Grunge dirty flag of United States of America

Lady of the Harbor    by Lee Hoiby
(from The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus, as it appears on the Statue of Liberty)

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

And, Oh, give me words like this to sing!


Emma Lazarus’s The New Colossus
Richard Perry/The New York Times

In case I haven’t given myself away before now, let me just say clearly for the record – If it weren’t for the words I wouldn’t be a singer. I am fully aware of how dumb and dumber that sounds… I’m letting it stand. For, as I often say to my students, “if you do not care about what your words mean, and conveying them, you might as well be a flute.”  Not that there is anything wrong with being a flute… but if one wants to hear beautiful sounds that have their own independent meanings – listen to instrumental music.

A singer, however, sings words and tells stories.

On “I Hear America Singing” I’m the lucky singer who gets to sing Emma Lazarus’s nation-defining words, and Lyric Fest gets to tell the story of a young Jewish poet, fourth generation or more, whose ancestors welcomed George Washington to the Newport Congregation in 1790, who somehow befriended Emerson, who visited Waldon Pond, and inspired the praise of Walt Whitman, and more to the point, who penned the words that are engraved and mounted into the lower pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. 

And in 1985, Lee Hoiby set them to music to celebrate the Centennial of the Statue of Liberty. And that word-smith himself!… here is what he had to say about his song, and I quote:

“Lady of the Harbor…  It’s only a minute long, but it’s a kick-ass piece.”

Hear it HERE