During his often-quoted “I Have a Dream” speech, civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used the following musical metaphor: “With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
Given the slain leader’s knowledge of and appreciation for music, tributes to Dr. King have often included musical selections ranging from classical pieces that he learned to love from his piano teacher mother Alberta and from his Boston Conservatory-educated wife Coretta to beloved spirituals and hymns such as “Balm in Gilead” and “Take Me By the Hand, Precious Lord.”
Each year Artistic Director Anthony Trecek-King chooses works from these and other strains for Boston’s signature MLK tribute celebration, annually produced by the Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC) at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall – the very place where Coretta Scott met her future husband.
Next Monday, Jan. 20, the 11th Annual MLK Concert will be presented at both 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. at Jordan Hall. The theme of the 2014 performance is “Only Love,” a title derived from a passage from MLK’s 1957 speech “Loving Your Enemies,” which was reprinted in his 1963 book “Strength to Love.”
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Along with stirring arrangements of familiar pieces like “Amazing Grace,” “Rock My Soul” and “Look for the Silver Lining,” Trecek-King this year decided to include pieces like Duke Ellington’s “King Fit the Battle of Alabam’,” modeled , of course, on the African-American spiritual “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” This composition made the strongest political statement of any of the works of Ellington, who tended to shy away from racial controversies. This song, however, doesn’t flinch in its depiction of white police chief Eugene “Bull” Connor unleashing dogs and turning fire hoses on peaceful black demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama.
Over the years the BCC’s MLK tribute concert has welcomed many special guests. For 2014 the organization has invited Leslie Odom Jr., who is best known as “Sam Strickland,” a recurring character on the TV show “Smash.” Odom, who made his Broadway debut at 17 in the cast of “Rent,” will perform selections from his forthcoming album.
Along with Odom the following eight Dorchester residents, many of them veterans of these MLK tributes, will be performing at Jordan Hall: Hanifah Bostic, Demetra Vernet, Kamari Barnes, Richard Dang, Shayane Dalencourt-Simon, Teresa Flaherty, Abigail Robinson and Akazha Roberts.
The BCC is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic arts education organization that purposefully unites area children ages 7-18 across differences of race, religion and economic status. Its singers transcend social barriers in a celebration of shared humanity and love of music.
Through intensive choral training and high-profile public performance experiences, they learn discipline, develop leadership skills, and bring to audience’s ears and hearts that “symphony of brotherhood.”
For ticket information on “Only Love,” visit bostonchildrenschorus.org.