Chicago Sinfonietta continues its milestone 25th Anniversary Season with its Annual Tribute to DR. Martin Luther King, Jr., celebrating the universal lessons of Dr. King with music from the American South to the African plains. Before 2013's special guest - Grammy Award-winning bass-baritone Eric Owens - takes the stage as a vocalist, he will first pick up the baton to make his debut as conductor. Led for a second year by Sinfonietta Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, the annual MLK concert has been a cherished Sinfonietta tradition since its founding in 1987 by Dr. Paul Freeman. The 2013 Annual Tribute to DR. Martin Luther King, Jr. is presented at Wentz Concert Hall of North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Avenue in Naperville, Sunday, January 20 at 3 p.m. and at Orchestra Hall of Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, Monday, January 21 at 7:30 p.m. (the official MLK holiday). The Sinfonietta is proud to have Fifth Third Bank as the Lead Sponsor of this concert.
Chen opens the concert with a rare performance of The Oak by Florence Price, the first African-American woman to achieve international recognition as a symphonic composer. In 1932 Price, a Chicagoan, won the first and second place of the Wanamaker Foundation Awards, and the following year the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered her winning composition, Symphony in E Minor. She had subsequent works performed by the orchestras of Detroit, Pittsburgh and Brooklyn, marking a first for an African-American woman to have her work presented on stages at this level.
For the second selection on the program, opera star Owens makes his professional podium debut conducting Samuel Barber's inspiring Adagio for Strings.
"One of my goals for the Sinfonietta, and a personal passion of mine, is to help expose talented diverse conductors to our audience," said Chen. "At last year's MLK concert I invited JeriLynn Johnson to share the podium with me, and I am very excited to be able to provide opera superstar Eric Owens with his debut conducting opportunity at this year's performances."
Maestro Chen returns to lead Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto, featuring Chicago native Anthony McGill, principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, as soloist. The program continues with African composer Obo Addy's Wawshishijay, a work originally created for the Kronos Quartet on its album Pieces of Africa.
Owens returns to the stage as a vocalist for the Chicago Premiere of I'm a Soldier (Spiritual Suite) arranged by Lena McLin, one of America's foremost African-American composers. Born in Atlanta and raised in Chicago, McLin - a childhood and personal friend of Dr. King - has more than 200 choral works, cantatas and musicals published; she is one of the most published African-American female composers of the Twentieth Century. Most of these compositions are written in the American Folk Tradition - choral and solo arrangements of spirituals along with blues, jazz and gospel compositions.
For the remaining gospel portion of the program (a traditional part of the MLK tribute since the beginning), the award?winning Mosaic Choir, under the musical direction of Mark Myers, Choral Music Educator, from Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, joins the orchestra with an internationally flavored selection of songs, including "This Is My Prayer" (African-American), "Janger" (Indonesian), "Ntakana" (South African) and "Total Praise" (African-American), all orchestrated by Sam Shoup.
The concert concludes in the same joyous tradition begun by Dr. Freeman, with the audience joining together to sing "We Shall Overcome."
Single tickets range from $40-$50 for concerts at Wentz Concert Hall and $26-$50 for concerts at Symphony Center, with special $10 pricing available for students. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Chicago Sinfonietta at 312-236-3681 ext. 2 or online at www.chicagosinfonietta.org.