J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Longfellow Bicentennial Concert, 25 March

Next Sunday afternoon, 25 March, there will be a free concert at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s birth in 1807.

Longfellow was the most popular American writer in the world in the late 1800s. He and his family were proud to make their home in the Cambridge mansion where Gen. George Washington had lived from July 1775 to March 1776, directing the siege of Boston. His narrative poems focused on the American past, creating legends for the nation to share: “Paul Revere’s Ride” depicted the start of the Revolution on the eve of the Civil War while “The Courtship of Myles Standish” portrayed the Plymouth Colony settlers. Longfellow was thus a crucial figure in the “colonial revival” of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Among his contemporaries Longfellow was unusually interested in minority cultures within the U.S.: Evangeline followed the Acadians displaced in the wars between the French and British Empires, The Song of Hiawatha was a sympathetic attempt at portraying the Native American past, and Poems of Slavery supported the Abolitionist political movement. (Longfellow’s father-in-law, who paid for his house, was a major textile mill-owner, and thus opposed any steps that would disrupt the production of cotton.)

This concert, in the same site as a centennial celebration of Longfellow one hundred years ago, will feature:

  • The Boston Landmarks Orchestra, under Charles Ansbacher, performing musical works Longfellow enjoyed and Julian Wachner’s musical setting of “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”
  • Christopher Lydon, host of the WGBH radio discussion show Open Source, as master of ceremonies
  • Matthew Pearl, author of the historical crime novel The Dante Club, featuring Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Lovell, and other Boston literary figures
  • David Connor in the role of Paul Revere
  • Baritone Brett Johnson performing “A Psalm of Life”
  • A local children’s chorus singing a setting of Longfellow’s poem “Snowflakes”
This free family concert starts at 2:00, with the theater open at 1:00. Seating is not reserved.

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