Today at 3 p.m., the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall will be filled with "The Spiritual Heritage," one of many events this week dedicated to the dream of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
A musical celebration of the black tradition, the suite in four movements traces the roots and evolution of the Negro spiritual. Its creator and conductor, record producer and Broadway conductor Howard A. Roberts, says the composition was spawned by the absence of the spiritual in most choral and symphonic repertoires. "Just like jazz and the blues, the spiritual is a truly American art form," says Roberts.
The composition for orchestra, choir and soloists will feature the North Carolina Central University Choir and the New Harlem Chamber Orchestra. The performance will benefit the establishment of the African-American Music Foundation at North Carolina Central University.
Ticket prices range from $5.50 to $100. Call 331-9462 for tickets; for further information, call 775-0797.
Among other events this week relating to King's birthday:
Conductor Joel Lazar remembers hearing Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech on a car radio in 1963. It became an indelible memory, he says, and will fuel his direction tomorrow night of "O King," a concert honoring the slain civil rights leader.
The concert by the Contemporary Music Forum will include "Elegy" by Lawrence Moss, "O King" by Luciano Berio, "Epicedial Variations" by Hale Smith, "Elegy" by Elliott Carter and "Diptych" by Jonathan Berger.
"One brings to music of this sort the feeling of loss as well as hopefulness," Lazar says.
The concert will be at 8 p.m. in the Frances and Armand Hammer Auditorium of the Corcoran Gallery, 17th Street and New York Avenue NW. Tickets are $12 at the door. For more information, call 333-4529.
Also tomorrow night, George Washington University will hold its third annual Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation at 7:30 in Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. The ceremony will feature six choirs, an awards presentation and an "exhibit of enlightenment" examining the history of the civil rights movement. Robert G. Jones, university marshal and a professor of religion, says the university community is "trying to reflect the values of King in a living, tangible way."
The selections will range from gospel ("Jesus Paid It All") to classical religious music ("Sing and Rejoice") to spirituals ("In That Great, Gettin' Up Mornin' ").
While the convocation is free, GWU requests a donation of clothing or nonperishable food for distribution to residents of the Barry Farms community in Southeast Washington. For more information, call 994-8716.
The musical drama "I Have a Dream" will be performed at 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Warner Theatre. Josh Greenfeld adapted the documentary text from King's writings, and the piece moves chronologically via 28 gospel songs and hymns from Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus to the assassination of King. Tickets range from $15 to $25. For more information call 626-1055.
Also honoring King is a Smithsonian program that includes a film clip of King and a presentation by the group Los Pleneros de la 21. Los Pleneros is a group of artisans, musicians and dancers who perform call-and-response music, in which the text of the songs focuses on contemporary and historical events. Local speakers also will offer toasts to the life of King. The program, at 7:30 tomorrow night, will take place in the Baird Auditorium at the National Museum of Natural History, 10th and Constitution Avenue NW.