Lamont concert pays tribute to Martin Luther King
To Joe Martin, director of the Lamont Wind Ensemble, the week between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the start read more…
To Joe Martin, director of the Lamont Wind Ensemble, the week between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the start of black history month was the perfect time to stage his long-envisioned tribute both to King and to African-American composers. Slated for Jan. 30 at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, the free concert will feature Denver Mayor Michael Hancock as narrator for the composition at the center of the show: New Morning for the World: Daybreak of Freedom, by Joseph Schwantner.
Written in 1982, the piece sets spoken excerpts from King’s speeches to music reflecting the tense and ever-changing nature of the times in which he delivered them.
“It opens up with very angular percussion lines and brass lines; it’s very pointed and jutting, and the irregular rhythms add to that sense of instability — that things need to be resolved and they need to be paid attention to,” Martin says. “It doesn’t ask for forgiveness; it just goes right at you immediately.
“Then, about halfway through the piece, it changes to some of the most beautiful choral writing I’ve heard in his music,” Martin continues. “It’s lush and gentle and reflective, but in a way that’s sad and mournful — almost a sense of regret that so many people had to endure this injustice and that we’re still, after 100 years, in that same dialogue. I feel like the music does a wonderful job of going back and forth with the narration and really capturing the essence of what the words are.”
The evening’s program also features Rosa Parks Boulevard, by American composer Michael Daugherty; Roma, by African-American composer Valerie Coleman, a member of the New York-based Imani Winds quintet; and Folk Suite for Band, by black composer William Grant Still.
“[Still was] known as the dean of African-American composers,” Martin says. “He was the first African-American composer to conduct a major symphony orchestra, the first one to write a symphony that was performed by a major symphony orchestra, the first to have an opera performed. He won two Guggenheims and really laid the groundwork for Valerie Coleman and other African-American composers to follow. So it’s a really nice tribute and a more simple, folk music-type expression before we get into the deep complexity of what Schwantner has to say in his piece.”
Director of the 45-member Lamont Wind Ensemble since he came to DU 16 years ago, Martin first became familiar with New Morning for the World when he performed it as part of an orchestra in Los Angeles when he was a college student.
“Danny Glover at that time was the narrator,” he says. “And it was really life-changing, not just because of the power of the piece but because of the vocabulary. As a young performer, you’re locked into some preconceptions about how music is supposed to be, and every time you hear a piece of music that blows apart all those preconceptions, it really opens the door for more possibilities.”
The Lamont Wind Ensemble performs New Morning for the World: Daybreak of Freedom and other pieces at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30 in June Swaner Gates Concert Hall at the Newman Center. Admission is free and no tickets are required