Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Andrew Patner on Paul Freeman in 'King Day concert is fanfare for uncommon man'

[Paul Freeman, pictured with the Chicago Sinfonietta in an earlier concert, conducted his final King Day concert as music director Monday.]

“As a young man, Paul Freeman, the Chicago Sinfonietta's visionary founder, met the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Atlanta airport in March 1968, just a few weeks before King’s assassination. When Freeman, then 32, told the civil rights leader that he was coming into town to conduct the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra King exclaimed, 'The last bastion of elitism . . . Glory, Hallelujah!'

“That encounter stayed with Freeman and fueled his mission to launch an orchestra devoted to diversity and excellence, that saw excellence as coming in part from diversity. Nearly a quarter century after the Sinfonietta’s debut, its annual King Day commemorative tribute Monday night at Orchestra Hall was a varied, beautifully executed, and moving concert, one of the finest I have heard in some time from this essential group..

“Facing recent physical limits, Freeman, 75, will step down as music director after this season. His leadership of two important abstract works by African-American composers Ulysses Kay (1917-1995) and George Walker (born 1922), as well as his witty banter with the audience as he led a hall-wide concert-closing singing of 'We Shall Overcome,' made it clear that his mind and spirit remain vigorous. Freeman and the Sinfonietta have recorded both Kay’s sparkling 1968 Overture to Theater Set and Walker’s more somber 1941 Lyric for Strings, and they were performed Monday with both care and grace.[Paul Freeman, Ulysses S. Kay and George Walker are profiled at]

1 comment:

Andrew Patner said...

Thanks so much, WJZ!

Here is a link to the full version of the review at my own website:

All best wishes,

Andrew P.