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With Inspirational Words and Music, RPO Pays Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 04, 2008

Rochester, NY – The many aspects of the work and life of the great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be represented through music in two free Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra “Around the Town” concerts on Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. at Spencerport High School and Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. at the Performance Hall at Hochstein.  (In a serendipitous choice of venues, Saturday evening’s performance at Hochstein also is a symbolic remembrance of the original site as a station on the Underground Railroad.)  With the well-known preacher and musician Pastor Alvin Parris III as guest narrator and RPO trumpeter Herb Smith as soloist, guest conductor Paul Shewan leads the Orchestra in works honoring Dr. King’s life.

Beethoven’s “Egmont” Overture – the tragic story of persecution and a fight for freedom from oppression – fittingly opens the program.  RPO trumpeter Herb Smith demonstrates both his classical and jazz expertise respectively, in Telemann’s Concerto for Trumpet and Ira Gershwin/Vernon Duke’s I Can’t Get Started with You. The RPO also performs the 1946 Lyric for Strings by Pulitzer Prize-winning African-American composer and Eastman School of Music alumnus George Walker. “A Call to Worship” from Jeff Tyzik’s Pleasant Valley Suite, leads into the final work, Aaron Copland’s powerful 1942 Lincoln Portrait, narrated by Pastor Parris.  Lincoln Portrait utilizes excerpts from famous Lincoln speeches including one with an eerie parallel to Dr. King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech: “The fight must go on. The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one or even one hundred defeats. . . . Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

Alvin Parris III has been a preacher since 1976, and has served as both Associate Pastor and Director of the Worshipping Arts Ministry at New Life Fellowship since 1980.  A native of Washington, D.C., and a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Parris is known for the wide variety of his gospel songs, hymns, anthems and symphonic works which have been performed in the United States and abroad.  He has been a guest lecturer at the University of Rochester, has served as instrumental supervisor at John Marshall High School and helped establish gospel choirs at many Rochester-area colleges.

Herb Smith has a busy career combining duties as RPO third trumpet, leader of his own jazz quartet, trumpet instructor at the Eastman School of Music, arranger and composer. A 1991 graduate of the Eastman School of Music, he has played with the Cincinnati Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, the Chautauqua Symphony, Skaneateles Summer Festival Orchestra and the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra.  He has played with many notable performers including Natalie Cole, Doc Severinsen, Wynton Marsalis and Chuck Mangione, among others. 

Paul Shewan is assistant professor at Roberts Wesleyan College where he conducts the Wind Ensemble and Brass Ensemble, teaches trumpet, conducting and instrumental music education classes. He also conducts the RWC Community Orchestra. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Roberts Wesleyan and a Masters in Trumpet Performance and Literature as well as a DMA in conducting from the Eastman School of Music. As fourth trumpet, Dr. Shewan performs regularly with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Around the Town program is a community partnership in which the RPO moves from the concert hall into various neighborhoods to perform six free concerts per year designed to engage audiences with light classics and familiar favorites.  Venues include houses of worship and other community locations.  The partner venues assist with promoting the concert in their neighborhood and serve as liaison between the RPO and their community.  Around the Town concerts are sponsored by The Democrat and Chronicle, The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation and the Rochester Area Community Foundation.  

Celebrating its 85th season in 2007-08, the RPO inspires and enriches the community through the art of music.  The Orchestra is passionately dedicated to outstanding musical performance at the highest artistic levels, and has a unique tradition of musical versatility, commitment to music education in the broadest sense and a deep and enduring engagement with the community.  The RPO has been honored with the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and two recent ASCAP awards for adventurous programming.  RPO performances are made possible in part with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; the State of New York; Monroe County and the City of Rochester. 

Note: Interviews with and photos of the guest artists are available on request.

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