BSO spirituals and speeches will honor King Concert: "Let Freedom Ring," the official state tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., begins at 7: 30 p.m. today at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

January 08, 1998|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Maryland will pay its respects to the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. tonight in a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert mixing refrains from African-American spirituals with phrases from his best-known speeches.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Frances Hughes Glendening, the governor's wife, will speak midway through the official state tribute, which starts at 7: 30 at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

The concert, "Let Freedom Ring," celebrates King's life one week before his birthday Jan. 15.

The program will open with an orchestral piece that sets the tone for the evening: Morton Gould's "Revival: Fantasy of Six Spirituals," a medley of familiar songs, including "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel," "Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho" and "Were You There?"

During an orchestra rehearsal yesterday, conductor Daniel Hege urged the players, "Make this more Hollywood." Mournful passages alternate between playful and light string melodies.

Hege, 32 and in his second season as BSO assistant conductor, said the music chosen "resonates with Martin Luther King's life or with the African-American experience."

Musical selection

Hege said the orchestra will perform works by three African-American composers: Adolphus Hailstork, William Dawson and Jonathan Holland, a student at Yale University. The BSO will also play a slow movement from Dvorak's "From the New World" Symphony No. 9, which later was given words and is known as the "Goin' Home."

Hailstork's "Epitaph: In Memoriam of Martin Luther King, Jr." is a brooding, atmospheric piece "with a dark sound," said Hege.

He read the composer's notes aloud to the orchestra: "A great man is being buried. The bereaved reflect upon their memories of hopes and dreams inspired by their fallen leader."

King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 at age 39.

Childhood memories

For many in Baltimore, the BSO concert honoring King -- now in its 12th year -- is an annual pilgrimage.

"My girlfriend's 82, and she's taking me, my mom and her daughter," said Deborah Brashears Butler, 37, who bought four tickets yesterday for the mother-daughter party.

As a girl growing up in Baltimore, Butler remembered violence on the city's streets in the aftermath of King's assassination and "in child's terms, the significance of what it meant: a door closed that had been open."


At the program's end, the orchestra will be joined by the With One Voice ecumenical choir made up of nearly 100 singers from two dozen Baltimore area churches.

Together they will perform "Legacy of Vision," which mixes music from familiar songs such as "Deep River" with a narrator reading excerpts from King's speeches.

The narrator, George Arnold, memorized many of King's writings TC and speeches years ago.

The spirituals "really represent our struggle," said Peulah Marie Moore, 67, a soprano from Pennsylvania Avenue African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

She and Hege said the evening will end with the audience joining in "We Shall Overcome" as the finale.

"It's a community celebration and a chance to hear a world-class orchestra for next to nothing," said Patricia Berry, the BSO community outreach manager.

Tickets are available for $5 at the symphony box office, with children ages 6 to 12 admitted free.

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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