‘Living the Dream… Singing the Dream Celebrating the Legacy of MLK’ at The Kennedy Center by Audrey Thornton


Kudos to another sold-out season performance of The Choral Arts Society of Washington and the Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS). For the third year, the societies commanded a musical feast of nearly 300 talented voices, with piano accompaniments, complete with African dance by Step Afrika! in The Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall on Sunday evening, February 10, 2013, by lifting their voices in joyful celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both organizations showed musical depth and breadth, with  The Choral Arts Society reaching international audiences in Argentina, Brazil, France, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

Choral Arts Artistic Director Scott Tucker conducts the audience as well as combined choruses in the finale of 'Living the Dream… Singing the Dream, the 25th anniversary of Choral Arts’ MLK choral tribute' in partnership with WPAS. Photo by Russell Hirshorn.

Choral Arts Artistic Director Scott Tucker conducts the audience as well as combined choruses in the finale of ‘Living the Dream… Singing the Dream, the 25th anniversary of Choral Arts’ MLK choral tribute’ in partnership with WPAS. Photo by Russell Hirshorn.

Scott Tucker, Artistic Directors Stanley Thurston and Jakari Sherman, and Director Michelle Fowlin collaborated in their individual settings to bring listening pleasure to a rapt audience of all ages. Each director, a seasoned artist in their own right, masterfully conducted renditions of “Praise His Holy Name,” “Salmo 150,” and “Shout Unto God.” Reading the translation of “Salmo 150’s” closing line, Omnis spiritus laudet Dominum, poignantly touched and inspired me, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”

Continuing a nine-year tradition of honoring individuals who embody Dr. Martin Luther King’s spirit of nonviolent struggle for Civil Rights, the 2013 Choral Arts’ Annual Humanitarian Award was presented in absentia to Nelson Mandela. Presented by Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, of the Embassy of South Africa, accepted the award; drawing an irrefutable parallel between the scourges of apartheid and segregation, he spoke eloquently and proudly of Mandela’s nonviolent contribution to humanity. Ambassador Rasool, with reconciliation as his cornerstone, also noted the contribution of another great humanitarian, Mahatma Gandhi, sketching the metaphor of a golden triangle of these three heroes of peace, justice and freedom.

Barely ten years old, Step Afrika! has the honor of being the first professional company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping, a form of dance with broad African American appeal, especially among college and university students. The troupe of thirteen dancers drew appreciative applause for their energized, athletic repertoire, of which some movements seemed near impossible to perform— but they did.

I found it difficult to name one personal favorite, as the entire program was outstanding, but each for a different reason: I enjoyed the beauty of trained professional vocal artists wafted throughout the auditorium as Ms. Fowlin artfully conducted “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace;” Mr. Thurston for his resounding delivery of “Elijah Rock” which drew standing applause and gave me ‘happy feet’; and Mr. Tucker masterfully conducting the closing rendition of “If I Can Help Somebody” left me and the audience well satiated. But the high-stepper for my money was guest soloist and artist Ralph Alan Herndon’s rendition of “I Still Have Joy.” I wondered, how could anyone sit still on that?

Special guest Step Afrika! performs 'Living the Dream… Singing the Dream, the 25th anniversary of Choral Arts’ MLK choral tribute in partnership with WPAS'. Photo by Russell Hirshorn.

Special guest Step Afrika! performs ‘Living the Dream… Singing the Dream, the 25th anniversary of Choral Arts’ MLK choral tribute in partnership with WPAS’. Photo by Russell Hirshorn.

Running Time: Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Living the Dream…Singing the Dream played February 10, 2013 at 7:00 p.m., at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Center – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For future tickets and Information, call (800) 444-1324, or (202) 467-4600, or purchase them online.

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