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NPR's Performance Today Presents A King Celebration 2000

[Washington, DC] -- On January 17 NPR's Performance Today celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day with "A King Celebration 2000." The two-hour program of music, narration, and dramatic performances, originating from the campus of Dr. King's alma mater, Morehouse College, features the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the baton of André Raphel Smith, the assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The special concert also showcases the Morehouse and Spelman Glee Clubs, the Wendell P. Whalum Community Chorus, and special guest S. Epatha Merkerson, the actress who portrays Lt. Anita Van Buren in the NBC television drama "Law and Order." Ms. Merkerson will give a dramatic narration of Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" in recognition of both the King holiday and Copland's centennial year.

"A King Celebration 2000," the seventh of Performance Today's annual Martin Luther King Day concerts, includes a tribute to the late Robert Shaw, a performance of William Dawson's "Negro Folk Symphony," and "Drums" by James P. Johnson. Performance Today's Lisa Simeone hosts the program.

The concert begins with Brahm's Tragic Overture and William Levi Dawson's Negro Folk Symphony, written in 1932. Dawson, one of the 20th century's most respected African American composers, was born in 1899 in Anniston, Ala., studied at the Tuskegee Institute. The second half of the program features the Spelman College Glee Club singing Dawson's arrangement of "Ain' a That Good News" and the Morehouse College Glee Club performing "I Want to Be Ready." Both choral groups will then join the Whalum Community Chorus in "I Got Shoes" and "My God Is a Rock" (arranged by Robert Shaw and Alice Parker).

In the final segment of the concert, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will perform "Drums" by James P. Johnson (1942). Concluding the concert, stage and television star S. Epatha Merkerson narrates a poignant closing piece, Copland's "Lincoln Portrait." The year 2000 marks Copland's 100th anniversary, and the late Robert Shaw, ASO's Music Director Emeritus and Conductor Laureate, conducted and narrated "Lincoln Portrait" on many occasions.

The week-long King Celebration in Atlanta, which includes concerts, recitals, and symposia, is a collaboration of NPR, the ASO, Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, and the King Center. "A King Celebration 2000" is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, American Express, and the Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs.

"As we end this century, it is fitting that we reflect on and celebrate the life of a great man who helped to shape our future as a people, and whose words have influenced the lives of so many," said Audrey F. Manly, President of Spelman College. "We are thankful to Dr. King, and the legacy that lives in his example."

NPR's Performance Today, public radio's most listened-to classical music program, received a George Foster Peabody Award this year. The program features concert performances from around the globe, along with classical music news and commentary. It is heard by nearly 1.5 million people each week on more than 240 public radio stations. NPR's Performance Today is produced and distributed by National Public Radio®, a membership organization of more than 600 public radio stations across America. NPR also produces and distributes such noted programs as Morning Edition®, All Things Considered®, Talk of the Nation®, Jazz Profiles® and Car Talk®.