Boston Children’s Chorus Celebrates King’s Legacy

BCC: (L-R) Ashard Jones, Christopher Doman and Gwendolyn Baptiste represented Dorchester in the Boston Children's Chorus' dress rehearsal on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.BCC: (L-R) Ashard Jones, Christopher Doman and Gwendolyn Baptiste represented Dorchester in the Boston Children's Chorus' dress rehearsal on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The Boston Children’s Chorus celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through the language of music on Monday. In its seventh annual tribute concert on Dr. King’s holiday, the chorus prepared a program of songs that celebrated his message of peace and the embracing of what he famously referred to as the “fierce urgency of now.” The concert venue, New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, is significant to the legacy, as well, since King met his wife, Coretta Scott, then a young student at the conservatory, on the hall’s steps.
On those very steps this week, families and choir supporters escaped the snow and enjoyed a warm, often fiery, and impassioned program by a prodigious group of young singers ranging in age from 10 to 18 years. The performance in the early afternoon was called a “dress rehearsal” as the choir prepared for its evening performance.

But the rehearsal, emceed by national news broadcaster Josh Binswanger and Karen Holmes Ward, host of WCVB’s “CityLine,” had very few unpolished moments. The choir members, befitted in their bold red jackets, moved on and off stage and at times up the aisles of the audience in perfect choreography. Selections from the program included “MLK” by U2, “Plant a Tree” by Michael Bojensen, an innovative arrangement of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and “Oh Freedom” as arranged by Hall Johnson.

Among the chorus members were three Dorchester teens who had all read King’s speeches in preparation for the concert. Gwendolyn Baptiste, 16, a METCO student at Reading Memorial High School, said it is still important to study King’s words today. “Some people may think of today as just another holiday, but we take meaning to it. We want to bring people together to keep King’s vision alive,” she said.

In addition to performing at the concert, Baptiste said work at BCC’s outreach Pine Street Inn homeless shelter was another way the choir addressed issues that “go far beyond race. ...We are still dealing with civil rights issues,” she said.

Christopher Doman, 16, a student at Community Academy in Roxbury, said studying King’s words over and over often nets him new insight into his message. “His words make people change; people see people differently because of his words.” Doman, quick to flash a smile and lend a hug to his fellow performers, said “I’m so excited about the BCC. I love it. Friends are so easily made, you get to go on trips, and inspire people.”

Ashard Jones, 16, a student at the Boston Arts Academy, echoed Doman’s spirit. In his first year as a member, Jones said he was encouraged by a friend and teacher to audition for the choir. Since that time, “I have gotten over my stage fright,” said Jones, “When I go to audition at school, I have a lot of support from the choir,” he said.