchestra and the Catholic University A Capella Choir (Sunday, 10 p.m., Channel 26; simulcast on WETA-FM).
All these pieces from the 18th century, and a good many others (including "Yankee Doodle" and "The Star-Spangled Banner"), are incorporated into Bales' work, a panorama in words and music of the American Revolution and the early years of the new republic.
"The Republic," composed in 1955, has been played at the National Gallery in honor of every presidential inauguration since Eisenhower's in 1957. It was done there again this year, publicly last Sunday and in an invitation-only performance on Monday that was taped for tomorrow night's video premiere. This special performance and telecast were underwritten by Armand Hammer, who was in the audience and on whom the camera lingers for a moment before the final credits. Otherwise, the most attention is given to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry -- their words and their faces.
Along with the music, "The Republic" features readings of some of the best-known texts of the period, including Washington's thoughts at Valley Forge, Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" and Tom Paine's "These are the times that try men's souls." Some are read by narrator William A. Graham with discreet musical accompaniment; others are sung in an 18th-century recitative style (familiar from Handel's "Messiah") by baritone Glenn Cunningham, while the camera flashes to a portrait of the author. Period pictures from the National Gallery's collection are used deftly and atmospherically throughout the taped performance, showing the scenes at Valley Forge and Yorktown, the Battle of Bunker Hill and the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, not to mention a portrait of the Washington family and miscellaneous landscapes.
"The Republic" is fine ceremonial music -- fervently patriotic and full of good tunes. It is well served in this performance by the television production team, by soprano Martha Ellison and by Bales, who conducts with loving care.