When cacophonic harmonies and tragic memories dance together in Memphis, they create the stage of epic proportion.
On May 16th, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will celebrate one of the world's greatest revolutionaries with melodic strands of harmony. "Rebirth of the Dream" was inspired by the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The MSO is out to use the power of music to revitalize the history, pains and victories surrounding Dr. King. The ultimate goal is to unite individuals and communities.
Mei-Ann Chen, music director of the MSO, migrated to the United States when she was 16. Shortly after, she would hear Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
"I heard this perfect speech that stayed with me," said Chen in an online interview. "In a way I came to this country to fulfill my dream, but I knew it must be a bigger dream, a bigger calling, to coincide with my own dream."
As she prepares to lead the orchestra on May 16th, Chen is supported by a group of 150 diverse women known as Mei-Ann's Circle of Friends (MACF). The philanthropy circle is locked into the idea of providing an enhanced opportunity to explore the life of of Dr. King beyond school history programs and the pages of textbooks. MACF raised the revenue to commission Paul Brantley to write the composition or score of "Rebirth."
As the event draws near, 14 non-profit organizations – known as the "Dream Keeper Collaborators" – have committed to support the MSO by building awareness and momentum in their respective communities. The support aligns with the collective mission to continue Dr. King's work through promoting social justice and action.
"Our mission is 'teaching, studying, and promoting civil rights and social change,'" said Daphene McFerren, executive director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis.
"We interact with not only students on campus, but with the community-at-large. As a collaborator, we have helped discuss and been engaged in activities to help create community awareness."
Calling the legacy and vision of Dr. King central to the civil rights movement, McFerren hopes the "Rebirth of the Dream" event will represent the diversity of Memphis, bringing together people from different backgrounds who can collectively enjoy the composition. In addition, she wants people to walk away with their own personal "call-to-action."
"One of the things we have been talking about is giving people some concrete action as a result of this activity," McFerren says. "It is important that after this event people will leave this with some promise they can keep themselves to give to someone or something in their community that would create a power of improvement."
Another prominent "Collaborator" is the Metropolitan In-Faith Association (MIFA). The organization, which was founded by a diverse group of church and lay leaders after the death of Dr. King, provides financial and community support to senior citizens and families affected by high-impact conditions.
"This vision truly embodies the spirit and legacy of Dr. King's work in the community," Sally Jones Heinz, MIFA executive director, says. "MIFA is delighted to be a Dream Keeper Collaborator as we embrace Memphis history and unity through the Rebirth of the Dream concert."
Roland Valliere, president and CEO of the MSO, says with the recent opening of the revitalized National Civil Rights Museum, "Rebirth of the Dream" could spark a much-needed uptick in the sense of pride in Memphis.
The concert will incorporate a Dream Gospel Chorus assembled by Leo Davis of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. It will be composed of singers from various churches throughout Memphis and feature a solo performance by Grammy Award nominee and Stax Music Academy Director, Justin Merrick.
"Rebirth of the Dream" premiers on May 16th at 7:30 p.m. at the Cannon Center in Downtown Memphis. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.rebirthofthedream.com.