Star Staff Reports
IRIS Orchestra and Clayborn Temple will co-present “Celebrating the Past: Creating a Future,” a free, community inclusive family concert in honor of Black History Month at 2 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the historic edifice.
By partnering with Clayborn Temple, IRIS has furthered its own musical movement, by embracing the Civil Rights Movement, in the most appropriate venue. The Clayborn Temple served as home base for the sanitation worker strikes of 1968, and recently received a $400,000 National Parks Service restoration grant to serve the community and new generations through religious, educational and community presentations. The special event is sponsored by Lynne and Henry Turley and AutoZone. Media sponsor is WLOK Radio.
IRIS’s newest initiative, IRIS Artist Fellows C3Strings, was first established in 2016 and features a multicultural string trio including Ashley Vines, viola; Ajibola Rivers, cello: and Mariama Alcântara, violin. The trio will join a host of local schools for the concert in celebration of diversity. Shelby County School participants include Kingsbury H.S. and Overton H.S., as well as Art for Life’s Sake and Carpenter Art Garden. The production will be interactive in design with blended narration and musical performances, including oral histories by leaders, such as Art for Life’s Sake Director Dr. Hattie Isen, who had front row seats to the early Civil Rights Movement, according to IRIS Director of Community Initiatives and IRIS Artist Fellows Coordinator Rebecca Arendt. A full-house sing-along will be part of the evening of remembrance and celebration of unity. Ms. Arendt, together with IRIS Development Director Marcia Kaufmann and Clayborn Temple Operations Director Bill Ganus, developed the event’s intergenerational concept. “We are now working with IRIS Artist Fellow Ashley Vines on implementing these significant concepts,” said Ms. Arendt.
“Music is one of the most exciting and powerful ways to bring communities together,” Ms. Vines said. “It’s my honor to participate in this project, which will not only bring together some of Memphis’s best arts organizations and schools, but also reignite the community surrounding Clayborn Temple.”
The afternoon’s concert, according to Ms. Vines, represents an eclectic repertoire. IRIS’s C3Strings will perform Lift Every Voice and Sing which is referred to as the “Black American National Anthem,” a song written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1899 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1905. It was publicly performed first as a poem, as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, 1900, by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Fla. C3Strings also will perform Marvin Gaye’s R&B selection, What’s Going On, a Motown label released in 1971 and inspired by the need to heal social ills. In addition, Art for Life’s Sake will present Somebody, Someday, a poetic musical reflection by Herbert W. Brewster on perseverance. Kingsbury H.S. will perform When Johnny Comes Marching Home, a song written by Patrick Gilmore during the Civil War to reflect the longing for the return of troops; and Overton H.S. will bring Beale Street Blues, a 1916 song by the legendary W.C. Handy and a tribute to Memphis, Home of the Blues. (History source: Wikipedia.org)
The event’s narrator will be Kenon Walker, according to Mr. Ganus. Kenon is an actor who has helped develop guided tours for the National Civil Rights Museum and the Stax Museum and is the events manager at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Ganus said. “Clayborn Temple seeks to use the rich history and architecture of the space to connect important conversations with the community. Events that combine multiple organizations, disciplines, and audiences embody the spirit and the history of Clayborn Temple.”
IRIS Artist Fellowship is designed to address the underrepresentation (4 percent) of African Americans and Latinos in the classical music realm, and with the intention of creating a platform for rising professionals to advance into successful musical careers. IRIS Fellows are comprised of outstanding musicians from across the country who live for one year in Memphis and spend 20 hours per week working within Memphis area schools, as well as performing with IRIS Orchestra. In cooperation with Memphis Music Initiative, school outreach in 2017 includes Snowden K-8, Kingsbury Elementary, Caldwell-Guthrie Elementary and Douglass K-8 Optional School.
Interested in donating to the program? Contact IRIS Development Director Marcia Kaufmann at email@example.com or call 751-7669.
For more on IRIS, visit www.irisorchestra.org and like us on Facebook/Iris Orchestra. For more on Clayborn Temple, visit https://www.claybornreborn.org/.