Music for MLK Day

The third Monday of January is the only federal holiday designated as a day of service. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was signed into law in 1983 and first observed in 1986. You can read about the evolution of federal holidays in this Congressional Research Service report to Congress.

First page of facsimile score, Martin Luther King by composer Eubie Blake and lyricist Noble Sissle, 1968. Call number ML96.5.B625 no. 1 CASE.

But, what does this day have to do with music? There is a wealth of music composed in honor of Dr. King by eminent composers, including Luciano Berio, Michael Colgrass, Jeffrey Mumford, Elie Siegmeister, and Dana Wilson. Want to dig deeper? There’s a reference resource for that: A Catalog of Music Written in Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.! In the 2012 third edition of this programming resource, readers will find music for nearly any instrumentation to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. through music, from orchestra, to band, to solo instruments, to choir. The book also includes a discography and a helpful index of works about specific people.

Front cover of A Catalog of Music Written in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., 3rd edition, compiled and edited by Anthony McDonald. Call number ML128.B45 M33 2012.

 

In order for the resource to further assist programming music about peace, justice, and civil rights, 150 classical works listed are specifically in honor of or about King, with additional works about or dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Rosa Parks, Paul Robeson, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers. This catalog lives on the reference shelves of the Performing Arts Reading Room, so you don’t even have to fill out a call slip to use it. Just get a Reader ID Card and come on in!

First page of the holograph score for Peaceful Warrior (Martin Luther King Suite) by Benny Carter, third movement, “Peaceful Warrior,” 1996. Call number ML30.27b.C37 no. 1 CASE fol.

 

One work I would like to highlight that is not listed in McDonald’s book is special to the Music Division because it was commissioned with the Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund: Peaceful Warrior (Martin Luther King Suite) by Benny Carter. This five-movement suite for vocalists with big band premiered at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC on June 8, 1996 by Benny Carter and the Benny Carter Orchestra. The Music Division holds a holograph score in pencil.

I hope you reflect upon the man and the musical ways to remember him this MLK Day.

It’s Snow Time!

Oh give me the snow, the white wing’d snow That falls from the wint’ry sky That robes the earth in a vest of white, And sparkles and shines as the sun’s rich light, Like a starry arch on high. I love the snow! I love the snow! I love the snow! - John Brown, “I Love […]

Happy Birthday Chris Potter

Every generation has its saxophone heroes in jazz: Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane all continue to inspire players in every style on just about every instrument. One of the great saxophonists and multi-instrumentalists of this generation is the Chicago-born, Columbia, South Carolina-raised Chris Potter. For the past three decades he’s been drawing […]

The Andre Kostelanetz Sound – Now Online

Andre Kostelanetz was a conductor, arranger, and pianist known for juxtaposing popular and classical repertoire in radio broadcasts and concert performances with some of the world’s leading orchestras. The newest digital collection from the Library of Congress Music Division, the “Andre Kostelanetz Collection,” presents the Kostelanetz sound through a selection of correspondence, photographs, scores, diary entries, sound recordings, and moving image material.

Rosa Parks: In Music

Today marks the opening of a new exhibition at the Library of Congress dedicated to civil rights activist Rosa Parks. “Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words” draws from material in the Library’s Rosa Parks Collection to tell the life story of this remarkable woman, including her early life and activism, the Montgomery bus boycott, the […]

Gilbert Miller and His World

The following is a guest post by Senior Theater Specialist Walter Zvonchenko. Gilbert Miller (1884-1969) was one of the most active and successful theatrical producers of the 20th century.  He had offices in New York and London, had many connections with theatrical offices across Europe, and was responsible for presenting some of the finest in […]