The Choral Arts Society of Washington presented its 21st annual choral tribute, I Still Believe, to Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Through choruses, soloists, and instrumentalists, the tribute unifies individuals and communities to honor Dr King's ideals of nonviolence, racial equality, and peace. Joining Choral Arts in its tribute were The Heritage Signature Chorale, Performing Artists Under the Lord (PAUL), and guest violinist Marina Aikawa. All performers exhibited eloquent musical expressions in honoring the civil rights leader.
The concert began with the combined choruses processing to a fitting rendition of We're Marching to Zion (Robert Lowry), in which the audience could not help but participate. Choral Arts continued with meticulous performances of I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me (C Hubert H Parry), featuring organist William Neil, and A New Song (James Macmillan). Performing Artists Under the Lord presented the traditional hymn O Magnify the Lord with Me (arr George Lynn) and You're the One (Leon Roberts). The audience could not helped but be moved by their energy. The Heritage Signature Chorale magnificently performed The Majesty and Glory of Your Name (Tom Fettke) and then Robert Ray's Credo (from Gospel Mass) featuring alto soloist Natalie Carter, whose encore proved much to the audience's delight. The combined chorus then performed Adolphus Hailstork's In Dat Great Gittin' Up Mornin' (from Four Spirituals). It was one of those "had to be there" moments to experience the joy of some 300 voices accompanied by organ, brass, piano, guitar, bass, and keyboard.
After intermission, violinist Marina Aikawa, accompanied by her mother on piano, delighted the audience with Niccolo Paganini's Allegro maestoso (from Violin Concerto No 1, Op 6). Indeed an incredible talent to behold, and a fitting tribute to Dr King.
The highlight of the evening came as Congressman John Lewis introduced John Doar as the recipient of Choral Arts Society's 2009 humanitarian award. Mr Doar served tirelessly as an attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice and witnessed the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He traveled extensively throughout the South, documenting and litigating civil rights violations. In fact, after the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers, it was Mr Doar who alone calmed an angry crowd by placing himself between grieving black youths and a double line of heavily armed police, shouting who he was and his affiliation with the Justice Department.
The combined choruses continued with a sing-along of Lift Every Voice and Sing (J Rosamond Johnson) and then performed Come, Thou Found of Every Blessing (Robert Robinson, arr Mack Wilberg) and the traditional spiritual I Can Tell the World (Moses Hogan), which again captivated the audience with the vast number of voices. Another sing-along of Leaning On the Everlasting Arms (Anthony J Showalter, arr Howard De Cou) helped engendered a sense of wholeness that continued with an energetic and soulful rendition of Amazing Grace (arr Arphelius Paul Gatling). The spirit was further felt with pianist and baritone Ralph Alan Herndon’s performance of his Eternal Life. The evening concluded as the choruses processed out to a sing-along of one Dr King’s favorite selections If I can Help Somebody (A Bazel Androzzo).