Washington, DC

What would Walt Whitman have thought about the 2018 midterm election campaigns?

The question is not as rhetorical as it sounds: Who knows what profound insight on our divisive political process will be revealed Monday, November 5, in a special performance of songs set to the great poet’s work and followed by a moderated discussion at the majestic Washington National Cathedral.

The Election Eve performance is cleverly called “I Sing the Body Electoral: Celebrating Walt Whitman” and features renowned baritone William Sharp and pianist Wan-Chi Su in an enriching program of Kurt Weill’s “Four Whitman Songs” and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Three Poems by Walt Whitman.”

As a musical bonus, the evening will see the world premiere of American composer Curt Cacioppos’ “I, madly struggling, cry,” a setting of stanzas by Whitman and commissioned by the PostClassical Ensemble, the experimental orchestral laboratory that is sponsoring the event.

The music starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by a discussion hosted by PBS NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown. Panelists include:

  • Martin Murray, Founder of the Washington Friends of Walt Whitman, on Whitman, Washington, D.C., and the Civil War;
  • Brian Youthers, University of Texas at El Paso English professor, on Whitman and immigration;
  • Lorenzo Candelaria, Dean of the School of the Arts at Purchase College, on Whitman and “The American Dream.”

Admission is $65; reservations can be made here. The Washington National Cathedral is at 3101 Wisconsin Avenue, NW; you can not miss it.

Still wondering what Whitman would have thought about the elections? Here’s a clue: “America is not for special types, for the caste, but for the great mass of people — vast, surging, hopeful.”

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