Going all out to do a concert honoring King Singers: Anne Arundel members of the With One Voice Ecumenical Choir have juggled rehearsals around full-time jobs to prepare for tonight's event in Baltimore.

January 08, 1998|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For the Anne Arundel members of With One Voice Ecumenical Choir, the week of rehearsal before tonight's tribute concert to Martin Luther King Jr. was a bit of a strain.

"I'm barely standing right now," Wanda Valentine of Glen Burnie, who sings alto in the choir, said yesterday morning.

The choir had its regular weekly rehearsal Monday and its piano dress rehearsal Tuesday evening at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore. The orchestra dress rehearsal was last night.

Valentine, 40, an employment tax specialist with the Internal Revenue Service in Baltimore, has given up Monday evenings since November to rehearse "Legacy of Vision: Martin Luther King Jr.," a tone poem for chorus, orchestra and narrator by Jonathan Bruce Brown. King's birthday is Jan. 15.

"It's very dramatic," Valentine said in describing the work, in which the choir sings a background of black spirituals, including "Deep River," while a narrator, George D. Arnold, presents excerpts from the civil rights leader's speeches.

Patricia Nixon Payne of Glen Burnie, who, like Valentine, has sung in the choir since it was organized in 1995, said "Legacy" is less taxing than the featured work of previous years, Adolphus Hailstork's "Done Made My Vow," a 40-minute cantata. "If you blink, you miss it," she said of "Legacy."

Brown's work will conclude a program that includes Morton Gould's "Revival-Fantasy on Six Spirituals"; the slow movement of Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World"); the third movement of William Dawson's "Negro Folk Symphony"; Hailstork's "Epitaph: Memoriam of Martin Luther King Jr."; and Jonathan Holland's "House of Dreams."

Gould is better known as an arranger and orchestrator of American folk songs, marches and hymns. The main theme of Dvorak's slow movement is so much like a spiritual that it soon acquired words and is known as "Going Home."

Daniel Hege will conduct the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for the concert, which is titled "Let Freedom Ring" and is co-sponsored by the Maryland Commission on African-American History and Culture.

Frances Hughes Glendening, the governor's wife, and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke will be hosts of this 12th annual event.

Arnold was honored with a city-proclaimed "George Arnold Day" in 1990 for his avocation as speaker of the words of King, who was assassinated in 1968.

Arnold has made more than 1,500 presentations of the speeches, and he performed "I Have Been to the Mountain Top" before 250,000 people at the 20th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

He works at the Northeast Neighborhood Service Center of the Baltimore Housing and Community Development Administration TTC and is a member of New Psalmist Baptist Church.

The Anne Arundel component of the 92-voice ecumenical choir is linked by church membership. The choir was organized in 1995 after workshops for church musicians arranged by the BSO.

"Most of the choirs were from historically black churches," said -- Valentine, who sings at St. James Episcopal Church in Baltimore. "Singing in this choir enhances the fellowship of the church. I'm seated with no one I go to church with, and I've made new friends."

Shirley Thomas of Glen Burnie, singing in the choir for the first time this year, follows several members of the sanctuary choir she directs at Morning Star Baptist Church in East Baltimore.

Thomas, 57, music director at the church, is a retired music teacher in the schools of Anne Arundel County. Her last position was at Ridgeway Elementary School in Severn.

"Now that I'm retired, I wanted to do more singing," said Thomas, who is a dramatic soprano.

Payne, 44, is an assistant minister of music at New Bethlehem Free Will Baptist Church in East Baltimore. She is one of the Nixons who own the Nixon Bus Service in Glen Burnie, a charter, school and shuttle bus company.

"Officially, I'm the corporate secretary, but really I'm the office manager," she said. "Chief cook and bottle washer, I guess you'd say."

She also is pianist and music coordinator of the community orchestra of the Holliman Music Studio, which meets weekly at Christ United Methodist Church in East Baltimore.

"You never know who you'll have," she said. "Some nights it's 10, and some nights 30 people show up."

She also sings with the Chesapeake Choral Union, an affiliate of a national association of Baptist church choirs, which meets in Jessup.

Other Anne Arundel residents in the choir are Monique and Joe Offer of Glen Burnie, who work for New Bethlehem Church, she as church clerk and he as a deacon and minister of music.

Except for Thomas, all have sung with the ecumenical choir since its founding. The choir has sung at three King tributes; the 1996 event was canceled by a snowstorm.

"It's an experience, singing with the BSO," said Valentine. "We give something, but we also get something back."

'Let Freedom Ring'

What: Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Tribute

When: 7: 30 p.m. today

Where: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St., Baltimore

Tickets: $5; children free

Information: 410-783-8000

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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