Rutgers professor commissions 75 composers to create new renditions of ‘America the Beautiful’

‘America the Beautiful’ may be one of the most famous songs in the United States

News 12 Staff

Jul 2, 2021, 1:07 AM

Updated 1,022 days ago


‘America the Beautiful’ may be one of the most famous songs in the United States. But few knew just how many different ways it could sound, until a New Jersey musician asked composers across the country to create their own renditions.
Classical pianist Min Kwon says that she discovered that interpretations of "America the Beautiful" are as diverse as the country itself.
“Estonia, Germany, Pakistani, I can go on and on,” Kwon says.
These are just some of the ethnic backgrounds of the 75 composers who Kwon commissioned to create their own variation of the song. It was an idea that came to Kwon as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the country.
“And I thought, this is the time that music steps in,” she says.
The pandemic has been difficult for many, and it is sometimes reflected in the compositions.
“Some composers chose to be very honest about their feelings. And that includes anger, anxiety or devastation,” Kwon says.
Kwon says that all held true to the song’s power and beauty. She recorded all 75 versions of the song on a piano.
“America the Beautiful” has a major connection to New Jersey. The original song was composed 140 years ago by Samuel Ward, an organist and choir leader at Grace Church in Newark.
Kwon, who is a professor of music at Rutgers University, will perform the many versions of the song in free online streams from July 4-7.
“It’s creating music and it’s connecting all of us and it gives us comfort and solace to difficult situations,” she says. “But also, it helps us to move forward.”
An in-person concert for ticket holders will take place in Brooklyn on July 8 and 9.

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