By Eric Dundon
For the first time, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra will honor the legacy of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a community concert at Powell Hall. The free concert takes place on Monday, January 16, at 7:30pm. There is no cost to attend, but reservations are required.
“We are grateful to participate in the day of service by using the power of music to reflect as a community,” said Marie-Hélène Bernard, the SLSO’s President and CEO.
Originally scheduled for January 2021, the inaugural concert was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. The concert developed from the idea of creating greater community connections through music. The concert celebrates the civil rights leader’s life and legacy through music. Conducted by SLSO Music Director Stéphane Denève and St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus Director Kevin McBeth, members of both the St. Louis Symphony Chorus and the IN UNISON Chorus join the SLSO on the program.
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The program includes:
Florence Price’s Adoration, originally published in 1951 for organ, has received much acclaim in recent years and has been rearranged several times for different instrumentations. Akiko Hosoi arranged the piece for full orchestra performed by the SLSO. Price is regarded as the first major Black female composer. Her work was recognized, if not widely performed, in her lifetime and has received newfound popularity in recent years.
St. Louis native Rollo Dilworth is represented with his work for orchestra and chorus, Freedom’s Plow—which incorporates the beloved spiritual Hold On and excerpts from Langston Hughes’ poem Freedom’s Plow. The piece was commissioned by the SLSO and first performed in October 2009. André Thomas’ song “I Dream a World,” also incorporates contemplative lyrics from Hughes.
Epitaph for a Man Who Dreamed by living composer Adolphus Hailstork reflects on Dr. King’s legacy by creating an atmosphere that the Hailstork said, “represents the graveside service of a great man.”
Spirituals dot the program, performed with singers from both SLSO resident choruses, including William Steffe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and George N. Allen’s “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”
The program also includes “What We Need,” a selection from local composer Adam Maness’Divides That Bind. The SLSO commissioned an arrangement of Divides That Bind for full orchestra and chorus, then performed the world premiere at its annual Lift Every Voice concert in 2015. The piece includes a narration of Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech as part of the work.
St. Louis Public Radio, an SLSO media partner for 13 years, will broadcast the concert live. Audiences can hear the concert by listening to 90.7 KWMU St. Louis Public Radio or by visiting stlpr.org.
Eric Dundon is the SLSO’s Public Relations Director.