Cue the strings. Cue the brass. Cue the woodwinds, and percussion instruments.
Why? The 28th annual Celebration of Black History concert will be on Feb. 5, at 7:30 p.m. at the Hilbert Theatre on Monument Circle. The performance honors the significant influence of African-American culture on classical and symphonic music, as well as the artistry from all Black artists, conductors and composers.
Kevin McBeth, a 30-year veteran in the music ministry and in leading choral music ensembles will conduct the orchestra.
A native of Houston, McBeth is the director of music at Manchester United Methodist Church, in suburban St. Louis and unison chorus director for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
He serves as full-time administrator for the music ministry, which includes 18 choral and handbell ensembles, involving nearly 500 children, youth and adults.
McBeth is bringing his genuineness to Indianapolis.
“This is a time for celebration. After watching the inauguration and hearing the president urging us to all come together, that’s exactly what we will celebrate,” said McBeth. “This concert will have music everyone will enjoy.”
Duke Ellington’s “Black, Brown, and Beige,” and several moving spirituals performed by internationally renowned baritone Lawrence Craig are among the songs to be played during the Black History Concert. Each song beautifully restates the history of African-Americans.
Musicians in the symphony come from all over the world. Many believe this adds a fresh, new dynamic to the orchestra.
“Music has become global. It’s exciting to see diversity in programming,” McBeth says. “It’s even expected. I try to include an African piece on nearly every concert. The wonderful thing is the world is embracing all types of music. In fact, I think people are hungry for it.”
I Have a Dream
This year’s program includes Michael Abels’ “Dance for Martin’s Dream,” Barber’s stirring “Adagio for Strings” with accompanying narration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” by Denise Herd, founder and owner of Indianapolis-based Herd Strategies.
Herd is grateful to take on such an impacting role during the memorable concert. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the reading of the “I Have a Dream” speech will honor that time in history.
“To serve as a vessel to recite those profound words is an honor and a huge, awesome responsibility,” Herd said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Herd states that it will be a unique experience for everyone in attendance. Many of us have grown up with the knowledge of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, but to hear the words accompanied with the brilliance of music creates a whole new experience she said.
“It’s called Black History Month because February is the founding month, but our history should be celebrated 365 days a year. People should always participate in the culture and diversity of our community,” Herd said.