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The Journey Home

Join Grammy Award-winning baritone John Brancy and pianist Peter Dugan, host of NPR's From the Top, as they perform songs inspired by the timeless story of a soldier's journey home and the search for a more peaceful world.

AIRED: May 29, 2021 | 0:56:50
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TRANSCRIPT

Welcome!

I'm Baritone John Brancy.

And I'm Pianist Peter Dugan,

and this is the Journey Home: Live from the Kennedy Center.

We put this program together in 2018

to commemorate the centennial anniversary

of the end of World War One.

And this is the culmin

of that tour.

We are live

at the Kennedy Center.

All right, go for it.

John and Peter,

take one, marker.

We actually sat down

the night before the concert

to talk about

how we were feeling.

And I was pretty nervous

about this opening number.

The scary thing for me tomorrow,

and every time

we do this program,

is that the whole concert opens

with an insanely challenging

virtuosic solo piano piece

that I arranged at John's.

Cut to Peter tomorrow

being like,

"ding dong ding gong dong."

I always tell my students,

when you're programmg

a concert,

make sure you start

with something

that's very comfortable,

not too physically demanding,

and I'm doing the ee

of that.

Yeah, that's the opener.

- It's a strong opening.

- Show-opening prologue.

♪ There's a happy time comig

when the boys come home ♪

♪ There's a glorious day cog

when the boys come home ♪

♪ We will end

the dreadful story ♪

♪ Of the battle dark and gory

♪ With a sunburst of glory

♪ When the boys come home

♪ The days will seem brightr

when the boys come home ♪

♪ And our hearts will be lir

when the boys come home ♪

♪ Wives and sweethearts

will press them ♪

♪ In their arms

and caress them ♪

♪ And pray God to bless them

♪ When the boys come home

♪ The thinned ranks

will be proudest ♪

♪ When the boys come home

♪ And our cheer

will ring the loudest ♪

♪ When the boys come home

♪ The full ranks

will be shattered ♪

♪ And the bright arms

will be battered ♪

♪ And the battle-stas

tattered ♪

♪ When the boys come home

♪ Their bayonets may be rusy

when the boys come home ♪

♪ And their uniforms be dusy

when the boys come home ♪

♪ But all shall see the tracs

of battle's royal graces ♪

♪ In the brown

and bearded faces ♪

♪ When the boys come home

♪ Our love shall go

to meet them ♪

♪ When the boys come home

♪ To bless them

and to greet them ♪

♪ When the boys come home

♪ And the fame

of their endeavor ♪

♪ Time and change

shall not dissever ♪

♪ From the nation'st

forever ♪

♪ From the nation'st

forever ♪

♪ From the nation'st

forever ♪

♪ When the boys come home

That piece was written

during World War One,

and it has this cheery optimism,

which of course is not at all

the way things

actually turned out.

That's sort of what tm

is all about:

the journey home,

what happens when war is over,

when the search for pee

has just begun.

We found this letter

that Vaughan Williams wrote

to Gustav Holst from the front.

Vaughan Williams was a mec

during World War One.

He was literally pulling s

off of no-man's-land

when he wrote this letter.

"I've indeed longed te

in many ways

during the last month,

but in other ways I should nt

like to come home for good

'til everything is over

or in some other normal way.

I sometimes dread comik

to normal life

with so many gaps."

One of the most incres

of this tour

was getting to know historians

and members of our military,

and to learn that the suffering

and the experience 100 years ago

is still relevant today.

You are forever altered

by the things that you are

going to see in combat,

and in World War One

they faced death

every single day.

They faced the horrors of people

being blown up in front of them.

And our armed forces today

have faced the same thing

in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Friends of mine who have ben

Marine Platoon Commanders

have had to go home

and knock on the door

of the family of somey

in their unit

and explain to them

what happened.

So that will never ever change.

