Ridgefield symphony based on Obama’s speeches goes viral

Photo of Andrew DaRosa

Known for his anthemic speeches, President Barack Obama aimed to touch millions with his messages of civility, patriotism and hope during his presidency.

Those speeches became the focal point for a new symphonic piece by The Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra that premiered in town last month. And now, it has gone viral.

"A More Perfect Union," the latest performance from the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, went viral after a video by NowThis, an internet-based news organization, amassed more than 59,000 views on Facebook and more than 29,000 views on Twitter.

"It was the brainchild of Yuga Cohler [music director of the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra] and me, and was the result of many conversations about how we can get classical music to speak to more people, to make it feel as though it’s relevant in their lives," composer Paul Fruct said in the video. "We’re inspired by President Obama’s soaring oratory, [and] we felt that combining that and harnessing the power of the orchestra would be a way to do just that; to make it feel as though this piece was speaking to people about their lives."

The five-minute video delves into the themes of Obama's speeches and how they're manifested through the symphony. It also highlights the relationship between Ridgefielder Cody Keenan, Obama's speechwriter and collaborator, and the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra.

The six speeches highlighted in the performance take place in chronological order and features notable oratories such as his “Address on the 50th Anniversary of the Selma, Alabama March” and 2013's "On U.S. Military Action in Syria." Baritone Jorell Williams takes elements from those speeches and vocalizes them to fit the orchestral arrangement. 

AMPU - excerpt from "Address on the 50th Anniversary of the Selma, AL March" from Paul Frucht on Vimeo.

"I don’t know the first thing about writing music or even how to read it — it feels totally foreign to me, but [Frucht] walked me through what it entails," Keenan said in an interview with Hearst Connecticut Media in September. "The one thread through all those speeches ... is what kind of country do we want to be, and the answer is never as easy as we think it is. Each of them tell a bigger story about who we are and who we can be as a country and a people."

A pre-recorded performance of "A More Perfect Union" is available to re-watch through the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra website.