Organized by artist Bethany Collins, this four-hour performance presents a chronological retelling of American history, politics and culture through many lyrical variations of My Country ’Tis of Thee.
Singers: Madeline Aguilar, Katherine Davis, Steve Hetzel, and Keanon Kyles.
FREE, open to all. Guests are invited to come and go quietly throughout the performance, which will take place from 8pm to midnight.
Since the debut of My Country ’Tis of Thee by the Rev. Samuel F. Smith on July 4, 1831, the song’s lyrics have been re-titled and re-written at least one hundred times. Each re-writing in support of a passionately held cause—from temperance and suffrage to abolition and even the Confederacy—articulates a version of what it means to be American. In 1839 for instance, the familiar first lines of “My country ’tis of thee / Sweet land of liberty,” morphed into the mournful abolitionist verse:
My country! ’tis of thee,
Stronghold of Slavery,
Of thee I sing:
Land where my fathers died,
Where men man’s rights deride,
From every mountainside,
Thy deeds shall ring.
This four hour performance features all 100 versions of the song, sung by Madeline Aguilar, Katherine Davis, Steve Hetzel, and Keanon Kyles.
Presented in conjunction with Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, on view at the Smart Museum of Art through May 19.