Before exiting the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, a visitor steps into the final room. It is not a gift shop. It is more like a concert hall. Here Martin Luther King Jr. performs on the big screen. It’s his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivers with passion, power and an unerring sense of timing, like a great Shakespearean.
In the last half of the speech, King lifts his head, no longer reading from his notes. His voice rises and falls in lines thatseem improvised which, by this point in the speech, they are: “I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.” He croons like a great jazz singer:“From every mountaintop, let freedom ring!”
King’s speeches are peppered with song lyrics, including those of “America,” also known as “My Country, Tis of Thee.” He borrows from hymn verses, gospel songs and Negro spirituals. Lee Hoiby’s setting of the latter part of the “I Have a Dream” speech echoes these musical references, but it also captures beautifully the lyric drama of King’s vocal performance.
The spirituals played a crucial role in Dr. King’s crusade for civil rights. During the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, Mahalia Jackson sang “I’ve Been ‘Buked,” and Marian Anderson sang “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” The spirituals helped define the purpose of the civil rights movement, placing it in the context of a universal and eternal struggle for social justice, rooted in community and prayer.
The themes of hope and salvation that are contained in the spirituals have influenced composers throughout the world. English composer Michael Tippett used the spirituals in his oratorio A Child of our Time, where he drew upon theirhealing power. The harsh quality of Tippett’s subject, revolving around an aspect the Nazi pogrom known asKristallnacht, is balanced by the deeply consoling tone of the spirituals. The fact that the spirituals are from another time and place helps elevate Tippett’s work, bestowing on it universality and timelessness.
The “I Have a Dream” speech is rich in allusion. It makesreference to the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the U. S. Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. King quotes frequently from scripture, at one point drawing from Isaiah verses that are well known to every enthusiast of Baroque music: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every hill made low.” The final words of the speech are drawn from a 19th century Baptist hymn (probably not a spiritual as he had thought):“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!”
Four and a half years later, in the final speech of his life, King once again quoted the lyrics of a favorite song.Dominic Tierney, associate professor of political science at Swarthmore College, tells the story in a recent issue of The Atlantic (“America’s Song of Itself”). I quote his article with liberal use of ellipsis:
“On April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rose to speak in support of striking sanitation workers inMemphis, Tennessee. “I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land,” King announced. “And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.” And then he closed in his lyrical voice: “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” The next day he lay dying on the second floor of the Lorraine Motel, struck in the cheek by an assassin’s bullet.
“The last line that King ever spoke in public came from a song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” written by Julia Ward Howe in 1861. It was a fitting finale to the life of a great American because the story of the “Battle Hymn” is the story of the United States. The song, now approaching its 150th anniversary, is a hallowed treasure and a second national anthem… But most of all, the “Battle Hymn” is a warrior’s cry and a call to arms. Its vivid portrait of sacred violence captures how Americans fight wars… as a righteous struggle—a holy war for a democratic peace.”
The principles motivating both the March on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech – freedom of expression, fairness of economic opportunity, individual responsibility and collective action – lie at the heart of Alan Paton’s classic novel Cry, the Beloved Country. The story is set in South Africa amidst the racial turbulence of 1940’s Johannesburg. It describes a murder, motivated by economic need, which resonates throughout the community in ways both tragic and hopeful.
In Paton’s novel, the murdered man had been revered for his advocacy on behalf of the native people of South Africa. He had been a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln’s writings and speeches play an important partin the story. The novel’s themes of justice and social responsibility are expressed in such a way that they have proven meaningful for readers throughout the world ever since the book was first published. It is fitting that for tonight’s performance of Kurt Weill’s musical adaptation of the novel, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra has once again recruited its One City Choir, drawing on volunteer singers from across our community.
When Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson were granted therights to create a staged adaptation of Cry, the Beloved Country, they learned that the film rights had been given to another party. A filmed version of Cry, the Beloved Country was already destined for the silver screen. Wishing to reserve the option of eventually turning their Broadwayshow into a film, Weill and Anderson changed the title from Cry, the Beloved Country to Lost in the Stars. They felt that a new film, following what they hoped would be a successful Broadway run, should have the same title as the staged version.
When Paton attended the premiere of Lost in the Stars, hewas impressed with Weill’s music but upset by many of Anderson’s revisions. Anderson had inserted a nihilisticphilosophical perspective, suggesting that people live by and large as lonely beings without meaningful connection to others. As the title song put it: “we’re lost out here in the stars.” But Paton’s intention had been completely the opposite. He contended that all members of a society areinterconnected, and that the actions of each individual affect the whole. All people must take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, he argued. Furthermore, he believed that the duty to care for each other is bound by our relationship to God.
