The conductor of "Truth Pressed to Earth, Shall Rise" at Sunday night's Martin Luther King Jr. tribute at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall was misidentified in the Jan. 14 Style section. He is Arphelius Paul Gatling. (Published 1/15/03)
There were too many spectacular moments during Sunday night's tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. to single one out. A seamless performance of choral music, hymns, gospel exaltations and African dance created a musical language that spoke of the civil rights leader with reverence and filled the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall with inspiration.
"I Still Believe" was the 15th annual tribute to King presented by the Choral Arts Society and its music director, Norman Scribner. The program included the Eleanor Roosevelt High School Women's Choir conducted by Barbara W. Baker, the Howard University Choir conducted by J. Weldon Norris, the KanKouran West African Dance Company, and the Performing Artists Under the Lord conducted by Arphelius Paul Gatling, who delivered an exhilarating performance.
A world premiere of Ysaye M. Barnwell's "Truth Pressed to Earth, Shall Rise," conducted by Norris during the second half of the program, featured original text from King's writings and the vocal strength and emotional poignancy of the entire cast of more than 300 singers.
Debbi Jarvis, who was emcee of the event, sponsored by the Freddie Mac Foundation, talked about King, and a video of his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech was played on an overhead screen. The diverse program included classical pieces by Franz Schubert and Benjamin Britten, but the emphasis was on African American spiritual and religious music. A vibrant treatment of Leon Roberts's "He Has the Power," by the Performing Artists Under the Lord, had the audience clapping along, and the women's choir held listeners spellbound with a deeply evocative arrangement of the traditional Negro spiritual "Hold On."
But Thomas A. Dorsey's "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," under Scribner, was the most interactive piece of the evening. The hymn, which was the last song King requested the night before his assassination almost 35 years ago, eloquently closed the evening with the audience and the performers singing together with equal conviction.
The concert will be broadcast on WETA-FM at 9 p.m. Monday, the federal holiday set aside to honor King's birthday.
-- Beth Buchanan