The Election Singers came to town Tuesday not to campaign but to celebrate the U.S. presidency.
The group, composed of 16 current and former Juilliard students, gave an energetic performance of politically inspired pieces at the Library of Congress.
Conductor Judith Clurman kept the momentum flowing through a set of campaign songs. With pianist Colin Fowler's sensitive accompaniment, the performers sang such songs as Gus Edwards's "We Want Teddy Four Years More"; Robert A. Keiser's "Be Good to California, Mr. Wilson"; and John L. McManus's "Mr. Harding, We're All for You." The group's rendition of the Franklin D. Roosevelt campaign song "Happy Days Are Here Again," composed by Milton Ager, was so cheery that the vituperative races of today were momentarily forgotten.
Then came the choral cycle "Mr. President," consisting of 13 sections, each composed by a friend or former student of Clurman's and each setting presidential quotations in a cappella rounds or canons. Among the best: Jake Heggie's "John Adams's Prayer"; Wayne Oquin's "On the Words of James Madison"; and Jason Robert Brown's "The Ballot Is Stronger Than the Bullet."
Clurman took full advantage of the Coolidge Auditorium's acoustics in Broadway tunes by Irving Berlin, Charles Strouse and the Gershwin brothers. The singers rang out in "To Make Us Proud" from Leonard Bernstein's "A White House Cantata" (derived from the musical "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue") and sang "Take Care of This House," from the same work, with poignancy.
-- Grace Jean