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What role does music play in our national dialogue about immigration? Six young musicians, rooted in six different countries, gathered at Ellis Island, and in Manhattan, to explore that question in a new composition inspired by Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land."
Immigrants themselves (or from immigrant families), the performers, ranging in age from 11 to 24, are all alumni of NPR's From The Top, the radio program that spotlights young, classically-trained musicians.
The idea came from host Christopher O'Riley, who combined the national anthems of the six young musicians into a multi-voiced mashup called "This Land/Our Land." Themes from the anthems of Bulgaria, South Korea, Mexico, Ukraine, Bolivia and Iran ultimately resolve into a soaring arrangement of the Guthrie classic.
"I felt this would be a clear vision of what immigrant culture is contributing to our American lives — culturally, emotionally, moment-to-moment," O'Riley says.
He's also quick to point out that Guthrie's beloved song was written with a political viewpoint often obscured by patriotic nostalgia. And as far as classical music in America goes, O'Riley notes, "There wouldn't be classical music in America without an influx of immigrants."