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The History Lesson

Hersh,Howard (1940-)
Sex  Male
Written  2001
Comments  The History Lesson is a one-act theater piece for soprano and tenor soloists, high school choir, and a chamber ensemble consisting of clarinet (with bass clarinet), two percussionists, piano, and string quartet; its text is by Francesca Hersh. It was composed in 2001 for premiere at the CSUS Festival of New American Music. Its first performers were Kerry Walsh, soprano, Stephen Rumph, tenor, the Nevada Union High School Chamber Choir, directed by Rod Baggett, and Music Now; the production was directed by Melissa Weaver and conducted by the composer. The action takes place during a history class. Its subject is a survey of fires that have made their mark on the public consciousness, but its fundamental theme is the fire that burns in young Americans and ignites on the campuses of our schools. There are three main characters: the teacher, who delivers a lecture on the Circus Fire that erupted in Hartford, Connecticut in 1944, "X", a student who has been condemned to the fringes of his school and society, and the class itself, which reports on historical fires, but also brings the flames of its personal histories onto the stage. Two characters associated with the Hartford Circus Fire play central roles in this piece. Although never formally charged, it is generally accepted that a young circus worker, Robert Segee, was responsible for the fire. He was a tortured person who had been burned by his father and suffered visions of a fiery man on a red horse who would order him to start fires. During the course of The History Lesson, "X" reports on - and identifies with - Segee. The other major player from the tragic fire is a little girl who was one of the 169 who lost their lives. For decades she remained unidentified, and was transformed into a symbol for the youth and youthful dreams that were lost that day in July. She became well-known, and much loved throughout the Hartford community, as "Little Miss 1565;" in the production, her apparition is represented by a young actress in a non-speaking role. The choir's opening passage was inspired by - and loosely quotes from - the beginning of Thomas Morley's madrigal Fire, Fire.
Publisher  H. Hersh
Inst.  [>13] Clarinet in Bb/Bass Clarinet, Percussion (2), Piano, Soprano, Tenor, Violin (2), Viola, Cello, SATB Chorus

Prepared on Thu Apr 30 20:22:45 2009