On January 21 The New Colossus, a choral setting of the famous poem by Emma Lazarus that appears on the Statue of Liberty, was performed at the morning worship service at St. John’s Church on Lafayette Square in Washington. In attendance for that first event of Inauguration Day were President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as cabinet members, congressmen, and various heads of state.
The composer was David Ludwig Gr’09, who wrote on his blog that he was “honored beyond words,” even though he wasn’t on the guest list.
“I was very moved by the sentiment of welcome that Lazarus—herself an immigrant—conveys in the message: ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses …’” said Ludwig, who was commissioned to write the piece shortly after the events of September 11, 2001. “The words are staggeringly beautiful and inclusive, inviting everyone to the USA, no matter how tired, poor, and wretched they are—everyone. This to me was the true spirit of the United States embodied in poetry: our strength in diversity and tolerance.”
Ludwig, whose musical forebears include pianist Peter Serkin (uncle), pianist Rudolf Serkin (grandfather), and violinist Adolf Busch (great-grandfather), is the Liem Artistic Chair of Performance Studies at the Curtis Institute and director of the Curtis 20/21 Contemporary Music Ensemble. Though he’ll only turn 39 this year, he has accomplished so much and accumulated so many laurels that we hope to do something more substantial on him. But in the meantime, a hat-tip from the huddled masses seems in order.—S.H.