Program Made Possible by Generous Support from The Ellis Island Honors Society
PBS’s Great Performances and Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, pay tribute to America’s history and celebrate the historic American immigrant experience with a special Independence Day weekend program of composer Peter Boyer’s Grammy-nominated contemporary classical work “Ellis Island: The Dream of America,” broadcast nationally on PBS on Friday, July 3 at 9 p.m. (PDT).
Using texts from the Ellis Island Oral History Project and historic Ellis Island images in combination with an original orchestral score, “Ellis Island” features seven, first-hand stories of immigrants dramatically interpreted by guest stars Barry Bostwick, Camryn Manheim, Michael Nouri, Lesley Fera, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Samantha Sloyan and Kira Sternbach. Over 40 percent of the U.S. population can trace their ancestry through Ellis Island and immigration remains at the forefront of global news. “Ellis Island” captures the emotions, elation and uncertainties of America’s epic immigrant experience.
Pacific Symphony’s President and CEO, John Forsyte said, “Great music has often been the medium for sharing important stories. There is, perhaps, no more timely or emotional reminder of our country’s immigrant roots than Peter Boyer’s “Ellis Island: The Dream of America.” Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the Ellis Island Honors Society and its Chairman, Nasser Kazeminy, Pacific Symphony has been able to share this important message with a national audience on PBS’s Great Performances. We are deeply grateful for their support in making this program possible.”
Nasser Kazeminy, chairman of The Ellis Island Honors Society commented, “Since 1986, the Ellis Island Honors Society has recognized outstanding Americans through bestowing the cherished Ellis Island Medals of Honor. The Medal commemorates the indefatigable spirit of those who immigrated to the United States during the Ellis Island era. It is presented annually to those who have shown an outstanding commitment to serving our nation either professionally, culturally or civically, among other criteria.” He continued, “We are honored that the historic place Ellis Island played in our country’s history has been re-told in Peter Boyer’s thrilling orchestral masterpiece, and we are delighted to support both the creation and national broadcast of this moving tribute on the national PBS Network.”
The special was recorded by Great Performances at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in 2017 during Pacific Symphony’s 17th American Composers Festival, before capacity audiences, including nearly 40 recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Peter Boyer’s “Ellis Island: The Dream of America” premiered in 2002 to great acclaim. It has since received nearly 200 performances by more than 80 orchestras and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Contemporary Composition in 2005.
A co-production of Pacific Symphony and THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET in association with PBS SoCal, Great Performances, “Ellis Island: The Dream of America with Pacific Symphony” was directed for stage and television by Matthew Diamond and produced by John Walker; with Shawn Murphy as audio producer, production design by Matt Steinbrenner, lighting design by Bob Barnhart and projection design by Perry Freeze. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.