Ellis Island Dream of America


Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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I've just been listening to this composition from the American Peter Boyer. It's not about Titanic but it gives glimpses of the life of third class passengers in the period from 1910 to 1940.

The work combines a large orchestra with words taken from oral histories collected by the Ellis Island people. Seven immigrants from seven nations relate their experiences. On the recording they are played by American actors. The words end with the inscription on the Statue of Liberty.

Many of the immigrants didn't enjoy the voyage and the flat water of New York Harbor was a welcome sight. Some came on very slow ships. One Greek took 22 days to get from Greece to New York. One woman had only one meal on board.

I didn't find the music particularly gripping. It sounds to me like Aaron Copland Goes to the Movies, plus a bit of Gershwin. I could do without the modern cliche in which cymbals are added too frequently to crescendi.

All the same, it's worth a listen if you have 40 minutes or so to spare.
 

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