Friday’s celebration at the Schwartz Center for the Arts will likely ring out loud enough to catch the ears of passers by. “Journey of the Spirit” celebrates black history and culture through musical performances by the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, and choruses from Wesley College and Delaware State University.
Organizers designed the production to celebrate African American heritage through music — music by black composers or written for black musicians. Organizers whittled the selections down to eight pieces, including familiar songs like “Order My Steps,” “Hallelujah,” and others.
A highlight will be “New Morning for the World, Daybreak of Freedom” by Joseph Schwantner, which was written as a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. in 1982. The piece is written for a wind orchestra and a narrator, with King’s words interspersed throughout it. In the past it’s been narrated by luminaries such as James Earl Jones, Danny Glover and even members of King’s family. On Friday, Rev. John Moore, who reenacts King’s speeches, will do the honors.
“It’s a very emotional, stirring piece. You’ll probably see a few tears in the audience,” said Sylvia Cowell, chair of the Schwartz Center board of directors.
Before the concert begins, both schools’ choral directors – Dr. Lloyd Mallory Jr. from DSU, and Dr. James Wilson from Wesley – will talk to the audience for about 30 minutes. Mallory and Wilson will discuss the history of vocal and choral music by black composers, and how these artists worked. They’ll also take questions from the audience.
The Schwartz Center has included an educational component in many of its offerings this season.
“From my standpoint, I wouldn’t want to do something like this without an educational component,” Cowell said.
Cowell stressed that “Journey of the Spirit” is for everyone, not just for students, musicians and black history buffs.
“History if something for everyone,” she said. “This is America’s history. This isn’t just black history.
“All of the races should be participating in this time.”
One of the program’s goals is to expose the public to local talent and professionals at the same time.
“You can do all of these things but it means so much more when your public hears it and sees it,” Cowell said.
This is the first time the Delaware Symphony Orchestra will leave its home in Wilmington to collaborate with DSU and Wesley students, who have been studying the music since last semester. About 60 musicians from the DSO will accompany the groups, who will each perform alone and then combine to form one large group.