When composer and musicologist David Drew created a concert version of Lost in the Stars in 1988, he changed the name back to Cry, the Beloved Country. He did so in part out of respect for what he felt was Kurt Weill’s original intention to adhere as closely as possible to the language and meaning of the novel. It is Drew’s version that is performed tonight, augmented by readings from several passages of the book, included by permission of the Paton estate.
Photographer James Westwater has collaborated with orchestras over many years, combining photography and music in an art form he calls photochoreography. During tonight’s performance of Lincoln Portrait, photographscollected and organized by Mr. Westwater are shown on a screen suspended over the orchestra. Most of these pictures are taken from the collection of Civil War images captured by Mathew Brady and photographers in his studio. Toward the end of the work, the pictures change to 20th century images, including a photograph of Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial.
This spring, one of our Breaking Down Barriers advisors, Christopher Robinson of Boston University, alerted us to the fact that there existed no standard American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation of the speech. TheBoston Landmarks Orchestra approached the estate of Martin Luther King Jr., which confirmed this fact, and enthusiastically endorsed the idea of creating such an interpretation. As a result, the orchestra has commissioned the first-ever officially sanctioned interpretation of the speech. It has been created by Richard Bailey of Boston University and is performed tonight by deaf artist Misha Blood.
The ideas expressed in the “I Have a Dream” speech were potent, but they were not new. History was made because of the persuasiveness and universality of Dr. King’s language and the virtuosity of his delivery. To touch the hearts of Americans, he harnessed the power of many forms of artistic expression: rhetoric, literature and poetry, hymns and sacred songs. From the hundreds of thousands of listeners gathered that day at the Lincoln Memorial,great waves of applause followed his every ringing line. In the midst of the speech, he summarized his dream in termsthat are apt for an orchestral concert: that one day “all God’s children will be able to sing” in a “beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
- Christopher Wilkins
The Boston Landmarks Orchestra and Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, along
with the entire Kiss Me Kate cast, look forward to this performance.
The play that inspired the musical, Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, is a yarn
of many threads. Characters and plotlines intertwine to a clever – and sometimes
ridiculous – extent. But Kiss Me Kate adds yet another layer. If The Taming of the
Shrew is a play within a play, then Kiss Me Kate is a play within a play within a
Cole Porter’s ingenious creation requires a multitalented cast. Performers are called
upon to sing the music of one of America’s most sophisticated songwriters while
delivering lines by the greatest writer in the English language. There is a great deal
of humor and plenty of dancing. Moods swing abruptly from the satirical to the
deeply expressive. All of this provides ample opportunity to showcase Boston-based
actors of extraordinary and diverse talents.
We are privileged to have in our cast both elite members of Boston’s theater
community and fine emerging talent. We are especially honored by Kerry O’Malley’s
participation and her enthusiastic embrace of the production. We are delighted to
have been able to attract as our male lead a genuine star of the Broadway stage,
Central to our production is the ebullient and creative choreography of Yo-el
Cassell, resident choreographer of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. We are
grateful for the support of Richard Ortner and the Boston Conservatory, and for the
impeccable musicianship of Timothy Steele. We are especially pleased that tonight
the music is front and center, beginning with the artistry of the musicians of the
Landmarks Orchestra performing the original sumptuous orchestrations of Robert
with warmest wishes,
Boston Landmarks Orchestra
Founding Artistic Director
Commonwealth Shakespeare Company
Our friends at the Longwood Symphony whom Landmarks is presenting at the Hatch Shell on August 14 wanted to share this with our audience:
Established in 1982, the Longwood Symphony Orchestra is a distinctive organization in Boston’s cultural landscape recognized for its musical quality, innovative programming, and unique business model of community engagement. Positioned at the crossroads of the arts and the sciences, the orchestra’s membership is composed mainly of health-care professionals, including doctors, medical students, research scientists, nurses, and other caregivers. The LSO’s 2013-2014 season begins October 5 at NEC’s Jordan Hall with Music Director Ronald Feldman conducting works by Sibelius and Brahms. Visit www.longwoodsymphony.org for more information.
We are very pleased to be partnering at our concert at the DCR’s Hatch Shell with the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts. It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the understanding and appreciation of the performing arts through education and performance. Every summer, the foundation brings talented youth from all over Asia and the United States to participate in the intensive three-week musical training program. Visit www.chineseperformingarts.net for more information.
