Claire Nowak

A Concert for All Races and Creeds

Bel Canto Chorus offers a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. that tries to address segregation in Milwaukee.

By - Jan 13th, 2015 01:20 pm
MLK Tribute

MLK Tribute

Bel Canto Chorus began its annual tribute concert to Martin Luther King, Jr. four years ago. It’s director Richard Hynson reasoned that celebrating the greatest civil rights activist in what some experts say is of the nation’s most segregated cities could only help Milwaukee. After that first concert, he saw untapped potential to form a bridge between the white and African American communities.

“I believe strongly that what this program does is it allows for a free exchange to celebrate Martin Luther King,” Hynson says, “what his words meant to us then and what they still mean to us today, and how we can build on those words in meaningful ways, to walk the talk as it were.”

This year’s MLK Tribute takes place Saturday at Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ, near 35th and Hampton. Hynson has built the program around King’s own speeches and testimonials from those who worked and marches alongside him, adding in corresponding music excerpts. The music changes each year, but the 2015 selections focus on spirituals and gospel music that King found inspirational.

The concert gives diverse communities in the city a chance to interact in ways they may not be able to otherwise. Bel Canto’s repertoire covers different genres from that of Holy Redeemer Sanctuary Choir, but the MLK tribute allows them to collaborate and “run the emotional gambit” with their music, Hynson says. In past years, the combined energy of the ensembles made audience members stand up and dance during the set. “When you make music with someone, you share something incredibly intimate,” he notes. “Making music is a soul-baring experience, especially when you’re doing music that has such expression of content, like spirituals.” Hynson hopes these annual shows form an ongoing connection between the two ensembles.

In preparing for an upcoming Bel Canto program commemorating the end of the Civil War, Hynson recognized the country is still suffering the after effects of that war. Racial inequality continues to plague society, even in subtle discourse. Too many consider violence to be the solution to every dilemma.

“We’re still in a place where we haven’t solved our race problem in America,” Hynson says. “I’m not saying there’s any one race at fault. We don’t know how to deal with the notion of equal rights.”

Yet activists demanding justice in any capacity can still look to King for inspiration on how to advocate and live with purpose. In the 50s and 60s, civil rights leaders were looking to change laws on equality for all races, ethnicities and creeds. Now that those are on the books, modern protesters can push for more vigorous applications of those laws.

“King overcame his personal fear in service of something greater than himself,” Hynson says. “He was able to confront terrifying situations at great personal cost … in service to ideals that he thought were simply more important than he was.”

3 p.m. Jan. 17 at Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ, 3500 W. Mother Daniels Way. This is a free event.

Beethoven’s Pastoral

If Beethoven could have joined an online dating site, his bio would read something like: “World renowned composer. Virtuosic pianist. Enjoys long walks in the countryside.”

The German composer had a profound love of nature and repeatedly cited it as inspiration for his compositions. The most prominent of these is his Symphony No. 6 in F Major, also called the Pastoral Symphony. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra brings this beloved work to life with its program this weekend. Each of the symphony’s five movements depicts a different countryside scene, whether by a brook or in a group of dancing country folk. But the music conveys more than the natural settings; Beethoven considered it “more an expression of feeling than painting.”

The weekend’s program also features the MSO co-commission “Garages of the Valley” by Mason Bates and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s violin concerto. The latter was going to feature soloist Daniel Hope, but he had to cancel due to a herniated disc in his neck. The up-and-coming violinist Philippe Quint has agreed to step in and perform the Korngold piece. 

MSO’s world-class music director Edo de Waart will conduct the concert.

8 p.m. Jan. 16 & Jan. 17 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets range from $22-102. They are available online or by calling 414-291-7605.

A Cappella With Six Appeal

Six-piece male vocal ensemble Six Appeal brings its energy and charm to Milwaukee this weekend. The a cappella performance will feature selections from the 70s up to current pop hits, as well as original songs. The group is also hosting a workshop for student a cappella groups earlier in the day.

7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $19 in advance and $24 at the door. Purchase them online or by calling 414-766-5049.

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