Westward Ho!: The Golden Spike, 6 pm Saturday on The American Sound

The Golden Spike plaque at Promontory Summit, Utah, marking the point at which the railroad connected the East and West Coasts.(Photo: Mike Renlund (Creative Commons/Flickr))
The Golden Spike plaque at Promontory Summit, Utah, marking the point at which the railroad connected the East and West Coasts.(Photo: Mike Renlund (Creative Commons/Flickr))

It was the moment the East Coast and the West Coast joined hands.

On May 10, 1869, workers drove the final spike through railroad ties joining the Union Pacific Railroad with the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah. The so-called “golden spike” and the 3,500-mile transcontinental railroad it connected made travel between eastern and western America that much easier, and made the sprawling United States that much more united.

Decades later, during his own move from New York to California, the American composer George Antheil composed music for the 1939 Cecil B. DeMille film Union Pacific, about the construction of the transcontinental railroad. At the same time, Antheil was composing his Third Symphony. The work’s third movement, entitled “The Golden Spike,” stands as an emblem joining Antheil’s professional life as a composer of music for film and for the concert hall with the massive changes in his personal life brought about by his own transcontinental move.

Saturday at 6 p.m. on The American Sound, “The Golden Spike” from George Antheil’s Third Symphony rubs shoulders with An American Place by Kenneth Fuchs, Ferde Grofe’s Niagara Falls Suite and other quintessentially American works. And we conclude our National Poetry Month series of musical works inspired by words with one of William Bolcom’s Cabaret Songs, setting a text by self-described theater poet Arnold Weinstein.

Join me for The American Sound, Saturday at 6 p.m. on Classical 101.

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