Project Description

Wind Ensemble with Baritone narrator/singer and Soprano folk-song singer. (2006) 41′

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Maslanka: A Carl Sandburg Reader (2009)

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Illinois State University Wind Symphony, Stephen K. Steele, cond. John Koch, baritone, Tracy Koch, soprano, David Strand, narr.


Solo Bar Solo S | Fl-3(1»AFl 2»Picc) Ob-2 BbCl-2 BCl CACl Bsn-2(2»Cbsn) SSx | Hn-2 Tpt-2(2»Flug) Tbn BTbn Euph Tuba DB | Pno Timp Perc-4
Instrumentation Details

Commissioned in honor of the Illinois State University Sesquicentennial Celebration.
Consortium members

22 October 2006, Missoula, Montana

September 25, 2006 by the Illinois State University Wind Ensemble, Stephen K. Steele, cond., at the Illinois State University Center for the Performing Arts, Bloomington-Normal, IL

A Carl Sandburg Reader was commissioned by Illinois State University in honor of its sesquicentennial celebration. The poems of the central Illinois, and quintessentially American poet, Carl Sandburg are combined with Illinois and other American folk songs to create a universal story. The poems and songs portray the human story of birth, toil, suffering, happiness, war, death, and transcendence. Included is Sandburg’s famous poem, “Rat Riddles.”

  1. Masses
  2. It Rained a Mist
  3. Onion Days
  4. Tramp On The Street
  5. Mag
  6. Limited
  7. The Train is A-Coming
  8. Happiness
  9. Dance Interlude
  10. I’m Going To Join The Army
  11. Johnny Get Your Hair Cut
  12. Wars
  13. Jaws
  14. Mary Had A Baby
  15. Rat Riddles
  16. Bath
  17. Our Prayer Of Thanks
  18. What Did You Have For Supper

Program Note

I remember seeing Carl Sandburg being interviewed on the “Today” program sometime in the 1950’s. He was an old man, still physically alert, with a keen mind and a ready sense of humor. It must have been amazing, and a good laugh for him, a person born in the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, to be interviewed on TV. To me, who had grown up with his poetry as a schoolchild, he knew so much about America that he seemed the embodiment of it. And yet he was the child of immigrants and spoke Swedish at home…as I was the grandchild of immigrants, though kept from the Polish language in order to be made into an American. It took me many years to break out of the “immigrant” mentality of “us against everybody,” and to realize that America was mine, deeply and completely mine. Carl Sandburg, with his poetry and his other writings, especially the monumental Lincoln biography, has been a life- long companion as I have searched for my own American roots.

In “A Carl Sandburg Reader” I have tried to let Sandburg’s voice tell his own take on the human condition – the masses, the poor, war, cynicism, faith, hope, acceptance – and to tell the story as well with his beloved folk songs. For this auspicious occasion of the 150th anniversary of the founding of Illinois State University I wanted a musical celebration, using the words of a native son of the Illinois prairie, that would speak deeply to our past, our present, and our future.

Program note by David Maslanka.