♪ Give to me the life I love

♪ Let the lave go by me

♪ Give the jolly heaven above

♪ And the byway nigh me

♪ Bed in the bush

with stars to see ♪

♪ Bread I dip in the river

♪ There's the life

for a man like me ♪

♪ There's the life forever

♪ Let the blow fall

soon or late ♪

♪ Let what will be o'er me

♪ Give the face

of earth around ♪

♪ And the road before me

♪ Wealth I seek not,

hope nor love ♪

♪ Nor a friend to know me

♪ All I seek,

the heaven above ♪

♪ And the road below me

♪ Or let autumn fall on me

♪ Where afield I linger

♪ Silencing the bird on tree

♪ Biting the blue finger

♪ White as meal,

the frosty field ♪

♪ Warm the fireside haven

♪ Not to autumn will I yield

♪ Not to winter even

♪ Let the blow fall

soon or late ♪

♪ Let what will be o'er me

♪ Give the face

of earth around ♪

♪ And the road before me

♪ Wealth I ask not,

hope nor love ♪

♪ Nor a friend to know me

♪ All I ask,

the heaven above ♪

♪ And the road below me

♪ Let Beauty awake in the '

from beautiful dreams ♪

♪ Beauty awake from rest

♪ Let Beauty awake

for Beauty's sake ♪

♪ In the hour when the bis

awake in the brake ♪

♪ And the stars are bt

in the west ♪

♪ Let Beauty awake in the ee

from the slumber of day ♪

♪ Awake in the crimson eve

♪ In the day's dusk end

♪ When the shades ascend

♪ Let her wake to the kiss

of a tender friend ♪

♪ To render again and receive

♪ I will make you brooches

and toys for your delight ♪

♪ Of bird-song at morning

and star-shine at night ♪

♪ I will make a palace t

for you and me ♪

♪ Of green days in forests

and blue days at sea ♪

♪ I will make my kitchen,

and you shall keep your room ♪

♪ Where white flows the river

and bright blows the broom ♪

♪ And you shall wash your lin

and keep your body white ♪

♪ In rainfall at morning

and dewfall at night ♪

♪ And this shall be for music

when no one else is near ♪

♪ The fine song for singin,

the rare song to hear ♪

♪ That only I remember,

that only you admire ♪

♪ Of the broad road

that stretches ♪

♪ And the roadside fire

This recital was co-presd

by Vocal Arts D.C.,

a premiere presenter

of art song,

and the Delegation of Flas

to the United States.

Flanders Fields and the poppy

have become symbols

of the First World War,

the Great War.

It all started with

the famous poem of John McCrae,

"In Flanders Fields,"

and it was that poem

that made the poppy as an icon

and as a symbol of ree

of all wars.

The piece you're goig

to hear now

is the world premiere

of a new setting

of "In Flanders Fields,"

composed by my brother,

Leonardo Dugan,

and commissioned

by the Delegation from Flanders.

In this setting

of "In Flanders Fields,"

the foe is not one particular

person, place, or country.

The foe is war itself.

♪ In Flanders fields

the poppies blow ♪

♪ Between the crosses,

row on row ♪

♪ That mark our place;

and in the sky ♪

♪ The larks,

still bravely singing, fly ♪

♪ Scarce heard

amid the guns below ♪

♪ We are the Dead

♪ Short days ago

♪ We lived, felt dawn,

saw sunset glow ♪

♪ Loved and were loved,

and now we lie ♪

♪ In Flanders fields

♪ Take up our quarrel

with the foe ♪

♪ To you from failins

we throw ♪

♪ The torch;

be yours to hold it high ♪

♪ If ye break faith

with us who die ♪

♪ We shall not sleep,

though poppies grow ♪

♪ In Flanders fields

Leonardo Dugan also wroe

a setting for us

of another famous

World War One poem,

"I have a Rendezvous w"

by Alan Seeger.

Now, Alan Seeger was one

of the first Americans

to fight in World War One.

He joined up

with the French Foreign Legion.

He also was one

of the first Americans

to be killed in World War One,

which just makes this poem

that much more haunting.

♪ I have a rendezvous

with Death ♪

♪ At some disputed barricade

♪ When Spring comes back

with rustling shade ♪

♪ And apple-blossoms

fill the air ♪

♪ I have a rendezvous

with Death ♪

The kind of synergy

between artists

that I think makes

the old new again,

and it's what gets us p

in the morning,

those of us that have been gog

to concerts 50 years or more.

