Pacific Symphony’s “Ellis Island” spotlights immigration in America

Posted on: April 12, 2017

“Composer Peter Boyer’s ‘Ellis Island: The Dream of America’ seems tailor-made for PBS,” writes Richard Ginell in Monday’s (4/10) Los Angeles Times. “The piece traces the experiences of seven immigrants from seven countries on their way to America, using monologues from actors with orchestral underscoring and interludes. The texts are taken directly from recordings made for the Ellis Island Oral History Project.” The 2002 work was performed in California last week by the Pacific Symphony. “Immigration has been top of mind since President Trump took office, and … the audience … had no trouble making the connection…. The piece makes its appeal emotionally and directly, mainly through the immigrants’ words…. Boyer deftly heightens the emotions of the text as good underscoring should do, while the interludes set the scenes for the monologues to follow…. Period photographs were cross-faded Ken Burns style during the orchestral passages on a giant 72-by-24-foot curved screen…. The actors … came out one at a time, some mimicking the accents of the characters, some not. Carl St.Clair conducted with his usual fervor, pounding home the grandiose Copland-style coda to sum up…. The PBS broadcast … will be aired during the 2017-18 season.”


Posted April 12, 2017

Pictured: The Pacific Symphony and a cast of actors reading immigrants’ oral histories presented “Ellis Island: The Dream of America” in Costa Mesa. Photo courtesy Pacific Symphony