Chicago Sinfonietta to Present Annual Tribute to MLK, 1/19-20
The Chicago Sinfonietta, led by Mei-Ann Chen, continues its 2013-2014 season with its Annual Tribute to DR. Martin Luther King, Jr. A cherished Sinfonietta tradition since its founding in 1987 by Dr. Paul Freeman, the 2014 MLK tribute concert celebrates the life, legacy and vision of Dr. King through a diverse program that includes a forward-thinking multimedia premiere, symphonic masterworks and gospel music. The Chicago Sinfonietta's Annual Tribute to DR. Martin Luther King, Jr. is presented in two performances only, Sunday, January 19 at 3 pm at Wentz Concert Hall of North Central College in Naperville (171 E. Chicago Avenue) and Monday, January 20 at 7:30 pm at Orchestra Hall of Symphony Center in downtown Chicago (220 S. Michigan Avenue).
The centerpiece of the Sinfonietta's 2014 MLK tribute is the North American Premiere of a multimedia work by Dutch "avant-pop" composer Jacob Ter Veldhuis, a.k.a. JacobTV, called Mountain Top. The work is inspired by one of King's most famous speeches, known as the "I've Been to the Mountain Top" speech, which he gave on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, the day before he was assassinated. Video and audio of King serve as the "lead singer" of the work, backed by orchestra and the Roosevelt University CCPA Conservatory Chorus. JacobTV, with video collaborator Jaap Drupsteen, manipulates the video and on-screen text, repeating, slowing down and stretching out certain phrases - which are also echoed by the singers - to reveal new layers of the speech, its moving message and King's prophetic vulnerability. The melody, harmony and rhythm of Mountain Top all come from the speech itself, as JacobTV analyzed the pitch and duration of King's words to create the leitmotif of his composition. Mountain Top had its world premiere by Nederlands Kamerkoor (Netherlands Chamber Choir) and Radio Kamerfilharmonie, conducted by Otto Tausk, in 2008 at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and was broadcasted live on Dutch radio and television.
"As a Dutch boy growing up in the 60's, I remember King very well because the media in Holland reported on him regularly," noted JacobTV. "'Mountain Top' is a timeless speech in which King calls for unity and non-violent protest, while challenging the United States to live up to its ideals. King was a charismatic preacher and one of the greatest orators of American history. His passionate speech is characterized by a rich melodic intonation, a great source of musical inspiration for me, in addition to the words themselves."
Destiny, and the question of whether great people in history are destined for greatness, is a concept that inspires the remaining first half of the concert. The evening opens with Chen conducting the Overture from La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny), an Italian opera by Giuseppe Verdi that originally premiered by 1862 before Verdi made significant revisions through 1869. The work opens with the easily recognizable "Fate" motif, three bold E notes played in unison by the brass.
For the second selection, Richard Strauss' triumphant Horn Concerto No. 1 features guest horn soloist Nicole Cash of the San Francisco Symphony and a graduate of Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music. Strauss began work on his first concerto for the horn when he was only 18 years old, completing the work in 1883. Throughout the concerto's three movements, it seamlessly shifts between bright, energetic fanfares and softer, reflective melodies, contrasts typical of late romantic era works.
The second half of the program features Morton Gould's Revival, a Fantasy on Six Spirituals. Played as one piece, the work samples themes and melodies from six spirituals, including "Little David Play on Your Harp," "All God's Children Got Wings," "Steal Away," "Were You There?," "Ezekiel Saw The Wheel" and "Joshua Fit de Battle of Jericho." Gould, a child prodigy in composition who went on to be a prolific Broadway, film, television, ballet and symphonic composer, premiered Spirituals in 1941 and strove to write it with the straightforwardness of conversation. Distinctly American jazz and blues patterns appear throughout, creating a gamut of emotions from bitter and grim to light and jubilant
The Sinfonietta concludes its annual MLK tribute with the uplifting sounds of gospel and spiritual music, joined by frequent MLK concert guest singers of the Apostolic Church of God Sanctuary Choir.
Single tickets range from $42-$54 for the concert at Wentz Concert Hall and $15-$54 for the concert at Symphony Center, with special $10 pricing available for students at both locations. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Chicago Sinfonietta at 312-236-3681 ext. 2 or online at www.chicagosinfonietta.org.