A couple of weeks ago, I wrote of a competition I had wonthat was supposed to be kept secret. Well, now the cat is out of the bag.The Ravinia Festival announced its first composer competition last fall. In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial, coming up in 2009, they asked composers to submit piano trios inspired by Lincoln’s words. I’ve always loved combining spoken text with music, so I wrote them a piece using two of Lincoln’s letters and excerpts from two speeches.

The results were announced at a press conference on Thursday. So far they have a bunch of performances lined up, with the likelihood of more being added now that the news is public.

All of this explanatory preamble is so I can get to the fun part of this post: The first movement of my piece uses text from a letter that Lincoln wrote in 1836. In it, he chastises a friend for announcing publicly that he had information about Lincoln that he would not divulge because it would destroy the state legislator’s prospects for re-election. It’s a remarkable document, especially in light of the many politicians who equate loyalty with patriotism. Here is the letter:

Dear Colonel, I am told that during my absence last week you passed through this place, and stated publicly that you were in possession of facts which, if known to the public, would entirely destroy my prospects for re-election. Furthermore, you stated that, as a favor to me, you would not divulge these facts.

No one has needed favors more than I, and few have been less unwilling to accept them. But in this case a favor to me would be an injustice to the public. Therefore, I must beg your pardon for declining your offer. That I once had the confidence of the people is sufficiently evident. If I have since done anything that would forfeit that confidence, he that knows of that thing and conceals it is a traitor to his country’s interest.

I find myself unable to form any conjecture of what facts, real or supposed, you spoke; but my opinion of your veracity will not permit me to doubt that you at least believed what you said. I am flattered by the concern you have expressed for my well-being. But I do hope that, on more mature reflection, you will view the public interest as a paramount consideration, and therefore determine to let the worst come. I here assure you that the candid statement of facts on your part, however low it may sink me, shall never break the tie of personal friendship between us.

Letter to Colonel Robert Allen, June 21, 1836
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