Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Weekend of Music and Martin

It started on Friday with the Cleveland Orchestra concert. After the orchestra filed on stage, one of them announced that they were going to come out into the audience to hand out an informational brochure. They have been playing without a contract since August and were in the midst of negotiations. The speaker said not to be afraid, that they were going to play the concert, but that a strike was a possibility, after the traditional free concert they were giving on Monday, MLK's birthday. I think the audience was sympathetic, and even more so after an amazing concert: Strauss' "Don Juan" and Brahms' 2nd Symphony. As my friend Kim said afterwards, "They wanted us to know what we'd be missing and they knocked the music out of the ball park." It was extraordinary and exciting. I heard on the radio this morning that they are now on strike. It's only one of the top orchestras in the world, and we're lucky to have it right up the road from here. Almost every cultural organization in the country is in deep financial trouble, the kind of organizations that contribute to our sense of well being and enrich our lives.

I feel a bit shallow and elitist, however, writing about that when people are dying in Haiti. I'm sure the salaries of orchestra musicians are not exactly a priority when that poorest of nations is suffering so terribly. It would be nice if we could have both support of the arts and support for and help for the men, woman and children who are bereft of medical care, food, water, and shelter, and will be for some time. This is a good site to go to for contributions because I like the idea of those two ex-presidents working together for the common good. That's how it should be at all times, a concept which seems to have escaped most of those in public life.

Saturday morning I was a storyteller at the annual MLK Prayer Breakfast which the NAACP sponsors. I had never been to this affair and it was really fun. Our NAACP is quite diversified I used to be member during the Civil Rights era. I remember marching with thousands in downtown Akron, hoping that some crack pot wasn't lurking in one of the buildings with a shot gun, hoping to pick off a few of us. This was right after Viola Liuzzo was shot in Selma and the horrendous violence at the Edmond Pettus Bridge. It was a scary time. It culminated in the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which was a beginning. The meal itself was perfect and included grits, which I appreciated. The program included poetry, a moving video of MLK, several presentations by young students, and storytelling. One of the storytellers was a former student from one of my workshops. She did a first person narrative in the person of a participant in the march in Selma, which was excellent. I did a folk tale from the oral tradition. There were two women singers who lifted me right out of my seat with their beautiful voices. It was a fine way to spend a morning and remember MLK.

On Sunday afternoon , the UCC Church sponsored a performance of the Prayer Warriors, a gospel group from Akron. I had heard them a couple of times, once at a folk festival and again at Akron's New Year's Eve First Night. They are a powerful group whose music can make you almost get religion - almost. They are not about ritual, but about praise and worship. They rocked that white bread church right out of its pews. I happen to be reading "The Known World," about free Blacks and slaves in the Pre-Civil War South and I wonder how such faith and joy could survive what they have gone through. It was a wonderful concert.

So I began the weekend with Brahms and ended it with music of the people and remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. Made my head spin it did.


Unknown said...

I enjoyed sharing two-thirds of those events with you, especially the concert. That white bread church sure did rock. "The Known World" is an incredible book .... Roger D.(aka Google's Rodney for some reason)

SallyB said...

I'm glad you're enjoying "The Known World", Ma. I knew you'd like it. I loved it when I read it and it's no wonder it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction a few years ago, a well deserved honor. I saw that Roger mentioned you in his column in the R-C the other day regarding the MLK breakfast and your storytelling during it! Cool!