“Music is unity,” said Esther Nelson, BLO General & Artistic Director. “We begin our season not only with a world premiere re-imagination of Mozart’s Magic Flute, but with a celebration of the wealth of artistic talent with local Boston roots. We’re proud to preview our home-grownMagic Flute cast at this year’s concert with Boston Landmarks Orchestra as we embark on our exciting 2013/14 season.”
The concert begins with the overture and opening scene of Mozart’s Magic Flute; a performance of “Casta Diva” from Bellini’s Norma by soprano and BLO Emerging Artist, Michelle Trainor; the Duke/Gilda duet, “Caro Nome,” “Cortigiani, vil razza dannata,” and the Quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto, featuring soprano/BLO Emerging Artist Chelsea Basler, mezzo soprano Sandra Piques Eddy, tenor Zach Borichevsky, and baritone James Demler. The concert’s second half includes Siegfried’s death and funeral music from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung (Twilightof the Gods), the last in the composer’s cycle of four operas titled Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung); the ladies quartet from Britten’s Peter Grimes; and Isabella’s aria from Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers). The program concludes with more selections from Mozart’s Magic Flute, including the quintet from Act I, Papageno’s suicide aria, the Papageno/Pagagena duet, and the Act I finale featuring the company.
Here are a few words from Music Director, Christopher Wilkins on our upcoming performance entitled Fiesta sinfónica: A night in the Tropics.
A Night in the Tropics
Louis Moreau Gottschalk was a one-of-a-kind. A Southern abolitionist whose music was admired by both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, Gottschalk’s most American trait may have been his knack for bridging cultural divides.
Born in New Orleans in 1829, Gottschalk was sent as a teenager to study piano and composition in Paris. Chopin heard the young prodigy perform and predicted he would become “the king of pianists.” Gottschalk’s early piano pieces in a “Creole” style made him a household name throughout the continent before he was twenty. He returned to the United States in 1853 and began an extended tour of Latin America.
Wherever his travels took him, Gottschalk absorbed local popular styles into his music, anticipating later developments by decades. There are African-derived dance rhythms foreshadowing ragtime and echoes of Caribbean drumming that did not reappear in concert music until the mambo craze of the 1930’s. He was also a consummate showman. His Symphony No. 1, A Night in the Tropics was premiered in Havana in 1859 with over 650 performers, including a symphony orchestra, a US military band, and drummers from the eastern tip of Cuba, also known as Guantánamo.
Thomas Oboe Lee is a Boston treasure. His music is rich in international influences, and exudes a spirit that would have thrilled Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Most of all, he loves finding creative ways to celebrate his many friends and admirers. He writes:
“It is very interesting that Mambo!!! I wrote it for Charles Ansbacher and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra in 2003, and they performed it many times. When Charles told me he wanted a short work with a Latin American flavor, I said that would be fabulous since I had written several works in that vein. After all, I lived in São Paulo, Brazil during my teens. But I had to do some research. I found a couple of mambo CDs by the inimitable Tito Puente. After a few listening sessions, I got it. So, here we have it: a TOL Mambo!”
In 1905, Heitor Villa-Lobos made the first of many trips by steam-powered train through Brazil’s interior, collecting stories and folk songs. The Little Train of the Brazilian Countryman is a captivating example of folk-inspired music and a stunning experiment in orchestral effects. From a standstill, the train begins to move with heavy alternating chords. We hear the creaking of the railcars in the woodwinds, the sound of metal on metal in the high strings, and escaping steam in the shakers. It is a masterful tribute to his homeland. “Yes, I’m Brazilian, very Brazilian. In my music I let the rivers and seas of this great country sing.”
Ever since its premier by the National Symphony of Mexico on August 15, 1941, Moncayo’s Huapango has enjoyed special status. Mexicans often refer to it as their “second national anthem.” By listening attentively and applying his brilliant gift for orchestration, Moncayo was able to transform a well-preserved style of folk music in Veracruz into his signature work, Huapango. (The following year Koussevitzky and Copland invited him to Tanglewood, where he became Leonard Bernstein’s classmate.)
Huapango is filled with masterful touches. In the beginning, Indian percussion – or their modern descendants – emerge from a rhythmic mist that coalesces into a driving accompaniment against which the main theme evokes the whoops and hollers of dancers. Floor-pounding rhythms alternate in groups of twos and threes, the characteristic pattern of a huapango. Harp and xylophone glissandos suggest the swirl of women’s dresses. In a middle section full of sweetness, a solo harp echoes the folk harp of Veracruz. A contest erupts between two male dancers (trumpet and trombone) leading to a final phrase thundering with reverberations of the original rhythmic mist.