It's hearing the music

we've never heard before,

which we'll have the oppy

to do this evening

with completely new sets

by Leonardo Dugan

of "In Flanders Fields"

and "I Have a Rendezvs

with Death."

And, by the way,

I had no clue,

none whatsoever --

and this is the genius

of John and Peter --

about the fact that Pete Seeger,

who wrote "Where Have

All the Flowers Gone,"

was related to Alan Seeger,

who wrote "I Have

a Rendezvous with Death."

Brilliant to include those

two songs in juxtaposition.

So, this is our arranget

of Pete Seeger's

"Where Have All

the Flowers Gone,"

and this really gets to the ia

of the senselessness of war,

and this unending cycle

of violence and loss.

This is the heart

of the program,

so in order for us to fully

realize what this song is about,

we needed to have

some element of movement.

So that's why we includd

the profound work

of dancer and choreogrr

Danielle Agami

and the Ate9 dance company.

♪ Where have all the flowers

gone, long time passing? ♪

♪ Where have all the flowes

gone, long time ago? ♪

♪ Where have all

the flowers gone? ♪

♪ The girls have pic,

every one ♪

♪ Oh, when will they

ever learn? ♪

♪ Oh, when will they

ever learn? ♪

♪ Where have all the young gs

gone, long time passing? ♪

♪ Where have all the youngs

gone, long time ago? ♪

♪ Where have all

the young girls gone? ♪

♪ They've taken husb,

every one ♪

♪ Oh, when will they

ever learn? ♪

♪ Oh, when will they

ever learn? ♪

♪ Where have all the young mn

gone, long time passing? ♪

♪ Where have all the youngn

gone, long time ago? ♪

♪ Where have all

the young men gone? ♪

♪ They're all in uniform

♪ Oh, when will they

ever learn? ♪

♪ Oh, when will they

ever learn? ♪

♪ Where have all the soldiers

gone, long time passing? ♪

♪ Where have all the soldis

gone, long time ago? ♪

♪ Where have all

the soldiers gone? ♪

♪ They've gone to gr,

every one ♪

♪ Oh, when will they

ever learn? ♪

♪ Oh, when will they

ever learn? ♪

♪ Where have all the graveyas

gone, long time passing? ♪

♪ Where have all the graves

gone, long time ago? ♪

♪ Where have all

the graveyards gone? ♪

♪ They've gone to fl,

every one ♪

♪ Oh, when will we ever learn?

♪ Oh, when will we ever learn?

I just think that music

is just a reminder

that there is a lot oy

in this world

and there's a lot of people

that have unique gifts to share,

and it makes me proud

to be where I am at

and to be fighting

for people like this,

who can do this

and can bring this to us.

Of all the stops we me

on our tour,

one of the most memorable ws

at the US Naval Academy.

Something big that you

can take away from this

is that the worst of times

bring out the best in people,

whether that be

in the music setting

or it be in a battle setting.

And it just goes to show

the bond that music

brings between us,

as well as the military.

Just to be in Memorial Hall

surrounded by artifs

from wars

and with these lists

of soldiers who had been killed

engraved on the wall behind us,

that was already powerful.

But even more than the ve,

it was the audience.

Getting to perform

for the midshipmen,

young men and women in uniform,

it was really moving.

Hearing some of the songs

talk about the death of another,

or just waiting

for someone to come home,

it's so relevant to today,

where you can feel

every single word.

Think about the ways that

the poem speaks to all of us

at the same time that

it speaks to each of us.

And then that same thing

is applied again

with another layer of the music.

How the music can spek

to all of us

and also to each of us.

You know, when I'm sg

these songs

about loss, soldiers,

and sacrifice,

and then I actually see

these young people in m

in front of me,

it becomes real.

For all of us to feel it like

I felt it tonight is just...

just goes to show how imt

music is in society

and how it really shows en

for all time periods.

It was always importt

that we had

this timeless quality

in our program

because the search foe

is universal.

