Goodman salutes vets with LPO, WWII Museum

  • Article by: CHEVEL JOHNSON
  • Associated Press
  • October 30, 2013 - 8:35 PM

NEW ORLEANS — Actor John Goodman says he just wants to give something back to the men and women who fought in World War II.

On Veterans Day, Goodman will take a break from producing a sitcom in development for some orchestral narration as part of the Veterans Day "Honoring our Heroes" concert at the National World War II Museum.

The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the museum are producing the concert, which features the world premiere of composer Jake Runestad's "Dreams of the Fallen" — a setting of poems by an Army veteran about the war in Iraq.

"These were ordinary people, drafted and called. It's the end of the line — a sacrifice, but for a worthy cause. These are extraordinary men and women doing that job. This is a way of honoring the veterans of a really essential war, one that changed the world," Goodman said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Goodman, who narrates Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" for the concert, recently completed filming on "The Monuments Men," about a World War II platoon that rescues art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returns them to their owners. Release of the film, directed by George Clooney, is set Feb. 7.

"It was important to me to participate on Veterans Day just to say 'Thank you,'" said Goodman, whose father served in the Army in World War II.

Runestad's new composition sets the words of poet Brian Turner to music for piano, chorus and orchestra. Acclaimed pianist Jeffrey Biegel and the Symphony Chorus of New Orleans will help bring Turner's words to life in a world premiere at the museum's US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center at 7 p.m. Nov. 11.

The chorus sings most of Turner's words, whispering one passage. The piano solo, representing a soldier back from war, provides an emotional response to the chorus, said Runestad.

"I wanted to give the piano an identity," Runestad said in an interview from his home in Minneapolis. "I've likened it to a soldier, the experience of serving abroad, coming home and remembering those experiences, at times being haunted by them. The orchestra provides the sonic landscape for what the soldier might be going through."

Biegel, based in Long Island, N.Y., said the effects of war on veterans are not discussed enough.

"I wanted to create a musical composition that strikes at the heart of that matter and Jake came up with 'Dreams of the Fallen.' This is about how people come back from war and they've fallen from society. They're lost and don't know how to fit back into a world they once knew."

Runestad said he hoped the piece would help make people aware of war's effect on people trying to return to everyday life.

The orchestra will perform other works in a salute to veterans, including "Fanfare for the Common Man," also by Copland and "Belle of the Ball," ''Blue Tango," and "Bugler's Holiday" by Leroy Anderson.

"If you're expecting a traditional orchestral concert series, this is not that," said James Boyd, the LPO's chief executive. "It's a very diverse program."

General admission tickets to "Honoring our Heroes" are $45. The concert can also be seen live on with support by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and LSU's College of Music and Dramatic Arts.

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