The second half of tonight’s program is devoted to a single work, Gonzalo Grau’s Viaje. The work was commissioned for last year’s “Fiesta sinfónica,” which did not take place at the Hatch Shell due to rain. We welcome back Alex Alvear and his “pocket-sized salsa orchestra,” featuring several of Boston’s leading performers of Latin popular music and jazz. Our dancers provide a striking visual element, reminding us that in Latin America the spirit of dance lies at the heart of all music.
Working with elements of folk music, most composers appropriate whatever is most compatible with orchestral convention and leave the rest alone. It is a case of “adaptive reuse.” Mr. Grau’s goal was to present each popular tradition in its pure form, weaving the original type into the orchestral fabric. The various styles are in dialogue with one another. The whole approach is inventive and fresh, and perfectly in harmony with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s mission to encourage inclusiveness and a joyful spirit of collaboration.
- – Christopher Wilkins
Here are a few words from Chris Wilkins on our July 24th performance entitled: “For the Ages: A Family Guide to the Orchestra.”
For the Ages
It is an honor to join with the Free for All Concert Fund in presenting the Charles Ansbacher Music for All Award to José Antonio Abreu, the Venezuelan visionary who founded the music education system known as El sistema. The global impact of El sistema has been extraordinary. It has sparked a revolution in the training of young musicians throughout the world, and it has served as a model for innovative approaches to education in fields beyond music as well.
A few principles characterize an El Sistema based program: it must be orchestral; it must include a daily routine of music making; and it must be open to all segments of society. All of these conditions – and many more – are met at the Conservatory Lab Charter School, where orchestral music is central to the school’s entire curriculum. Over the past several months, Boston Landmarks Orchestra musicians have led rehearsals and workshops for the school’s young musicians, and worked alongside the dedicated teachers and administrators who inspire them every day.
The Dudamel Orchestra of the Conservatory Lab Charter School was named for conducting ‘phenom’ Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Dudamel Orchestra performs two works on tonight’s program. The first, which they perform alone, is a suite drawn from Howard Shore’s stirring and magnificently orchestrated score to The Lord of the Rings. The second is a Michael Gandolfi work commissioned for this occasion.
Mr. Gandolfi’s The Queen and the Conjurer was created for the Dudamel Orchestra and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra to perform together. The work’s structure, orchestration, melodic material, and storyline developed out of meetings between the composer and the student musicians. The Queen and the Conjurer is a theme and variations. In the beginning, the Dudamel Orchestra presents the theme, a stately melody inspired by a tarot card known as the High Priestess. The Boston Landmarks Orchestra sets the variations in motion, which represent magical effects inspired by the tarot card of the Magician. The musical score includes a written narrative, which appears below in words by Dana Bonstrom.
The first half of tonight’s program also includes works that showcase the instruments and families of the orchestra. Perpetuum mobile by the “Waltz King,” Johann Strauss Jr, is a high-spirited polka in which each musician is featured at some point in a virtuosic “riff” over a repeating four-chord accompaniment. Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra shares with Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf the prestige of being the best-known of all orchestral works for children. The Britten has the added distinction of appearing from time to time on programs for grown-ups, with or without narration.
In 1853, Robert Schumann paid one of the most famous compliments in musical history, announcing that the 20-year-old Brahms was “called to give ideal expression to the times.” Such extravagant praise implied that Brahms was a worthy successor to Beethoven, and it helped jump-start the career of the young composer. It also caused him considerable anguish: “You have no idea how it feels to hear behind you the tramp of a giant like Beethoven.”
When finally, at the age of forty-three, Brahms did produce his first symphony, he did not shy away from invoking the spirit of the master. A turbulent C-minor symphony that ends in blazing glory in the key of C-major surely brings to mind “The Fifth.” And echoes of “The Ninth” are so obvious in the main theme of the finale that Brahms readily admitted its similarity to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. “Any ass can hear that,” he reportedly said.
And yet Brahms’ 1st Symphony speaks with a wonderfully fresh voice. Its emotional expression is highly varied, with a range of moods that are at various times tragic, plaintive, playful and heroic. Its middle movements are as subtle as the outer movements are grand. Most characteristically, the symphony offers a profusion of long-arching melodies in a style that is classically concise. This duality – of classical rigor and open-hearted romanticism – is present in all of Brahms’ large-scale works, and all-pervading in the 1st Symphony.
- – Christopher Wilkins
The Story of The Queen and the Conjurer:
Words by Dana Bonstrom
- The Queen and her royal court await the arrival of a magician.
