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Richmond Symphony Altria Masterworks Concert – Remembering 1968: A Tribute to MLK, Jr. – A Reflection on the Civil Rights Movement through Inspirational Music

M E D I A  A D V I S O R Y

Januray 24, 2018 – Richmond, Virginia

Music Director Steven Smith will lead the Richmond Symphony in Remembering 1968: A Tribute to MLK, Jr. featuring prominent guest soloists and a combined choir of voices from the Richmond Symphony Chorus and members of university choirs from across Virginia. The program will be held on Saturday, February 3rd at 8pm and Sunday, February 4th at 3pm in the Carpenter Theatre at Dominion Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Join us for a concert celebrating unity and peace, and be moved by inspirational words and music!


This concert, which is a signature event of the Virginia General Assembly’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission, is comprised of pieces that honor the legacy of a man who was fearless in his charge to fight the injustices of the world. 1968 was a time of both political and civil unrest. The world was in a state of disarray and turmoil. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. served as a source of hope and light for the masses in a time that seemed hopeless and dark. This inspirational program includes compositions by Mary Watkins, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Beethoven, and local legend Undine Smith Moore.


Undine Smith Moore’s Scenes from the Life of a Martyr is centered on the intense struggle for equality. Moore dreamed of creating “a society where one’s favorite art is highly regarded, highly valued, where one’s progress is a source of pride to the family and the entire community.” This Virginia State University faculty member believed that exposure to the arts would create a “fine sense of self-worth and a high level of aspiration” in a child. She always described herself as a teacher who composed, as opposed to a composer who happened to also be a teacher. When this piece was first performed by the Richmond Symphony in April of 1982, Dika Newlin of the Richmond Times-Dispatch described it as “a monumental tribute. . . the simplest of harmonic and melodic means produce an overwhelming effect. I wept—and so did many others.” This piece will feature a combined choir with voices from Longwood University, Norfolk State University, the Richmond Symphony Chorus, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, and Virginia Union University and special guest vocalists: Bahati Barton (soprano), Kendall Gladen (mezzo-soprano), Colin Eaton (tenor), and Robert Cantrell (bass-baritone). The combined choir includes the same line-up of university choirs as when the Richmond Symphony hosted the world premiere of this piece in 1982. This will be an incredibly moving performance – not to be missed!


The Richmond (VA) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, in partnership with The Richmond Symphony, sponsored the world premiere performance of Scenes from the Life of a Martyr, a Cantata, by Dr. Undine Smith Moore, on April 19, 1982. They are graciously sponsoring this concert as well.


Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy is a curious work, featuring the combined chorus and special guest musician, Terrence Wilson on piano. It will begin with solo piano followed by the orchestra sneaking in and carrying on a dialogue with the piano. The piano then presents the melody to Beethoven’s song Gegenliebe (Mutual Love). Finally, the combined chorus enters singing “Graceful, charming and sweet is the sound/Of our life’s harmonies . . . Accept then, you beautiful souls/Joyously the gifts of high art.”


Mary Watkins’ Five Movements in Color is a dynamic composition in which the audience can truly follow the story through the music. As the mood moves from peaceful to active, even violent at points, this piece stands as a statement about the civil rights movement that is just as relevant today as it was in 1968. Watkins said, “I saw my own people in their long march to express themselves as fully human.” This inspired her to compose this timely piece. While she says it is a “song of sorrow” it is also “bittersweet and nostalgic” and “a song of hope.”


When the Cincinnati Symphony asked Jonathan Bailey Holland to compose a short piece to accompany Maya Angelou’s poem Equality, he hesitated, stating that the poem itself was already music. After some pressing, he created a piece that draws on the persistent energy that is found within the poem. Angelou’s words in Equality are just as fitting for the struggles she faced during her lifetime as they would have been for those that fought to end slavery, and for those who are still fighting inequality today.


Adult tickets for Altria Masterworks performances start at $10, College student single tickets are $10, and Child tickets are free for individuals under the age of 18. Purchase tickets online at richmondsymphony.com or by calling 1.800.514.ETIX.


The series sponsor is Altria. The concert sponsor is the Richmond (VA) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. The media sponsor is Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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About the Richmond Symphony

Founded in 1957, the Richmond Symphony is the largest performing arts organization in Central Virginia. The organization includes an orchestra of more than 70 professional musicians, the 150-voice Richmond Symphony Chorus and more than 260 students in the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra programs. Each season, more than 200,000 members of the community enjoy concerts, and radio broadcasts. The Symphony also provides educational outreach programs to over 50,000 students and teachers each year. The Richmond Symphony is partially funded by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.