City Lights Orchestra celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr

The Chicago-based City Lights Orchestra celebrated the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail in an 11-minute rhapsody composed by Bradley Williams and narrated by Art Hoyle.

The piece begins with introspective piano and horns reminiscent of a Miles Davis / Gil Evans collaborations. The melody undulates and swells into a subtly rousing jazz interlude with hints of a New Orleans second line march.

A selection of quotes from King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail recited by Art Hoyle are layered over the music, which gradually returns to its original mood.

Reverend King wrote Letter from a Birmingham Jail in 1963 after he was arrested and jailed for “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing.” He was one of many people who took part in the Birmingham Campaign, a series of coordinated marches and sit-ins against racism and racial segregation that began on April 3.



A great American tradition
Letter from a Birmingham Jail celebrates the great American tradition of civil disobedience. It contains a number of declarations that support a citizen’s right to exercise the divine superiority of their individual consciousness.

Many of the lines written by Reverend King are now woven into the nation’s moral fabric:

”I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.

My approach is being dismissed as extremist I must admit that I was initially disappointed in being so categorized. But as I came to think about the matter, I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction for being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? Bless them that curse you.

Voices of Freedom
Letter from a Birmingham Jail is one of six tracks featured on the City Lights Orchestra’s Voices of Freedom album, which was recorded for the benefit of The City Lights Foundation.

Verbalizing the words of several great Americans whose statements and reflections have helped to shape and perpetuate modern democracy, Voices aims to “breathe new life into some amazing thoughts and ideas,” according to the City Light Orchestra website.

The City Lights Orchestra
The City Lights Orchestra is a Chicago-based, 45-piece national entertainment attraction for corporate events, association events, and non-for-profit charitable galas. Guided by Musical Director Rich Daniels and Associate Musical Director Dean Rolando, the group has appeared with top-notch national musicians like Ray Charles, Mel Torme, Paul McCartney since its inception in 1974.

Art Hoyle
Arthur Hoyle is a US Air Force veteran and Chicago-based musician who has recorded and played with a legion of greats including Lionel Hampton, Quincy Jones, Sun Ra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sara Vaughan, and the Chi-Lites.

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