- The Magician appears, in a theatrical flourish of colorful confidence!
- The Magician promises the Queen a performance of other-worldly mysteries.
- The Magician begins: gold coins appear from nowhere and dance in the air;
- A white silk cloth becomes a beautiful dove.
- The Queen and her court are delighted by the Magician’s tricks!
- A knight’s sword is drawn from its scabbard as if by an invisible hand.
- The Queen is delighted by the Magician’s performance…
- As cards and kerchiefs fly and float through the air.
- But something else is happening… the assembled lords and ladies are slipping into slumber…
- And even the Queen herself is soon fast asleep on her throne!
- The Magician conjures a large sack from thin air…
- And begins to fill it with precious jewels, bags of gold coin…
- And other priceless possessions stolen from the slumbering lords and ladies…
- Until one last prize remains: the Queen’s crown!
- The Magician approaches the throne, and reaches out for the crown…
- But the Queen awakes!
- The Queen raises her arm as if to strike the Magician… but instead gently places her hand on his shoulder.
- The Magician shyly returns the Queen’s smile, bows deeply to her…
- And commences to restore the priceless possessions to their rightful, sleeping owners.
- When the Magician’s sack is empty, the Queen raises her hand again…
- And the lords and ladies wake from their sleep.
- The Magician smiles at the Queen…
- Bows to his audience…
- Then spins around –
- And vanishes!
“Wednesday evening we kick off our summer season the DCR’s Hatch Shell. The program is called Rhapsody in Green. Chris Wilkins, Music Director, describes the program in his own words:”
Rhapsody in Green
It is impossible to hear a concert at the Hatch Memorial Shell and not think of the synergy of site and sound that gave rise to the Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s name.
To launch the 2013 season, we take pleasure in welcoming to the Esplanade representatives from city, state and national parks. Boston is blessed with green spaces of exceptional beauty, providing popular havens for recreation and public performance throughout the city. Tonight marks the celebration of an important Landmarks tradition, one honoring Boston’s natural surroundings and begun by founder Charles Ansbacher: the annual “Green Concert.”
“At the River” is a newly commissioned work by Anthony De Ritis, Chair of Northeastern University’s Department of Music. It is based on a 19th century hymn by Robert Lowry with a text derived from the Book of Revelation (22:1-2): “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, down the middle of the great street of the city.“ Mr. De Ritis’s setting features as soloist Myran Parker-Brass, Executive Director for the Arts at the Boston Public Schools, pointing to another hallmark of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, its penchant for collaboration.
Johann Strauss’s Tales from the Vienna Woods is nature music par excellence. Its sequence of waltzes incorporates sounds of nature and allusions to folk music. The introduction originally featured a popular folk instrument, the Austrian zither, though in tonight’s performance solo strings perform the passage in question. There is also a prominent flute solo suggesting bird-song. The first performance of the work was given out of doors in the Vienna Volksgarten, a public park in the heart of the city.
Folk music and birdsong also lie at the core of one of the most exquisite works of the English pastoral tradition, The Lark Ascending. Here Vaughan Williams invites the solo violinist to use his bow like an artist’s brush, illustrating in sound the flight of a lark high over the countryside. In the final bars the solo line soars ever higher, intimating a connection between heaven and earth.
For Beethoven, time spent in nature was an essential part of the creative process. He worked out many of his musical ideas while taking long walks around the ramparts of Vienna, or through the countryside during the summers. And yet, the Pastorale Symphony is one of only a few works in which Beethoven made specific references to nature. His emphasis is on personal experience rather than the imitation of natural sounds: “more an expression of feeling than painting,” he wrote.
The first movement conveys the bliss of beholding nature’s beauties. The music remains active and attentive even amidst moments of stillness and many repetitive phrases. The second movement is a wondrous mix of natural sounds, despite Beethoven’s protestation above. We hear the murmuring of a brook, summer breezes, and birdcalls. The third movement introduces the humorous element of a village band, with all its rhythmic inexactitude. The fourth movement injects the only moment of tension into the work: distant thunder is heard, and then a fullblown thunderstorm erupts with lightning strikes and a lashing downpour.
The final movement is one of Beethoven’s most sublime creations. Its tone foreshadows the slow movement of the 9th symphony and the Song of Thanks in his late A-minor string quartet, a movement written following his recovery from an illness. The finale of the Pastorale Symphony is given over to feelings of gratitude and to deep prayer, expressions which Beethoven indicated in his manuscript were addressed to God.
- – Christopher Wilkins