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Black History Month 2003
King Celebration Chronicles
Martin Luther King, Jr. Over the past 10 years, for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, PT has brought you "A King Celebration" direct from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the Glee Clubs of Morehouse and Spelman Colleges in Atlanta.
These concerts have celebrated not only Dr. King's life and legacy, but also the rich contributions of the African-American experience in classical music. Throughout this Black History Month, PT presents concert highlights drawn from a decade of our "King Celebration" broadcasts.

Jonathan Bailey Holland
"Martha's Waltz"
At the 1994 National Black Arts Festival, conductor Yoel Levi happened upon a work by twentysomething African-American composer Jonathan Bailey Holland (left) called "Martha's Waltz," inspired by Edward Albee's play, Who's Afraid of Viriginia Woolf, and written as a school assignment. Maestro Levi liked the music so much that he incorporated into the 1995 King Celebration.

  • South Bend Symphony -- Jonathan Bailey Holland is composer in residence for 2002-2003

  • R. Nathaniel Dett
    "The Chariot Jubilee"
    "The Chariot Jubilee" is a "free fantasy" on "Sing Low, Sweet Chariot" for tenor, chorus, and orchestra, by Afro-Canadian composer R. Nathaniel Dett (left). Dett was born in 1882 in Ontario, in a town that was the last stop on the Underground Railroad. He was the first black student to graduate from Oberlin, and later studied at Harvard and in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. Composed in 1919, "The Chariot Jubilee" is thought to be the first symphonic work based on a spiritual. Soon after, the score was lost for 80 years, until composer and arranger Hale Smith took on the challege of re-creating the work in its original form. Yoel Levi conducts the ASO and the Morehouse and Spelman Glee Clubs with tenor Mel Foster in this 1995 performance.

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  • Keith Jarrett
    "Bridge of Light"
    Composer and pianist Keith Jarrett (left), describes his 1990 composition "Bridge of Light" as a multicultural hymn dedicated to the memory of Dr. King. Before a performance of the work with the ASO for the 1995 King Celebration, viola soloist Marcus Thompson summed up the impact of Dr. King's life and words on him as a musician.

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  • Keith Jarrett
    "A Child of Our Time"
    English composer Michael Tippett (left) composed his visionary oratorio "A Child of Our Time" in response to the fascist build-up of war in the late 1930s and early '40s. Tippett used traditional African American spirituals -- the way Bach used Lutheran hymns in his own oratorios -- as both musical and moral underpinnings for a universal message of suffering, hope and redemption. Yoel Levi conducts the ASO and the Morehouse and Spelman Glee Clubs in this 1996 King Celebration. Soprano Laura English Robinson, mezzo-soprano Crystal Harris, tenor Oliver Suing and baritone Uzee Brown, Jr. lead the cast.

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  • Browse the text to "A Child of Our Time"

  • James Weldon Johnson
    "Lift Every Voice and Sing"
    Poet James Weldon Johnson's (left) "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was written in 1900 for a Lincoln birthday celebration at the segregated Stanton School in Johnson's native Jacksonville, Florida. The song became immensely popular and was passed on among students throughout the South. About 20 years later, the NAACP adopted it as the "Negro National Hymn." The King Celebration 2000 presented this centennial performance of the song, with actress S. Epatha Merkerson as narrator, and Andre Raphel Smith leading the ASO and the Morehouse and Spelman Glee Clubs.

  • Browse the text to "Lift Every Voice and Sing"

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  • Ulysses Simpson Kay
    "Of New Horizons"
    Award-winning composer Ulysses Simpson Kay (left) is arguably the most prominent African-American composer of MLK's generation. Nephew of the great jazz trumpeter King Oliver, Kay found his own calling in classical music, studying at the Eastman School of Music and at Yale University. Kay composed more than 100 works in all forms, including operas, symphonies, chamber works, choral works, and scores for ballet, television and film. One of Kay's first major successes came in 1944 with "Of New Horizons," an overture that looked past the gloom of depression and war, to a dawning era of piece and prosperity. Yoel Levi conducted the ASO in this 1996 King Celebration performance.

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  • In Depth