North Central College - Naperville, IL

Chicago Sinfonietta celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 15 at North Central College

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Jeri Lynne Johnson
Jeri Lynne Johnson

Music Director Mei-Ann Chen leads Chicago Sinfonietta’s annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 15 at North Central College.

Guest conductor Jeri Lynne Johnson, founder and music director of Philadelphia’s Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, joins Chen in leading the Sinfonietta in the performance, “The Journey, The Dream”—a selection of works that celebrate King’s pioneering fight for civil rights and his enduring legacy.

The performance begins at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, in North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville. Tickets are $45 and $35; call the North Central College Box Office at 630-637-SHOW (7469) or visit

“When I came to the United States as a teenager, Dr. King’s legacy and ‘I have a dream’ speech made a tremendous impact on me,” Chen says. “Therefore, I am extremely honored to continue the Sinfonietta’s very important tradition of its annual concert tribute to Dr. King.”

Chen opens the concert with Zoltán Kodály’s lively “Dances of Galánta” (Galántai táncok), inspired by the folk music of Kodály’s native Hungary. Johnson then takes the podium to conduct the overture to Beethoven’s delicate “Fidelio.”

Chen and Johnson share the podium for Charles Ives’ “Central Park in the Dark,” an impressionistic work that paints a vivid sound picture of Central Park at night before combustion engines and radio waves became omnipresent. This unique work calls for two conductors to be on stage at the same time.

The tribute program continues with Johnson conducting the world premiere of “Harambee: Road to Victory,” composed by renowned jazz flutist Nicole Mitchell and featuring the powerful voices of the Apostolic Church of God Sanctuary Choir. “Harambee: Road to Victory” is a work for flute, choir and orchestra that musically illustrates the hope and joy of people coming together to resolve differences and to celebrate oneness. Harambee is a Swahili term meaning “pulling together.”

The concert closes with Chen conducting the Sinfonietta and the Apostolic Choir in a selection of gospel music and spirituals, traditionally closing with a moving audience-participation rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”

North Central College’s Martin Luther King Week, Jan. 15-21, is an annual celebration of the College’s history of building bridges among cultures. This year’s celebration includes a presentation by TV/radio host Tavis Smiley on Jan. 19 and the College’s 24th annual Gospel Extravaganza on Jan. 21.

Dr. King spoke in Pfeiffer Hall in 1960, and in the 1960s North Central students traveled to Alabama to participate in civil rights demonstrations. The College was founded in 1861 by Evangelical Christians who believed strongly in abolition of slavery and equal rights regardless of race or gender.  

The Chicago Sinfonietta thanks lead season sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and lead media sponsor Chicago Sun-Times Media. A second performance of the program will take place Jan. 16 at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall of Symphony Center. Visit for more information.

Nicor, Quarles & Brady and Sara Lee Foundation are underwriting sponsors of Martin Luther King Jr. Week at North Central College. USG Corporation and Navistar, Inc. are underwriting sponsors of North Central College’s 2011-2012 Sesquicentennial Fine & Performing Arts Season. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. This performance is one of many ongoing programs at North Central College to enrich and broaden the cultural and academic outlook for the College and community. North Central offers a variety of venues accommodating a rich range of local and world-class events, performances and space needs for the public. For a comprehensive schedule of musical performances, theatrical and dance productions, art exhibits and lectures, visit or call the box office at 630-637-SHOW (7469).