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VSO plans Martin Luther King Jr. tribute

sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra announced Friday it will perform a free concert paying homage to Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 14 in Norfolk. The event aims to embody the Civil Rights leader’s focus on bringing people together.

“It’s more important now than ever to celebrate him,” said VSO music director JoAnn Falletta, adding that King’s focus on peace and unity make for “a message that still needs to be heard.”

The concert continues a decades-long tradition of the VSO honoring Martin Luther King Jr. through artistic expression. Falletta said the initiative helps foster relationships between local communities, churches and the symphony itself.

“Every year, it’s a little different,” she said. “But it’s always joyful. It’s always inspiring.”

This year’s concert begins with “The Star Spangled Banner” and then transitions into “Symphony No. 1” by 20th century African-American composer William Grant Still. The concert also features Duke Ellington’s “Three Black Kings,” which in part commemorates King’s life.

Kendall Gonzales, a 14-year-old cellist, will perform a traditional virtuoso solo as a part of the symphony’s ongoing efforts to recognize young talent.

The Norfolk State University Vocal Jazz Ensemble, dancer Elbert Watson and VSO principal violist Beverly Baker are among the other performers who will take the stage.

The concert’s inclusive message is underscored by its free admission.

“Sometimes there are various barriers for people coming to concerts,” Falletta said, citing examples of potential inhibitors like expensive tickets, inconvenient locations and confusing dress codes. “We’re breaking down those barriers. Music is everyone’s heritage.”

Want to go?

The VSO’s Martin Luther King Jr. tribute concert celebrates 7 p.m. Jan. 14 at Calvary Revival Church, 5833 Poplar Hall Drive, Norfolk. Free.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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