Nowadays, songs rarely play a significant role during Presidential campaigns. But for many years, campaign songs were a fascinating and important part of the election process. Many of America’s best-known poets and songwriters provided words and music for campaigns or, in the case of the early presidents, tribute songs. For example, Robert Treat Paine Jr.’s "Adams and Liberty" and "Jefferson and Liberty," which are included in the In Good Company's upcoming "The White House Chair, Presidential Campaign Songs That Changed America," were the first examples of when music played a significant role in elections. During the Harrison-Van Buren Campaign of 1840, William Henry Harrison inspired one of the best known political campaign song-turned-
"The White House Chair, Presidential Campaign Songs That Changed America" includes many examples of influential presidential campaign songs spanning from the time of George Washington through Dwight D. Eisenhower. Presented by the newly formed In Good Company, "The White House Chair" is directed by Kay Dunlap, who has been active as a choral conductor and arts administrator in New England for over 30 years. Dunlap is the founder and former director of Revels Repertory Company.
The colorful overview of songs in "The White House Chair" will provide many opportunities for the audience to sing along. The texts of songs were first set to traditional folk tunes such as "Yankee Doodle" and "Rosin the Beau" and later to the tunes of well-known popular songs so that they would be easy to sing. Although these songs tell us a lot about the important issues of earlier times, many sound as though they could have been written yesterday.
Further background on the program, which is appropriate for adults and children, ages 6 and up:
In the mid nineteenth century, beloved tunes by composers such as Stephen Foster, Henry Clay Work and George Root were used in parodies. Root’s "The Battle Cry of Freedom" was transformed into "Rally 'Round the Cause;" Work’s “Marching through Georgia” became "Marching with McKinley;" and Foster composed "The White House Chair" for the Buchanan campaign of 1856. Root and Cady, the highly successful music publishing company of these composers, was more than happy to publish the campaign versions of these, so that they could be sung at campaign rallies and in homes around the piano.
The important causes of the nineteenth century also gave rise to songs connected to campaigns. Jesse Hutchinson’s "Get Off the Track" became the abolitionist theme song in 1844 when James Birney and Henry Clay split the vote allowing James Polk the victory. Another cause song that educated about women’s suffrage but in a humorous vein was "Not for Joe," which was sung to a music hall tune by Arthur Lloyd.
In the early twentieth century, election tunes came from Tin Pan Alley and composers such as Al Jolson ("Harding, You're the Man for Us"), and by the fifties, from musical theater composers such as Irving Berlin ("I Like Ike").
Further background on the production company:
The greater Boston arts community has a new musical theater ensemble in its midst. In Good Company, Inc. (“Musical Theater, History and You”) creates captivating, original musical theater productions inspired by American history. The auditioned ensemble of adults, teens and children present public performances throughout New England, and offer interactive school programs in the Greater Boston area.
In Good Company was created by members of the former Revels Repertory Company in September of this year. Ensemble members represent 17 communities in the greater Boston area and combine many years of performance experience.
Board President Norman Berman said, “We anticipate years of wonderful productions offered by In Good Company – anchored in key historical periods, and focused on fascinating people who, in their own ways, influenced this country and brought history and culture to life.”