Michael Daugherty:


Composer Michael Daugherty’s LETTERS FROM LINCOLN (2009) was composed and premiered in the bicentennial year of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The work was written for Thomas Hampson and premiered with the Spokane Symphony.

This special performance with conductor Laura Jackson and the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, from March 2019, was recorded thanks to the composer.

We hope you enjoy this special presentation of LETTERS FROM LINCOLN, which includes conversations with Thomas Hampson, Michael Daugherty, and Laura Jackson. Happy July Fourth!


March 9-10, 2019 | Thomas Hampson, baritone | Reno Philharmonic Orchestra | Laura Jackson, conductor
Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts | Reno, Nevada, USA
Includes special conversations between Thomas Hampson, Michael Daugherty, and Laura Jackson

Michael Daugherty's Program Note

Letters from Lincoln (2009) for baritone and orchestra was commissioned by the Spokane Symphony, Eckart Preu, Music Director, in consortium with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth (February 12, 1809).

The world premiere was given by the Spokane Symphony under the direction of Eckart Preu, with Thomas Hampson, baritone, at the Martin Woldson Theatre at the Fox, Spokane, Washington on February 28, 2009. The work is 25 minutes in length and scored for baritone solo, piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, contrabassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani, two percussion, harp and strings.

Historians and the public generally regard Lincoln as America’s greatest president who successfully led the United States through the Civil War and initiated the end of slavery. His life, which was full of spectacular opposites, ironies, contradictions and pathos, provided me with abundance of musical dramatic possibilities.

While composing this musical work inspired by Lincoln, I discovered ways to bring his historic greatness into the present. I read Lincoln’s speeches, poems and letters and studied his life; I visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., and I traveled to the battlefields of Gettysburg.

Lincoln’s impassioned writings, from his youth as poor boy in the backwoods of Kentucky to his tragic death as President of the United States, have moved me to take his own words, both public and private, and set them to song. In Letters from Lincoln, I create a musical portrait of a man who expressed his vision with eloquence, and with hope that the human spirit could overcome prejudice and differences of opinion in order to create a better world.

—Michael Daugherty

Letters from Lincoln is published by Hendon Music, Inc. a Boosey & Hawkes company

Performance materials are available from Boosey and Hawkes Rental Library

To purchase a Letters from Lincoln full score, or reduction for baritone and piano, go to

Letter to Mrs. Bixby (November 21, 1864, Washington D.C.)

I have been shown in the files of the War Department that you are the mother of five sons who have died in the field of battle.

I feel how weak must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln

Meet the Artists

Michael Daugherty Official Website

Learn more about the prolific and award-winning composer of this work.

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Laura Jackson Official Website

Learn more about the conductor of this performance, and the music director of the Reno Phil.

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Reno Philharmonic Orchestra

Learn more about this orchestra.

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Thomas Hampson Official Website

Learn more about the soloist, our own Thomas Hampson.

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Related Resources


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The Art of Democracy:
Voices of Wisdom (July 4, 2020)


The Art of Democracy
(Summer 2020)


The Art of Democracy:
Singing Down the Barriers


The Art of Democracy:
The Songs of African American Composers


The Art of Democracy:
Song as Active Citizenship


Michael Daugherty:
Song Texts & Translations

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Classic Song Research Initiative