June 26, 2022

A Playlist to Honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy

Image by Unseen Histories on Unsplash

Duke Ellingtons final composition was a ballet rating commissioned by the Dance Theatre of Harlem for jazz band and chamber orchestra called Three Black Kings. The gospel-inflected final movement is a tribute to Dr. King.

Dr. Kings speeches and works are filled with referrals to music. His inspiring dream for America, delivered on the actions of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., concludes with the admonition to “transform the jangling discords of our country into a gorgeous symphony of brotherhood.”

Below is some music for this holiday. A few of which honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. directly and some of which speaks with the causes he strongly promoted and eventually offered his life for.

From the very start of his life, music was a central, unifying force for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While his father was the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, his mother was the churchs choir director. She would hold weekly choir practice sessions at the household home on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta. As a young boy, King took piano lessons (the piano he practiced on still sits in the front parlor) and he would ultimately join the choir his mother conducted at Ebenezer Baptist. When he went off to school, King kept singing. He belonged to the prestigious Glee Club at Morehouse College and he wed a soprano and music education graduate from New England Conservatory, Corretta Scott.

24 years before Dr. Kings well known “I Have a Dream” speech, contralto Marian Anderson stood on those exact same steps of the Lincoln Memorial and sang for an audience of 75,000 after having actually been rejected a performance at the Daughters of the American Revolutions Constitution Hall due to the fact that she was Black.

From the very beginning of his life, music was a main, unifying force for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a young kid, King took piano lessons (the piano he practiced on still sits in the front parlor) and he would eventually sign up with the choir his mother performed at Ebenezer Baptist. When he went off to school, King kept singing. He was a member of the prominent Glee Club at Morehouse College and he married a soprano and music education graduate from New England Conservatory, Corretta Scott.

While today is a day to celebrate the life and work of Dr. King, this elegy by Adolphus Hailstork is a haunting tribute to a life tragically cut brief since of bigotry and hate.

Typically referred to as the “Dean of Black Women Composers,” Undine Smith Moores oratorio Scenes from the Life of a Martyr was written in the years following Dr. Kings assassination. This excerpt, from a recent Detroit Symphony Orchestra performance, records the visceral shock at the news of his death prior to eventually striking a hopeful tone.

William Levi Dawsons Negro Folk Symphony is a motivating symphony from 1934 and one that is worthy of to have more than just three overall recordings.

Commissioned by the Sphinx Organization as a homage for the 200th anniversary of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Jessie Montgomerys Banner aims to address the question: “What does an anthem for the 21st century seem like in todays multi-cultural environment?”

Brian Lauritzen

Sanctum is Courtney Bryans response to occasions of authorities cruelty which birthed the Black Lives Matter movement. The piece incorporates components of recorded noise consisting of the voices of protestors in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 following the shooting of Michael Brown.

Brian Lauritzen is the weekday afternoon drive host on Classical KUSC and host of the nationally-syndicated radio broadcasts of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Los Angeles author Derrick Spivas current work American Mirror may be the most brilliant realization of Dr. Kings dream of a “symphony of brotherhood.” Making use of musical impacts from countless immigrant cultures, Spiva weaves together a work that commemorates the diversity of this nation.