Celebrate the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a Philadelphia Orchestra Community Concert

December 12, 2012

Tribute Concert at Martin Luther King High School: January 21 at 4 PM

Afternoon of Music, Readings, and Reflection with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra’s Jeri Lynne Johnson, Violinist Elena Urioste, and the School District of Philadelphia’s All City Choir 

(Philadelphia, December 12, 2012)—The Philadelphia Orchestra today announced details of its free annual Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert taking place on Monday, January 21, 2013, at 4:00 PM at Martin Luther King High School in Northwest Philadelphia. Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the Orchestra for the first time in this annual tribute concert, that celebrates the life and work of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This afternoon of music, readings, and reflection will bring together community groups and notable guest artists including Jeri Lynne Johnson, founder and music director of Philadelphia's own Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, who will be on-hand as guest conductor at the special invitation of Nézet-Séguin.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, orated from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the civil rights movement’s Great March on Washington. With this speech, Dr. King called for racial equality and an end to discrimination, and inspired an entire generation to take action. This powerful program acknowledges the profound influence Dr. King’s words and actions continue to have on us today with a moving concert featuring a range of musical works, speakers, and poignant narration—as storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston reads Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech over Samuel Barber’s haunting Adagio for Strings performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra.

The afternoon concert by The Philadelphia Orchestra led by Nézet-Séguin will include a performance of Gabriela Lena Frank’s Concertino Cusqueño—with its strong Peruvian and British influences that pay tribute to the melding of cultures so prevalent in classical music today. Violinist and Sphinx Competition winner Elena Urioste will also be on-hand for the afternoon, performing Ravel’s Tzigane for violin and orchestra.

The second half of the program opens with Jeri Lynne Johnson, founder and music director of Philadelphia’s own Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra conducting Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio. It continues with a Nézet-Séguin-led Orchestra performance of Dvořák’s Largo from Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”), and a performance by the School District of Philadelphia’s All City Choir, as Nézet-Séguin conducts Brahms’s “Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen” from A German Requiem and Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise.”  Dorina C. Morrow also leads a performance of the traditional spiritual “Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down,” and the program will conclude with an inspired rendition of the well-loved anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by John Rosamond Johnson, during which the audience will be invited to join in singing the first verse. 

“We gather each year to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to commemorate his vision, which has inspired millions of people, here in our city, throughout our country, and across the globe,” said Philadelphia Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore. “The Philadelphia Orchestra’s concert offers the power of music in recognition of Dr. King’s legacy, which summons us together to celebrate the unique fabric of Philadelphia’s diverse communities. We are enormously grateful to our valued partners, the School District of Philadelphia and Martin Luther King High School, for their role in bringing to life this important community concert.”

“The Philadelphia Orchestra shares its music for nearly as many reasons as we have listeners, and so important among them is to give people a place to reflect, to be inspired, and to dream,” said Yannick Nézet-Séguin. “This concert commemorates the work of such an important American leader, who devoted his own dream to building a better world, and I am honored to conduct it for the first time with the Orchestra. I am also so pleased to celebrate Philadelphia’s rich musical and artistic community by inviting some wonderful artists to share the stage with the Orchestra—Jeri Lynne Johnson, Charlotte Blake Alston, Elena Urioste, and the All City Choir. I look forward to this chance to inspire our community.”

One of the undisputable highlights of the Tribute Concert is the opportunity to hear Student Speaker Competition winners deliver their reflections on Dr. King’s life and words. Each year, Philadelphia-area schools are asked to nominate high school juniors demonstrating academic excellence and a strong commitment to their community. Students must submit an essay on the chosen theme, with finalists interviewed by a panel of judges comprised of Orchestra musicians, staff members, and other community partners. All finalists are recognized during the concert in January, and a maximum of two winners are chosen to read their winning essays to the audience.

“Here at the Promise Academy at Martin Luther King High School, we are dedicated to developing students who are highly motivated and competitive, and who thrive in an environment that encourages creativity, individuality, and excellence above all else,” comments Principal William Wade. “Students are at the heart of everything we do, and the social and cultural development of our greater school community is of utmost importance to our entire team, so we are delighted to join forces once again with The Philadelphia Orchestra.”

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert, first presented in 1991, reflects the beliefs and convictions of the famed civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., combining the traditions of African-American culture and Western classical music. The concert pays tribute to Dr. King’s religious beliefs, his vision of a society free of prejudice and racial divisions, and his belief in the power of music to effect change. Taking the Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert into the community reflects the Orchestra’s commitment to reaching new and diverse audiences. Since its Centennial in 2000, the Orchestra has performed free Neighborhood Concerts throughout the Philadelphia region, bringing the gift of music into the communities where people live in an attempt to break down the barriers that may separate it from many people in the community. For more information on The Philadelphia Orchestra, visit www.philorch.org.

For tickets and information, visit www.philorch.org/mlk

Starting January 7, 2013, tickets will be available at the following locations:
Office of Representative Dwight Evans, 7174 Ogontz Avenue, 215.549.0220    
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM

Office of the Principal, William C. Wade, Ed.S.
Promise Academy at Martin Luther King High School, 6100 Stenton Avenue, 215.276.5253
Hours: Monday-Friday, 12:30-4:00 PM 

A limited number of tickets will be available online at www.philorch.org/mlk beginning at 10 AM on January 7, 2013

Seating is general admission and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a four-ticket limit per person. Doors open at 3:15 PM.