Congressional Chorus Goes Over the Rainbow to Present Songs of Yip Harburg

From: Congressional Chorus
Published: Sat Apr 30 2005

The 50-member Congressional Chorus celebrates the witty lyrics of Yip Harburg, who wrote the words to about 600 songs, most of them the work of America's finest Broadway and film composers. Songs on the program include "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "Old Devil Moon," "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?", "April in Paris," and others from such hits as "The Wizard of O," and "Finian's Rainbow."

The Chorus, an organization begun in 1987 by its director, Michael Patterson, and Capitol Hill professionals, has sung regularly at the White House and at the Capitol, inaugurations, and in an an annual concert series in the Washington area. Supported in part by a grant from the Target Corp., it also presents an annual series of programs in the D.C. schools. It has made two recordings. It Kennedy Center concert is being underwritten in part by the Harburg Foundation of New York.



A first-class stamp honoring lyricist E. Y. "Yip" Harburg is being issued this month by the U.S. Postal Service, and will be dedicated at a ceremony in New York April 28. The Congressional Chorus will also honor Harburg at a noon performance June 17 at the National Postal Museum, 2 Massachusetts Ave. NE, just east of Union Station in Washington.
Harburg was born on New York’s Lower East Side in in 1886. His parents were impoverished Russian immigrants, and these lean beginnings were later to inform his lyrics. Harburg often wrote about social injustice and the less fortunate, and it got him in trouble. His masterwork "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" was denounced as anti-capitalist propoganda, for example, and Harburg’s socialist leanings got him caught up in the web of McCarthyism that derailed the careers of a number of Americans.

The Congressional Chorus’ June 3 Kennedy Center concert is supported In part by a grant from the Yip Harburg Foundation.
The Congressional Chorus was founded in 1987 by musical director Michael Patterson and executive director Harlie Sponaugle. Initially comprised of people who worked on Capitol Hill, the group has since expanded its membership to the entire Washington area, and its singers come from diverse professions and backgrounds. The chorus has sung regularly at the White House, presidential inaugurations, the Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony and at the Kennedy Center. It presents concerts of American music several times a year in the Washington area. It’s recordings include "Hang a Shining Star" and "Harmony on the Hill."

Since its inception the chorus has made community service an important focus. Supported in part by a grant from Target Stores, it presents a series of educational performances in District of Columbia public schools and participates in benefits for other organizations. Among these have been the Whitman Walker Clinic and the Life Pieces to Masterpieces arts program for youths of low-income families. It also performs at homeless shelters, churches, nursing homes and elsewhere.

Musical Director Michael Patterson, who holds a doctorate in musical arts from Catholic University, has performed extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe and is in great demand as a choral director, voice coach, soloist and accompanist. His composition "Anthem for a New Age" was sung by the Congressional Chorus at the 1989 inauguration of President George Bush. He was recently filmed in performance in Tennessee as part of a Public Broadcasting Service series.
Company: Congressional Chorus
Contact Name: Harlie Sponaugle
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 703-237-2213

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