Chicago Sinfonietta’s 25th Anniversary Season Continues MLK Weekend with Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

logfoChicago Sinfonietta continues its milestone 25th Anniversary Season with its Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., celebrating the universal lessons of Dr. King with music from the American South to the African plains.  Before 2013’s special guest – Grammy Award®-winning bass-baritone Eric Owens – takes the stage as a vocalist, he will first pick up the baton to make his debut as conductor.  Led for a second year by Sinfonietta Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, the annual MLK concert has been a cherished Sinfonietta tradition since its founding in 1987 by Dr. Paul Freeman.  The 2013 Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is presented at Wentz Concert Hall of North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Avenue in Naperville, Sunday, January 20 at 3 p.m. and at Orchestra Hall of Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, Monday, January 21 at 7:30 p.m. (the official MLK holiday).  The Sinfonietta is proud to have Fifth Third Bank as the Lead Sponsor of this concert.

Chen opens the concert with a rare performance of The Oak by Florence Price, the first African-American woman to achieve international recognition as a symphonic composer.  In 1932 Price, a Chicagoan, won the first and second place of the Wanamaker Foundation Awards, and the following year the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered her winning composition, Symphony in E Minor.  She had subsequent works performed by the orchestras of Detroit, Pittsburgh and Brooklyn, marking a first for an African-American woman to have her work presented on stages at this level.

For the second selection on the program, opera star Owens makes his professional podium debut conducting Samuel Barber’s inspiring Adagio for Strings.

“One of my goals for the Sinfonietta, and a personal passion of mine, is to help expose talented diverse conductors to our audience,” said Chen.  “At last year’s MLK concert I invited Jerilynn Johnson to share the podium with me, and I am very excited to be able to provide opera superstar Eric Owens with his debut conducting opportunity at this year’s performances.”

Maestro Chen returns to lead Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, featuring Chicago native Anthony McGill, principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, as soloist.  The program continues with African composer Obo Addy’s Wawshishijay, a work originally created for the Kronos Quartet on its album Pieces of Africa.

Owens returns to the stage as a vocalist for the Chicago Premiere of I’m a Soldier (Spiritual Suite) arranged by Lena McLin, one of America’s foremost African-American composers.  Born in Atlanta and raised in Chicago, McLin – a childhood and personal friend of Dr. King – has more than 200 choral works, cantatas and musicals published; she is one of the most published African-American female composers of the Twentieth Century.  Most of these compositions are written in the American Folk Tradition – choral and solo arrangements of spirituals along with blues, jazz and gospel compositions.

For the remaining gospel portion of the program (a traditional part of the MLK tribute since the beginning), the award‐winning Mosaic Choir,under the musical direction of Mark Myers, Choral Music Educator, from Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, joins the orchestra with an internationally flavored selection of songs, including “This Is My Prayer” (African-American), “Janger” (Indonesian), “Ntakana” (South African) and “Total Praise” (African-American), all orchestrated by Sam Shoup.

The concert concludes in the same joyous tradition begun by Dr. Freeman, with the audience joining together to sing “We Shall Overcome.”


Single tickets range from $40-$50 for concerts at Wentz Concert Hall and $26-$50 for concerts at Symphony Center, with special $10 pricing available for students.  Tickets can be purchased by calling the Chicago Sinfonietta at 312-236-3681 ext. 2 or online at

About the Guest Artists

Grammy Award®-winning American bass-baritone Eric Owens has carved a unique place in the contemporary opera world as both an esteemed interpreter of classic works and a champion of new music. Equally at home in concert, recital and opera performances, Owens continues to bring his powerful poise, expansive voice and instinctive acting faculties to stages around the world.  Owens’s career operatic highlights include his San Francisco Opera debut in Otello conducted by Donald Runnicles; his Royal Opera, Covent Garden, debut in Norma; Aida at Houston Grand Opera; Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Bohème at Los Angeles Opera; Die Zauberflöte for his Paris Opera (Bastille) debut; and Ariodante and L’Incoronazione di Poppea at the English National Opera. He sang Collatinus in a highly acclaimed Christopher Alden production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at Glimmerglass Opera. A former member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Owens has sung Sarastro, Mephistopheles in Faust, Frère Laurent, Angelotti in Tosca, and Aristotle Onassis in the world premiere of Jackie O with that company.

Principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (Met), Anthony McGill has been recognized as one of classical music’s finest solo, chamber and orchestral musicians.  Before joining the Met Orchestra in 2004, he served as associate principal clarinet of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.  On January 20, 2009, McGill performed Air and Simple Gifts by John Williams with Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Gabriela Montero at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.  In 2000, McGill was a winner of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and in March of 2012 was one of the first three artists to receive the Sphinx Organization’s Medal of Excellence.

Mosaic Choiris part of a larger choral program of 15 vocal ensembles involving more than 300 students at Waubonsie Valley High School.  Choral students have toured both nationally and internationally, with recent tours to Los Angeles and New York City as well as Italy, South Africa and Australia.  The Music Department at Waubonsie Valley has been recognized for excellence in music education on several occasions by the Grammy Foundation through designation as a Grammy Signature School (1999, 2003-2006) and as a Grammy Gold Signature School (2007, one of only three in the nation, and 2011, one of only six in the nation).  The Waubonsie Valley Music Department was also recognized by the NAMM Foundation in 2011 as one of the “Best Communities for Music Education.”  Waubonsie Valley High School serves students from the Western Chicago Suburbs of Aurora and Naperville.

About the Chicago Sinfonietta

For 25 years, the Chicago Sinfonietta has pushed artistic and social boundaries to provide an alternative way of hearing, seeing and thinking about a symphony orchestra.  Each concert experience fuses inventive new works from a diverse array of voices with classical masterworks to entertain, transform and inspire.

The Chicago Sinfonietta has a proud history of having enriched the cultural, educational and social quality of life in Chicago.  Under the guidance of FoundingMusic Director Paul Freeman, the orchestra has performed at the highest artistic level since 1987.  Mei-Ann Chen succeeded Paul Freeman as the Chicago Sinfonietta’s Music Director beginning with the 2011-12 season.  The Chicago Sinfonietta musicians truly represent the city’s rich cultural landscape and continue to fulfill the orchestra’s mission of Musical Excellence through Diversity.

The Sinfonietta was recently honored with two national awards for excellence from the League of American Orchestras, one for adventurous programming and one recognizing Maestro Chen with the Helen M. Thompson Award for an Emerging Music Director. 

Mei-Ann Chen, also Music Director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, has appeared with symphonies all over the country and the world, include the symphonies of Alabama, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Edmonton (Canada), Florida, Fort Worth, Honolulu, National (Washington, D.C.), Oregon, Pacific, Phoenix, Princeton, Seattle, Toronto, and the Grand Teton Festival Orchestra.  The first woman to win the Malko Competition (2005),Chenhas served as Assistant Conductor of the Oregon Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony.  Born in Taiwan, Chen has lived in the United States since 1989.  She was the first student in New England Conservatory’s history to receive master’s degrees simultaneously in both violin and conducting.

The Chicago Sinfonietta thanks Lead Concert Sponsor Fifth Third Bank and Supporting Concert Sponsor PricewaterhouseCoopers for their support of the Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The Sinfonietta also thanks Supporting Season Sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Lead West Suburban Sponsor BP, and Lead Media Sponsor Chicago Sun-Times Media.  Support for Wentz Concert Hall performances provided Naperville’s Special Events and Cultural Amenities Fund.  Additional media support provided by Chicago Magazine, ABC-7 Chicago, WBEZ, WDCB, Arte y Vida Chicago, Today’s Chicago Woman, Naperville Sun and Naperville Magazine.  Southwest Airlines is the Official Airline of the Chicago Sinfonietta.  Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park and Hotel Arista in Naperville are the Official Hotels of the Chicago Sinfonietta.

Complete Program Information

Sunday, January 20 at 3 p.m., Wentz Concert Hall, Naperville

Monday, January 21 at 7:30 p.m., Symphony Center, Chicago

Chicago Sinfonietta

Mei-Ann Chen, conductor

Anthony McGill, clarinet

Eric Owens, guest conductor/bass-baritone

Waubonsie Valley High School Mosaic Choir


PRICE                          The Oak
BARBER                      Adagio for Strings
COPLAND                    Clarinet Concerto
O. ADDY                      Wawshishijay (Our Beginning)
TRADITIONAL              I’m a Soldier (Spiritual Suite)

(arr. Lena McLin)
VARIOUS                     Global Gospels and Spirituals:

This is My Prayer



Total Praise

(arr.Sam Shoup)

TRADITIONAL              We Shall Overcome

 Tickets: $40–$50 (Wentz Concert Hall); $26–$50 (Symphony Center)

For more information on the Chicago Sinfonietta, please visit