Concerts pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.


Two concerts featuring music inspired by and dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. and performed by a bevy of accomplished Bay Area and New York musicians are scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 24 and 25, at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto.

The annual event, which is in its sixth year, is a benefit for the school, located at 1041 Myrtle St. The program is titled "Walk Together a Musical Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. and the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act."

The program includes spirituals, freedom songs and instrumental music in traditional and jazz styles. Performers in the line-up are pianist Josephine Gandolfi and soprano Yolanda Rhodes of Menlo Park; pianists/vocalists LaDoris Cordell and Deanne Tucker; pianist Valerie Capers; violinist Susan C. Brown; cellist Victoria Ehrlich; John Robinson, bass and cello; clarinetist Carol Somersille; John Worley, trumpet; John Monroe, trombone; Rufus Olivier III, bassoon; and Jim Kassis, percussion.

The Eastside Preparatory School Choir will also perform, with Jansen Verplank on keyboard and David Chaidez directing.

The program includes several original compositions. Valerie Capers' multi-movement work, "In Praise of Freedom," is based on Dr. King's March on Washington speech. Her arrangement of "Hold On: Keep your Eyes on the Prize" is a new version of a spiritual frequently sung by freedom singers of the 1960s. Also, new chamber works by John Robinson and Joshua McGhee will be premiered.

Also on the program are works by William Grant Still, Dizzy Gillespie, Dolores White, Zenobia Powell Perry, Lena McLin, Fats Waller and Donny Hathaway.

The series of annual concerts became a springboard for a related project, which came into being in 2013 when concert organizers Josephine Gandolfi, LaDoris Cordell and Deanne Tucker formed the African American Composer Initiative. It's an enterprise dedicated to the performance and proliferation of music by African American composers. More information is at aacinitiative.org.

Concert tickets are $20 general and $5 for students and seniors. They can be purchased online through Brown Paper Tickets. For information, call 688-0850.

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