Choral Arts Society of Washington to Present 21st Annual Choral Tribute to MLK

Edith Billups | 1/7/2009, 11:40 p.m.

The Choral Arts Society of Washington will present the 21st Annual Choral Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Sun., Jan. 11, at 7 p.m. in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Concert Hall. Under the artistic direction of Norman Scribner, the concert will be a collaboration of 250 diverse voices from the Choral Arts Society Chorus, conducted by Scribner; The Heritage Signature Chorale, conducted by Stanley J. Thurston; and Performing Artists Under the Lord (P.A.U.L.), conducted by Linda Edge Gatling.

This year's concert will also feature instrumental performances by local youth to represent, according to Scribner, the hope the future holds for Dr. King€s legacy. The choral concert tributes were started by Scribner in 1969 as a musical means to bring together the Washington community to heal after King€s assassination and the riots that followed.
The concert will be a multi-cultural choral tribute that brings together a host of performers to commemorate Dr. King's ideals of non-violence, racial equality, and peace. Critically acclaimed teenage actor Jermaine Crawford, 17, who resides in Mitchellville, Md., best known for his starring role of Duquan "Dukie" on HBO's €The Wire,€ will be the event's Master of Ceremonies.

€We are at a crossroads in the history of our country at the 41st year of Dr. King€s assassination. Coincidentally, with this 41st year anniversary, we have a dawn of a new era with the election of an African American president, surely a dream that Dr. King would love to have seen realized,€ Scribner said.

€Our program this year will not just reflect the heartache, pain and hope of the civil rights struggle, but also will celebrate that the country has moved forward. On the eve of Obama€s inauguration, we will present a concert that not only remembers the past, but celebrates all of the hopes and dreams still awaiting us in the future.€

For Crawford, serving as emcee is a dream come true.

€I grew up in a Black suburban area and was always educated about Dr. King and always thought he was a powerful person. What he did was amazing, and if it were not for him, I could be sitting in the balcony of the Kennedy Center instead of hosting,€ Crawford said.

The late Coretta Scott King was the honorary chair of the first tribute concert, and each year, the society presents an outstanding humanitarian award to a noted individual. This year€s award will be presented by Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) to John Doar, Esq., who served as assistant attorney general, civil rights division from 1960 to 1967. He is perhaps best known as the lead Justice Department prosecutor in the case of the infamous deaths of three civil rights workers, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner, killed in Philadelphia, Miss. in 1964. "Mississippi Burning" is the feature film about the case. During the performance the Choral Arts Society will show a film tribute to Dr. King produced by Bonnie Nelson Schwartz which will also honor Doar's historic role in the civil rights movement."

The Choral Arts Society of Washington is composed of more than 190 volunteer singers and is one of the nation's pre-eminent symphonic choruses. Under the direction of Scribner, the Society has sung with the world's leading orchestras and conductors, recorded 15 acclaimed CDs, and launched a national radio program.

For this week€s concert, the society provided 300 free tickets to the public. Some limited seating is still available by calling the society at 202-244-3669.