BSO celebrates King's 80th birthday with annual tribute concert


January 01, 2009|By tim smith | tim smith,

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 80 on Jan. 15. Although the challenge of defeating discrimination and bigotry - and not just racial - remains formidable, the slain civil rights leader would have been astounded at the changes in the world, especially what's taking shape in Washington.

So this year's observance of King's birthday cannot help but seem more important, and the State of Maryland's 23rd Annual Tribute Concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra cannot help but seem even more of a celebratory occasion.

BSO music director Marin Alsop will conduct the concert, which includes a vivid work inspired by King's life and struggles, New Morning for the World, by Joseph Schwantner.

This 1982 score for narrator and orchestra incorporates some of King's speeches. The narrator for this performance will be Kweisi Mfume, former president of the NAACP.

Also on the program will be Global Warming, a 1991 work by Michael Abels. Despite its title, the music is not concerned with the scientific issue of climate change, but the possibilities of warmer relations between races and cultures. (Joseph Young, the first BSO-Peabody Conducting Fellow and recipient of the 2008 Sir Georg Solti Foundation Career Grant, will conduct this piece.)

Music by Soulful Symphony founder Darin Atwater and Richard Smallwood's Total Praise will also be performed.

The Baltimore City College Choir will sing some a cappella selections and also join the BSO for some parts of the show.

The King tribute will be performed at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St., and 8 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. Tickets are $15 to $55. Call 410-783-8000 or go to

The Lyric, still open

When the Baltimore Opera Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Dec. 4, some people seemed to think the Lyric Opera House, where the company's productions were presented, was bankrupt, too. The board of trustees for the Lyric Foundation, which operates the theater, wants everyone to know that the venue is unaffected by the opera company's troubles.

The foundation also would like to remind people to contact Baltimore Opera (410-625-1600), and not the Lyric, with any questions or concerns about that company.

"We are very saddened by the situation" at Baltimore Opera, Edward J. Brody, chair of the Lyric Foundation board, said in a statement. "We will help in any way we can because Baltimore City is a major center for musical arts in the U.S., and grand opera is a cornerstone of that long-standing tradition." Brody is a former president of Baltimore Opera.

The Lyric, one of the largest creditors listed in the opera company's bankruptcy filing (it is owed more than $200,000), will continue presenting its own entertainment programming, as it has for many years.

Musical chairs

Deborah Goetz, longtime senior director of marketing and communications for the Baltimore Opera Company, will move a couple of blocks down the street to take on the newly created position of senior director of marketing for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra this month.

The departure of Goetz from Baltimore Opera after 13 years does not send a particularly heartening signal about that bankrupt company's future. She has been such a key figure in the organization's activities that it will be hard for some people to imagine Baltimore Opera without her. Then again, it's hard to imagine Baltimore Opera ever bouncing back with much of the same management in place.

As for the company's prospects of recovery, general manager M. Kevin Wixted told me last week, "We're moving along. We are going to get this solved."

Meanwhile, back at the BSO, Eileen Andrews Jackson has been named vice president for marketing and communications, an expanded role for her. She started as vice president for public relations and community affairs in 2005.

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