This specific song by ,

"Der Wanderer,"

was one of the songs

that we knew

we needed to have in the program

but we didn't know how

it was going to fit.

Until you discovered thk

of Rudi Stephan,

this young German composer

who was killed in World War One,

but wrote these songs

that were eerily reminiscent

of these Schubert songs.

So you're going to hear

one of those now,

followed by Schubert's

"Der Wanderer"

and "Du bist die Ruh."

And "Du bist die Ruh" is

really the moment in the program

when we turn a corner

and we start to feel peace.

We learned so much

through this experience,

and a big part of that was

because of our partnership

with the World War One

Centennial Commission.

People just don't know anythg

about World War One today.

They've forgotten it.

And it's also for a e

been called

"the war to end all wars."

We know today that actuay

the end of that war

was the peace

that ended all peace.

And there are a lot ofs

to be learned.

In addition to major in-scl

education initiatives,

the Commission created thet

World War One monument

in our nation's capital,

something that didt

before.

We actually toured

with a rendering

of what the memorial

would look like,

meaning that our audiens

got a first look

at what this new mel

would be.

I remember this chat that wed

with Commissioner O'Connell

about the waves of immigrants

that were arriving

on American shores,

and the vital role

that they played

in our arts and our military.

New York City was

50% immigrant population.

That's more than it is today,

and it was really a powerhe

of cultural development

and made New York the tolerant

boomtown that it has remained.

The U.S. has always been a he

for people seeking refuge.

A perfect example of that

was Sergey Rachmaninoff,

who fled

the Bolshevik Revolution

and ended up settling

in New York City

just days after the sigg

of the Armistice.

And then there's Irving Berl,

who was also an immigrant,

who was drafted into the Army,

and actually spent

his years of service

doing what he does bes,

writing songs.

♪ I can picture the bos

"over there" ♪

♪ Making plenty of noie

"over there" ♪

♪ And if I'm not wrong

it won't be long ♪

♪'Til a certain song

will fill the air ♪

♪ It's all very clear

♪ The time's drawing near

♪ When they'll start marching

down to the pier, singing ♪

♪ Goodbye, France

♪ We'd love to linger lon,

but we must go home ♪

♪ Folks are waiting

to welcome us across the foam ♪

♪ We were glad to stand

side-by-side with you ♪

♪ Mighty proud

to have died with you ♪

♪ So goodbye, France

♪ You'll never be forgn

by the U.S.A. ♪

♪ They are waiting

for one happy day ♪

♪ When the word comes t

on their way ♪

♪ With a tear-dimmed eye

♪ They'll say goodbye

♪ But their hearts will,

hip-hip hooray ♪

♪ The friends that they made

♪ Will wish that they stayed

♪ As they start on their

homeward parade, singing ♪

♪ Goodbye, France

♪ We'd love to linger lon,

but we must go home ♪

♪ Folks are waiting

to welcome us across the foam ♪

♪ We were glad to stand

side-by-side with you ♪

♪ Mighty proud

to have died with you ♪

♪ So goodbye, France

♪ You'll never be forgn

by the U.S.A. ♪

♪ Goodbye, France

♪ You'll never be forgn

by the U.S.A. ♪

Probably the most famous example

of the homecoming fromr

is The Odyssey,

where we see this rete

of a veteran

who suffers from probably

several traumatic experiences

that now are

a part of his emotional injury,

a part of his emotional being.

As humans, we will forget

the traumas of war,

we will forget the cost

and the damage

to the individual

and to the nations.

We'll forget that,

and we'll do it again.

But for the individual

who experienced the war,

man's not a forgetting machine.

And so it's important to brg

those two things together

and to see that man,

who doesn't forget,

can help mankind remember.

And it's important

that mankind remembers

the individual man or woman

and what they've experienced,

so that we don't become

the forgetting machine

who repeats the traumas again.

♪ I have trod the upward

and the downward slope ♪

♪ I have endured and doe

in days before ♪

♪ I have longed for all

and bid farewell to hope ♪

♪ And I have lived and loved

♪ And closed the door

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