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Ruby Dee to Narrate "Lonesome Train" Feb. 12; Maurice Peress to Conduct Cantata Honoring Lincoln
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Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services

(718) 997-559

Maria Matteo
News Assistant
(718) 997-5593


-- Ruby Dee, Star of Stage and Screen, to Narrate the Stirring Story of President Lincoln’s Journey by Rail to His Final Resting Place; Actor Sam Waterston is the Voice of Lincoln --

FLUSHING, January 30, 2009 - The Riverside Church will present the Orchestra and Chorus of the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, The New York City Labor Chorus and The Riverside Inspirational Choir in Earl Robinson’s cantata, The Lonesome Train (conducted by Maurice Peress, the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College), on Thursday, February 12 at 8:00 pm in honor of the 200th birthday of the great emancipator Abraham Lincoln. The work has not been heard in its entirety for more than 50 years. The performance will feature theatrical direction by Lorca Peress and will raise money for The Riverside Food Pantry.

The Lonesome Train is the unfolding story of the train wending its way through the byways of America and features a narrator played by acclaimed actress Ruby Dee (American Gangster, Steam), a chorus led by a balladeer, Michael Mark (I Love My Wife, Cotton Patch Gospel), barn-dance caller David Amram (composer/Author/Jazz musician), banjo soloist Eric Weissberg (Dueling Banjos, Deliverance) and Richard Bourg (Hallow’d Ground, Kolhass) as President Lincoln. The four join gospel preacher Tyrone Aiken and his choir, a barn dance caller and fiddler to honor Lincoln’s message of “a new nation conceived in liberty.”

The composition first premiered in Seattle in 1942 under the title Abe Lincoln Comes Home Again. Americans were closely united in a war against Fascism and the patriotic work caught on quickly. A CBS Radio broadcast, and its subsequent Decca recording (1944) with “Private” Pete Seeger, was produced by Norman Corwin who wrote the text for a new introduction and gave it its final title.

“We are honored to be a part of this musical celebration that pays tribute to the enormous musical contributions of Ellington, Copland and Robinson,” said Christopher Johnson, Interim Director of Music for The Riverside Church. “As we continue to celebrate this invigorating time in our nation’s history, we hope that the collaborative spirit of this occasion will speak to the unity in diversity that has shaped American music and given it its special voice.”

"Lincoln's Bicentennial clearly provides a platform for an American music concert, yet I sense more, the presence of a musical zeitgeist, a timely spirit, a hungering for music that reflects the hope and promise of our country's unique commitment to freedom -- the idea and its fulfillment,” said Maestro Maurice Peress. “So I turn to the honest music of Ellington, Copland and Robinson, music born out of our astounding diversity, music that unabashedly celebrates our better selves."

Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Duke Ellington’s magnum opus Black, Brown and Beige will also be performed. Amazing Grace, in a new setting for the entire company by Bruce Saylor (the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College), will round out the evening.

The performance at Riverside will utilize an orchestration transcribed (by Maestro Peress) from a later (1950) recording that featured Burl Ives as the ballad singer. The new orchestra parts were prepared by Michael Karlsson and helped by a generous grant from the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents more than 20,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York. This work has been endorsed by the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission in Washington.

Tickets are $10 for seniors and children 12 and under; $15 general admission available upon entrance to the Church or for advanced tickets, call 212-870-6784 or visit

About Riverside Church
The Riverside Church is an interracial, interdenominational and international church built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1927. The 2,400-member Riverside Church in Morningside Heights has a rich tradition of providing a forum for important civic and spiritual leaders. Past speakers include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Clinton, Maya Angelou, the Dalai Lama, Fidel Castro, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Marian Wright Edelman, Bill Moyers and acclaimed writer Arundhati Roy.

About The Aaron Copland School of Music:
The Queens College Aaron Copland School of Music not only offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, but it also maintains a vital presence in the cultural life of Queens and Long Island, as well as in the greater New York City area. Students in the ACSM follow a curriculum designed to develop the interdependent skills of performing, listening to, and understanding music. This provides the thorough training so necessary for graduate study and eventual professional careers. The School also forges strong links with the community, not only
through public concerts and recitals, but through collaborations with the public schools, specialized programs and courses for senior citizens, and the Center for Preparatory Studies in Music, which serves up to 400 elementary and secondary students each year.

About The New York City Labor Chorus:
The New York City Labor Chorus with 75 members representing over 20 labor unions and District Councils, was founded in 1991. The Chorus promotes union solidarity by expressing through song the history and ongoing struggles of workers for economic and social justice. Its dynamic repertoire combines the power and culture of union music with the great gospel, jazz, classical and folk traditions.


 Office Information

Deputy Director of News Services
(Position vacant)

(718) 997- 5597

Maria Matteo
Assistant Director of News Services
Queens Hall, Room 270B
(718) 997-5593

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