Thursday, January 13, 2022

Chicago Sinfonietta: Annual MLK Tribute Concert January 16th and 17th, 2022

 "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about

things that matter." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For 34 years, Chicago Sinfonietta has been committed to diversity and inclusion--a commitment Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew well. But do you know why CS is so committed to this tradition? 

Our founder, Paul Freeman, actually had an inspirational chance meeting with Dr. King at the Atlanta airport. When asked by Dr. King why he was in Atlanta, Maestro Freeman told him that he was there to guest conduct the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Dr. King responded, “Ah, the last bastion of elitism. Glory, Hallelujah”.

Three months later, Dr. King was assassinated, but Maestro Freeman felt like he'd left him with a mission: "That the symphony orchestra can be inclusive. Classical music in particular should be available to everyone regardless of race, creed, gender, or age, and this is what we strive to do with the Chicago Sinfonietta."

Our annual MLK Tribute concert is BACK this weekend, and packed some of the best talent in classical music. We sure hope you'll join us. 


Soul Force was the first orchestral piece by Jessie Montgomery, and was commissioned in 2015 by The Dream Unfinished, an activist orchestra based in New York City. The piece was written for a benefit event, intended to raise awareness and build support for the Garner family in the aftermath of the recorded murder of Eric Garner in 2014, whose death received national and international attention and outrage. 
Montgomery says about the work: "I have drawn the work’s title from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in which he states: “We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” "
She also shares: "I would ask listeners to pay attention to a particular pulse that goes throughout the piece. The pulse is meant to indicate walking - at different speeds and with different attitudes. And with different meanings between each walk. If you’ve never been to a Classical music concert before, you can also listen to the different instrument families. There are different families within the orchestra that are featured at different points (strings, winds, brass, percussion). 

Soul Force is meant to be a musical arc from chains to exaltation and then a final, ‘we don’t know where we’re going to go’ in the end. It is meant to be narrative in that way, and the piece unfolds and evolves into something that is uplifting, I hope, in the end."


My desire is to honor this iconic playwright, with an orchestral statement that reflects the earthiness and majesty of the African American experience within his plays. Rich in musicality and cadence, Wilson's writing easily lends itself to symphonic storytelling. I had the good fortune of collaborating with August Wilson and scored several theatrical productions, including "Gem of the Ocean" (Broadway), "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" (directed by Phylicia Rashad), and "Radio Golf". The August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh hired me to score and sound design scenes from his plays in their 2011 “August in August” tribute to the playwright. I also scored the PBS American Masters documentary "August Wilson-The Ground on Which I Stand.”

The overall influence Mr. Wilson has had on me is immense. His awareness of his unique gift in storytelling African American lifestyle and history has helped me to appreciate the power of individual expression and its importance for me as an artist. This has deepened my commitment to honor my artistic voice and pay tribute to August Wilson by writing “The Great Migration: A Symphony in Celebration of August Wilson.”


When someone is called “a voice for this historic moment” by
The Washington Post, you know their performance is going to be good. And we are so thrilled to welcome baritone Will Liverman to our 2022 MLK Tribute concert.

In February 2021, Cedille Records released Liverman's Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Classical chart. Whither Must I Wander (Odradek), with pianist Jonathan King, was named one of the Chicago Tribune’s “best classical recordings of 2020”. Performance highlights include starring as the first ever Black Papageno in the Metropolitan Opera’s holiday production of The Magic Flute.

January 16, 2022 at 3:00 pm  Wentz Concert Hall
January 17, 2022 at 7:30 pm Symphony Center
We want everyone to have access to the performing arts. Use code PWYC10MLK at checkout for $10 tickets!

Photo Credit: Ravinia, Kyle Dunleavy

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