Joseph Schwantner’s piece, “New Morning for the World,” will be performed on Jan. 28, with the Eastman Philharmonia in Eastman Theatre at 8 p.m. Neil Varon will conduct with narration performed by UR Vice President Paul Burgett, former dean of both Eastman and UR.
The story begins when Freeman, an avid baseball fan, watched the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series in 1979. African-American Willie Stargell, captain of the Pirates, motivated Freeman – also of African-American decent – to dream of infusing Martin Luther King Jr.’s words with the sounds of the Eastman Philharmonia, using Stargell to narrate. Luckily for him, Schwantner and Stargell were more than happy to oblige.
The Eastman Philharmonia premiered this exciting event in 1983 while on tour, reaching the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Philadelphia’s Academy of Music and Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall, culminating in Rochester’s own Eastman Theatre. Burgett, then dean, was asked to join as the understudy for Stargell, in the case of an emergency. The trip went smoothly, and Burgett’s talents were not employed.
“We packed the houses. There is a kind of excitement that comes with a premiere, a tour and the celebrity factor,” Burgett said.
Though it has been many years since the premiere, Burgett is confident that this performance will be equally special. “This philharmonia is astonishing. I think it has only gotten better in the ensuing years,” Burgett said.
“[The music] brings back fond memories of the wonderful idea of Robert Freeman, who made all of it possible,” Burgett said.
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