The life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. was remembered and celebrated last week by the Eastman School of Music.

On Martin Luther King Day, Eastman presented a moving program titled “Let Freedom Ring II,” which featured a live reading of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

The piece was originally written by Eastman percussion student Colin Tribby, who also directed the performance.

He first premiered “Let Freedom Ring” in Kilbourn Hall in 2005 with a slightly different performance.

For this 2006 performance, Justin Poindexter from the North Carolina School of the Arts, a composer-friend of Tribby, added the strings portion of the piece.

“The inspiration for putting the piece together was essentially a feeling the holiday was not really taken seriously,” Tribby said.

He wanted to counter what he perceived as a lack of real celebration at colleges of King’s birth.

“The purpose of the performance was to find a way to create a celebration that would bring students, teachers, community members and various others together for a common cause,” Tribby said.

Once he composed the original performance, he approached Rev. Parris to perform the speech itself.

“The Reverend reads the speech, makes it his own and it takes on a feel that is both modern and rings of the past,” Tribby said. “The message of the speech still carries weight today and is complimented by the unified funk grooves the drums bring.”

The program began simply with the lone sound of Rev. Alvin Parris reading King’s speech.

On the phrase, “let us not wallow in the valley of despair,” six drum set players entered in with a sound reminiscent of James Brown’s Funky Drummer.

Then, as Parris continued the speech, the sounds of the drum sets were joined by strings, gongs, cymbals and other percussion instruments.

The mix between the text of the speech and the sounds of the instruments combined to emphasize the meaning of King’s words.

“The addition of strings and keyboard percussion was yet another layer added there that seemed to really enhance the drama of the speech,” Tribby said.

After the speech, Eastman baritone Carl Dupont Jr., the current William Warfield Scholarship recipient, performed songs that celebrated Dr. King’s legacy.

The hymns performed were both traditional, including “This Little Light of Mine” and “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me” as well as original compositions.

For the last hymn, DuPont asked the audience to stand and join him in the singing of the traditional hymn “We Shall Overcome” which was often used by Dr. King during his marches

The audience was made up of UR and Eastman students as well as other members of the Rochester community. The performance was emotionally moving, leaving many members of the audience in their seats long after the performance ended.

“I was really moved by the performance because I grew up in Georgia during the Civil Rights era,” Rochester local Nathaniel Adams said.

Even baritone Carl Dupont had tears running down his face during the performance of the last hymn.

“I really think ‘Let Freedom Ring II’ did a good job of tastefully and meaningfully celebrating King’s memory,” sophomore Emily Lyman said.

“Ideally, the piece will continue to grow in the future and be performed at more and more universities – as a communal commemoration of King,” Tribby said.

Interest is already growing and James Madison University is slated to perform the piece in 2007.

“I think it is great that this piece is going to be more nationally recognized,” sophomore Jennifer Balaban said. “I thought it was beautiful. It’s so easy for our generation to look back on King merely as a man of history, but events like this make it clear that his influence exists today. ”

Brod can be reached at mbrod@campustimes.org.



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