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In the days and weeks following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, thousands of Americans took pens to paper (and words to telegrams) to express their condolences to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The letters were emotional and refreshingly sincere and simple, often including personal details from citizens’ own experiences of loss and hardship as they tried their best to relate to a beloved national icon most of them would never meet.
As we near the 60th anniversary of JFK’s death, 15 nationally revered composers have made new music using excerpts from these historic documents. Producer and tenor Ryan Townsend Strand and pianist Karina Kontorovitch will premiere the works in an intimate, cabaret setting in the stunning Epiphany Center for the Arts.
Audience members will time-travel back to a moment when the world stopped. The works will explore and honor how we connected as Americans in the face of tragedy, offer a space for reflecting on personal life experiences, and encourage a renewed sense of shared humanity.
Strand conceived of the project in 2020 while his live performance career was brought to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He shared it with composers across the nation, asking each if they would compose a commissioned piece. All 15 composers agreed. They include Adore Alexander, B.E. Boykin, Skyler Butenshon, Nicholas Cline, Tom Cipullo, Van Gilmer, Aaron Helgeson, Libby Larsen, Will Liverman, Erik Pearson, Matthew Recio, Jen Shyu, Timothy C. Takach, Augusta Read Thomas, and LJ White.
“We are all a part of this story, whether we were born by 1963 or not,” Strand says. “My hope for this performance is that it creates more space for compassion, reminds people of our shared identity as humans and Americans, and sparks conversations about how we can continue to support each other through tough times.”
Learn more and purchase tickets at letterstojackie.com.