The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers
narrator(s) (three male narrators and one female narrator preferred, but may be performed with a single male narrator)
SATB chorus (optional, but highly recommended)
duration: 15:30

A Boston Pops 125th anniversary commission

For additional information about the project, see the Kennedys electronic press kit.

Peter Boyer was commissioned by the Boston Pops Orchestra to create a work celebrating the legacy of John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy, as the centerpiece of the Pops’ 125th anniversary season. The commission marked both the 50th anniversary of JFK’s election year, and the recent passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. The Dream Lives On pays tribute to the call to public service, drive for social change, and legacy of optimism for America’s future epitomized by the Kennedy brothers. Conceived by Lockhart, composed by Boyer, with text by Tony Award winner Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime), the work combines quotes from speeches by the Kennedy brothers and Ahrens’s original text with Boyer’s dramatic orchestral-choral score.

“This project has been a dream of mine for some time, so I was very concerned that we collaborate with a composer whose voice complimented the inspiring words of these three iconic Americans,” said Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart. “I realized that Peter’s was the perfect voice for the project. His music exults and elevates, while never overpowering. It has a distinctly ‘American’ feel, a buoyancy and optimism that I feel is perfect for the occasion.” Boyer’s research for the project included traveling to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the graves of the three Kennedy brothers, and extensive study of archival recordings of the Kennedys’ speeches, from which the work’s texts were drawn.

The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers was premiered at Boston’s historic Symphony Hall in May 2010. A stunning cast of Hollywood actors narrated the premiere of Boyer’s work. Two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro read the words of John F. Kennedy; four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris read the words of Robert F. Kennedy; Oscar winner Morgan Freeman read the words of Edward M. Kennedy; and Emmy winner Cherry Jones read the words written by Lynn Ahrens for the work. The Tanglewood Festival Chorus (John Oliver, conductor) joined the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by Keith Lockhart. The performance included a video created especially for the work by producer Susan Dangel and editor Dick Bartlett, drawn from archival materials provided by the John F. Kennedy Library.

Many members of the Kennedy family were in attendance, including former Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith (sister of the three Kennedy brothers); Vicki Kennedy, wife of the late Senator Ted Kennedy; Ted Kennedy, Jr. and family; Ethel Kennedy, wife of the late Robert Kennedy; and Joseph Kennedy III, grandson of Robert Kennedy. The Kennedy family members were warmly enthusiastic about Boyer’s new work.

The event drew a level of national and international media attention that was extremely rare for the premiere of a work of classical music. Earlier that day, Boyer and Ahrens participated in a press conference alongside De Niro, Freeman, Harris, Jones, and Lockhart, attended by dozens of journalists. All of Boston’s major television, radio, and newspaper outlets covered the event. An Associated Press story about the Kennedy tribute ran in over 100 media outlets, including the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, ABC News,, Huffington Post, Musical America, the BBC and the CBC. Boyer was included in’s Intriguing People column. For news stories links, click here.

Boyer’s work was the focus of the 30-minute television special An American Salute: The Pops at 125, produced and broadcast by WCVB-TV, Boston’s ABC affiliate. Boyer and Lockhart were also invited to give a Kennedy Library Forum about the work. To watch the video or listen to the Forum, go to the Kennedys media page.

The premiere performances of The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers were recorded and released commercially on the BSO Classics label. For more information, go to the Kennedys recording page.

Further high-profile performances of Kennedy Brothers followed its premiere. Additional performances at Symphony Hall were narrated by Will LeBow. The work was performed as part of the 37th annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on the Boston Esplanade on July 4, 2010. An immense audience estimated at over 750,000 heard the work live, with an additional audience viewing the telecast by WBZ-TV, Boston’s CBS affiliate. Jack Williams, Lisa Hughes, Will LeBow and Jeremiah Kissel narrated.

Alec Baldwin Chris Cooper Keith Lockhart Peter Boyer Lynn Ahrens
Alec Baldwin Chris Cooper Keith Lockhart Peter Boyer Lynn Ahrens

Noted Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin narrated Kennedy Brothers at the Tanglewood Music Festival (the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) on July 18, 2010. Baldwin served as the sole narrator for the work. Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper narrated Kennedy Brothers at Hyannis Port on August 1, 2010, in a performance again attended by many members of the Kennedy family. The Boston Pops gave a tenth performance of the work on the Boston Common on September 26, 2010, narrated by Jeremiah Kissel. All performances were conducted by Keith Lockhart.

The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers is available for performance by all orchestras. (Though commissioned by the Boston Pops, it is not exclusive to them.) Perusal requests and rental inquiries may be directed to Bill Holab Music.

The full score, study score, and vocal score for Kennedy Brothers are available for purchase from the Bill Holab Music website.

“Boyer’s work accomplishes the goals… of amplifying the texts by these three American icons. His writing draws from the traditions of Williams-esque Hollywood film scores, Broadway musicals, and American neo-Romanticism.”

The Boston Globe

“Everyone who saw it, and heard it, was truly inspired by the performance. It is such a tribute to my father, and to the very best in the American spirit. He and my mother would have loved that politics was transformed into art.”

—Caroline Kennedy, letter to Peter Boyer

“What a gift for the ages! Our whole family was thrilled by your magnificent composition—and so was the entire audience at Symphony Hall. Teddy would have loved it too, and I will always be grateful to you.”

—Victoria Reggie Kennedy, letter to Peter Boyer

“I want to thank you once again for the amazing job that you did putting my family’s words into music. The evening at the Boston Pops was one that I will never forget. Thanks to you, the dream really will live on.”

—Ted Kennedy Jr., letter to Peter Boyer

at the Library, Boston, January 2010

at John F. Kennedy’s grave, Arlington National Cemetery,

Dennis Alves, Director of Artistic Planning, Keith Lockhart, Conductor, Boston Pops, Boyer, and Thomas Putnam, Director, John F. Kennedy Library, at the Library, Boston, January 2010

Peter Boyer at John F. Kennedy’s grave, Arlington National Cemetery, January 2010



Robert, Ted and John Kennedy, 1962
Robert, Ted and John Kennedy, 1963

John F. Kennedy, 1962
John F. Kennedy, 1962

Robert F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy, 1964

Ted Kennedy
Ted Kennedy, official portrait (1990s)