Once More, With Passion: Choirs Pay Tribute to King

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Martin Luther King Tribute Choir began its Sunday night program at the Kennedy Center with a shout of "Glorious!" -- and it was. Composed of Washington-area church choirs of multiple denominations and races, the Tribute Choir, along with the Duke Ellington School of the Arts Show Choir, joined forces with the Choral Arts Society of Washington for their 19th annual Choral Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Each choir took a distinctive approach. The Choral Arts Society, directed by Norman Scribner, opened the concert with two classical selections and a spiritual sung with awe-inspiring purity and precision. Under Linda Edge Gatling, Scribner's co-director, the powerhouse Tribute Choir contributed gospel-style religious standards accompanied by flashing lights and electric guitar. The Ellington Show Choir, led by Samuel L. Bonds, received a standing ovation for its talented soloists and well-executed jazz hands. Standing ovations are pretty common in Washington, but this one was deserved.

The evening's most fulfilling music, however, emerged as all three choirs blended their strengths to produce an opulent sound and lively, impassioned singing. Audience participation was encouraged, and King's dream was alive as public school students and diplomats stood side by side, clapped their hands over their heads, smiled and joyously swayed to songs of unity and hope.

-- Ronni Reich

© 2007 The Washington Post Company