For the last 25 years, the Chicago Sinfonietta has kept the values and memory of Martin Luther King Jr. alive in the best way that they know how: through song. In the same way that Dr. King encouraged his contemporaries to accept each other and integrate their differences, the Sinfonietta bridges the gap between classic and modern symphonic music. With their efforts, classical and world music have reached the ears of listeners that it likely would not have without its efforts.
This landmark year for the orchestra's Annual Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. -- happening January 21 at the Chicago Symphony Center -- offers some pleasant surprises including Grammy Award-winning opera vocalist Eric Owens' debut as a conductor. He'll lead the orchestra in a thoughtful rendition of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings.
The remainder of the program offers selections and performers rich in African American culture. Sinfonietta music director Mei-Ann Chen will open the concert with a performance of The Oak by Florence Price, the first internationally recognized female African American symphonic composer. Other selections include African composer Obo Addy's Wawshishijay, a work originally created for the Kronos Quartet on its album Pieces of Africa. Among his other achievements featured clarinetist (and Chicago native) Anthony McGill, performed at President Obama's first inauguration.
A gospel portion of the concert will be lead by the Mosaic Choir from Aurora, Illinois. This nationally touring high school choir has been a part of the MLK concert since its inception. This year, choir members will join the orchestra with a selection of songs spanning the globe including "This Is My Prayer" (African American), "Janger" (Indonesian), "Ntakana" (South African) and "Total Praise" (African American), all orchestrated by Sam Shoup.
The Chicago Sinfonietta's Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. concert will take place on Monday, January 21, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to the show, held at Symphony Center (220 S. Michigan Ave.) range from $26 to $50, however students are being offered tickets for a very appealing price of $10.
While the past quarter decade has proved to Chicago that this unique celebration of Dr. King isn't going anywhere soon, it's an event that only comes once a year. Don't wait 364 days until the next one!