I was approached and asked this question: “Does anyone remember the Alamo?”
Being a Texas resident, but a transplant from California, I reluctantly said, “yes.” I was pleased by how much I did know and admittedly quite embarrassed at what I didn’t.
In Texas, they haven’t forgotten – but that’s because, for Texans, the Alamo isn’t just an old Spanish Mission and a popular tourist attraction. It was the scene of a pivotal battle in Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico – analogous to the American colonies’ war for Independence from Great Britain.
Texas is an American state today. But it was once an independent state – the Republic of Texas. Many Americans, outside of the Lone Star State, don’t know that – let alone remember.
Texas won its independence from Mexico after a series of bloody battles, of which the siege of the Alamo – which lasted from February 23 through March 6, 1836.
It was a pivotal battle, the analog of Lexington and Concord for the 13 colonies, because of its “tide-turning,’ impact, stirring the passions of both freedom and fury.
A small group of Texans – about 200 men, led by Colonel James Bowie and William Travis, along with legendary frontiersman Davey Crockett – had holed up in the old Spanish Mission near what is today San Antonio. There they faced an entire army led by the Mexican President and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, which laid claim to what it (and he) considered San Antonio de Bexar and part of Mexico.
Santa Anna vowed to rid the disputed area of anyone who opposed his rule.
The Alamo defenders fought off two successive waves of attacks by Santa Anna’s men, who outnumbered the defenders by at least ten to one. Eventually, the defenders were overwhelmed – and slaughtered.
No quarter was given by the Mexican Army – which executed the handful of survivors who had surrendered – on the direct orders of Santa Anna. It is said this outrage triggered the army of Texas volunteers – known as Texians – to subsequently rout the Mexican Army, about a month later, at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. It was reported that Texans shouted, “ Remember the Alamo!” during that battle.
Santa Anna was captured – and imprisoned.
Texas achieved its de facto independence from Mexico – and became the Republic of Texas for the next ten years, until it was formally annexed by the United States on December 29, 1845.
It is the only American state to have been independent of the United States.
To make sure the rest of America doesn’t forget the Alamo or the story of Texas’ fight for independence, the Toobin Endowment – in partnership with Remember The Alamo Foundation has put the story of the Alamo – and the movement for Texas’ independence – to music. Very much like the hugely popular musical, Hamilton – which contemporized the story of America’s struggle for independence, by creating a musical to tell the tale.
Remember -– written by W. Blake Winchell, put to music by composer Brett Strader, the founding Artistic Director of the Sing for America Foundation – will premiere on Saturday, February 29 at the Toobin Center for the Performing Arts, just a few blocks away from the actual Alamo and in commemoration of the 184th anniversary of the sacrifice made by the men who died so that Texas could live.
The musical will feature a 100 voice chorus and a 60 piece symphony orchestra.
Ben Jones – who has appeared in productions of Sweeny Todd, Guys and Dolls, The Last Five Years and Cats will portray Col. Travis. Michael Dailey will portray Stephen Austin, the “father of Texas,” who was arrested by the Mexican government in January 1834 – and taken away as a prisoner to Mexico City on charges of inciting independence.
He was eventually released under terms of a general amnesty in July 1835 and went on to become the fourth secretary of state of the Republic of Texas, serving under Sam Houston, the first – and third – president of the Republic.
Dailey has performed in leading roles with Opera San Jose, the Tri-cities Opera, New York Harlem Productions and Theater an der Wien. He has been a featured soloist with the Berkeley Symphony, the Sacramento Choral Society and the Cole Porter Society.
Winchell’s previous works include Camelot, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Forever Plaid.
Corey Cowart, executive director of the San Antonio Symphony, says the story of the Alamo is something all Texans “hear from the time we’re young.” But this is the first time in the 300-plus year history of the Alamo that it will be put to music.
“The symphony is proud to be the soundtrack” for this story, Cowart says.
If you love the Alamo, it will touch you. If you love great music, it will move you. If you love the theater, it will speak to you.
Two performance are scheduled. Tickets start at $29.50 and can be purchased at the Tobin Center’s web site (see here).
Don’t forget! Remember!