The Wind Symphony channeled some of the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr and other reformers at their spring concert on April 26 in Cowles Auditorium Main Stage. They played pieces by various composers, but the final piece “New Morning for the World: Daybreak of Freedom” by Joseph Schwantner, was the focus of the concert. The piece featured narration by Dr. Larry Burnley, who read selections from Martin Luther King, Jr’s work, including portions of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Richard Strauch, Wind Symphony director, first heard the piece, originally arranged for orchestra, on the radio several years ago on Martin Luther King, Jr Day. He liked the piece immediately, and soon found a similar arrangement for winds. Burnley was his first choice for the narration because of his love for MLK, Strauch said.
“I knew nothing about it, I’m not even familiar with the piece,” Burnley said. “He just contacted me, came up to the office and said he had something [he] wanted to ask [me] about, and he came and presented it. I was honored, and really didn’t know quite what I was getting into in terms of the depth of this piece.”
The various aspects of the piece complement each other, and give each other deeper meaning. Burnley described the impact of the narration and music as the music in church, because it resonates with people.
“The [music and narration] together takes you to a place of both memory, in terms of history, in terms of connecting to the struggle of my predecessors, my ancestors if you will,” Burnley said.
Freshman Amanda Sheller, who has been playing the oboe since she was in 7th grade, had never performed a piece like “New Morning for the World” with narration and such a serious message before.
The piece left a significant impact on Sheller, who feels that it is important to remember that civil rights issues are not only events in history books, but still exist to an extent today.
“I can empathize with people and I can remember the history and I can work to change it, but I didn't live it, my parents didn’t live it, my grandparents didn’t live it,” Sheller said.
As part of the Wind Symphony, Sheller appreciates the self-motivation and drive of her fellow musicians. Although the ensemble is much more difficult than any she has participated in before, being involved is worth it, Sheller said. She juggles the responsibility of being both a Wind Symphony member and a biology major, which both take extreme commitment and dedication, but do not overlap in other ways.
“I’ve gotten used to just being constantly frightened,” Sheller said. Although delegating attention between her two time-consuming interests is difficult, it is completely worth it, Sheller said.
The Schwantner piece, though technically and musically difficult, was also emotionally charged and impactful.
Burnley, Strauch, and the members of the Wind Symphony hoped to convey a sense of remembrance for Martin Luther King, Jr. and the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement through their performance.
“I hope it arouses curiosity and I hope on some level [audience members] can connect personally to this, and they want to know more, that it inspires appetite of wanting more,” Burnley said.