Norman Philharmonic Honors Martin Luther King Jr. with Performance, Guest Speakers

NORMAN — The Norman Philharmonic, along with the University of Oklahoma will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. during a special performance on January 21. Also taking the stage will be guest speakers which include George Henderson, a prominent local advocate for ethnic diversity and interracial understanding.

The event takes place at 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, at Sharp Hall in Catlett Music Center, 500 W. Boyd St. in Norman, under the direction of Richard Zielinski, music and artistic director of the Norman Philharmonic and director of OU Choral Activities. Prior to the 3pm starting time, beginning at 2:40pm, Zielinski and organist John Morrow, will lead the choirs and audience in a sing along of  hymns, civil rights songs and popular songs from the ’60s. OU’s history of celebrating King through music inspired Zielinski to organize this year’s celebration.  

“It's all about unity, caring for each other, helping those in need no matter what,” Zielinski said. “To me this quote from Rev. King says it all: ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ My hope is that the music and speeches at our MLK event will make people pause, think about what really matters and then go out and do something to ensure civil rights and equality for generations to come.”

The event will also prominently feature American composer James Oliverio’s MLK-inspired Trumpet Concerto No. 1: World House, featuring  trumpet soloist, Karl Sievers, and Oliverio’s choral orchestral composition Drawn to the Light performed by the Norman Philharmonic and OU combined choirs.

“My initial inspiration in writing this concerto was Dr. King’s idea of the World House, our one common planet, the only place where people of all races can either learn to live together or ‘perish as fools,’” Oliverio said. “My motivation to continue presenting this work across America is to reinforce the concept of the ‘United’ States, to help remind us that we are much stronger, more productive, and ultimately better off living together in harmony than in a divisive human condition.”

The National Endowment for the Arts funded the World House Project in 2015 as a collaboration between Oliverio and the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection, with additional support from the University of Florida College of the Arts. The concerto is comprised of five movements: “A Voice from the Wilderness,” “One Human Race,” “A Message of Love,” “One Human Dream” and “A Voice from the Promised Land.”

The event also will feature Karlos K. Hill, associate professor of African and African American studies at OU and expert on racism and race relations as well as George Henderson, a retired OU professor and racial equality advocate who launched OU’s first black student association.

Henderson said OU and Norman have made strides in their interracial understanding and ethnic diversity since his arrival to the community in the 1960s, but much still must be done.

“Quoting an old saying, OU and Norman are not what they once were in terms of race relations and social justice; but they are not yet what ought to be; and they are not yet what they want to be; but I am thankful that they are not what they once were,” Henderson said. “Many battles for social, educational and economic equality have been won but many more local, state and national victories must be won in order for us to win the war against bigotry. Each of us must do what we can to prevent or abate oppressive racial and ethnic behaviors.”

Henderson stressed the importance of coming together to honor King’s legacy.

“On Jan. 21, we come together to celebrate Dr. King's civil rights accomplishments and also to celebrate the accomplishments of other like-minded people,” he said. “Integral to all of these celebrations is music that recreates memories of Dr. King and, hopefully, inspires members of the audiences to honor him with our deeds and not just our ears and voices.”

Tickets for the performance on January 21 can be purchased through the OU Fine Arts Box Office. Call (405) 325-4101 or purchase in person at 500 W. Boyd St. at Catlett Music Center. Tickets are $5 for OU faculty, staff and students, as well as seniors and military personnel. General admission tickets are $9 purchased in advance, or $10 at the door.

The Norman Philharmonic with conductor Richard Zielinski and composer James Oliverio will also present two educational concerts for students from Norman area public schools on Friday, Jan. 18 in Sharp Hall. Those performances are filled to capacity so are not open to the general public. 

About the Norman Philharmonic

The Norman Philharmonic is an innovative and standard-setting orchestra performing a variety of music, from classical to jazz to contemporary. It commissions new works from American composers; aims to establish Norman, Oklahoma, as the center of excellence in the arts; and strives to excite the youth of Oklahoma about symphonic music. The Norman Philharmonic and the Richard Zielinski Singers — under its parent organization A to Z Productions — is now one of Oklahoma’s newest nonprofit, tax-exempt cultural organizations.

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Norman Philharmonic