Songfest: A Cycle of American Poems for Six Singers and Orchestra

Songfest: A Cycle of American Poems for Six Singers and Orchestra is a 1977 song cycle by Leonard Bernstein. The cycle includes 12 settings of 13 American poems, performed by six singers (soprano, 2 mezzo-sopranos, tenor, baritone, bass), both singly and in various combinations.

The work was intended as a tribute to the 1976 American Bicentennial but was not finished in time. Its first complete performance was given by the National Symphony Orchestra on October 11, 1977, although some portions were performed earlier.

On July 4, 1985, Bernstein conducted a nationally televised performance of Songfest as part of the National Symphony's annual A Capitol Fourth concert.


Songfest includes settings of these poems:

  1. "To the Poem" (Frank O'Hara)
  2. "The Pennycandystore Beyond the El" (Lawrence Ferlinghetti)
  3. "A Julia de Burgos" (Julia de Burgos)
  4. "To What You Said" (Walt Whitman)
  5. "I, Too, Sing America" (Langston Hughes) / "Okay 'Negroes' " (June Jordan)
  6. "To My Dear and Loving Husband" (Anne Bradstreet)
  7. "Storyette H. M." (Gertrude Stein)
  8. "if you can't eat you got to" (E.E. Cummings)
  9. "Music I Heard With You" (Conrad Aiken)
  10. "Zizi's Lament" (Gregory Corso)
  11. "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed" (Edna St. Vincent Millay)
  12. "Israfel" (Edgar Allan Poe)
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