The $15,000 grant will help fund the group’s March 2023 production of “The Children’s March,” a moving oratorio that tells the story of a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Era, the Children’s Crusade of 1963, when children in Birmingham, Alabama, marched to challenge segregation and were met with a violent response.
(December 27, 2022) The Community Foundation of Sarasota County recently granted $15,000, from the Martha Leiter and Nancy Streetman Fund II, to Choral Artists of Sarasota to help fund its March 2023 concert of “The Children’s March,” a dramatic work that uses song and narration to tell the story of a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Era. During the Children’s Crusade of 1963, Black students in Birmingham, Alabama, marched to challenge segregation and were met with a violent response from the city’s white leadership. Images of the violence against the children were broadcast to millions of television viewers around the world. The crusade ended after intervention from the U.S. Department of Justice and the event resulted in President John F. Kennedy’s support for federal civil rights legislation and the eventual passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
To commemorate this moment in American history, Choral Artists of Sarasota is presenting “The Children’s March,” a moving oratorio by the composer Andrew Bleckner and librettist Charlotte Blake Alston. Incorporating traditional African American styles and spirituals, the work tells the story of one moment that changed the course of civil rights in America. The concert will be narrated by Charlayne Hunter-Gault, an award-winning journalist, author, and school desegregation pioneer.
“The Children’s March galvanized support for the black freedom struggle worldwide—and the significance of those brave young people standing up to oppression is still relevant to our times,” says Joseph Holt, artistic director of Choral Artists and conductor for this concert. “Recognizing and acknowledging history offers an insight into our past, creates awareness of where we are and, hopefully, informs our future choices and direction with a positive vision.”
Holt adds that featuring Charlayne Hunter-Gault as narrator is hugely significant as she was one of the first African American students admitted to the University of Georgia. “Ms. Hunter-Gault graduated in the same month as the historical march in Birmingham,” says Holt. “We’re beyond honored to share the stage with her.”
Holt is also grateful to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. “The Community Foundation has strongly shown its support for artistic programs that address issues of racial equity and social justice,” he says. “The Foundation is committed to ensuring that programs like this reach a broad audience, which is why we’re presenting a one-hour presentation of ‘The Children’s March to 5th to 8th grade students at Community Day School on March 1. History told through music and words has more impact, resonating beyond the single performance into awareness and change for the common good.”
The March concert features guest artist tenor J. Warren Mitchell, joined by Choral Artists soloists Maiya Stevenson, soprano; Amy Jo Connours, alto; Krista Laskowski, mezzo-soprano; Baron Garriott, tenor; John Whittlesey, baritone; and Jesse Martin, baritone. The performance also features Sarasota Young Voices and Lumina Youth Choirs. The concert is Sunday, March 5, 7 p.m., at Church of the Palms, 3224 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. Tickets: $35; students $5. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.ChoralArtistsSarasota.org or call 941-387-4900.
The Choral Artists of Sarasota comprises 32 of the region’s most notable professional singers. Eight young singers, ages 16 to 22, are also invited to join the group each year, as part of the organization’s educational outreach. One of these gifted singers will be awarded the new Ann Stephenson Moe Apprentice Scholarship, a funding program to support either private lessons or vocal training at an institution of higher learning. “Ensuring the future of choral music means investing in the next generation of music lovers,” says Susan Burke, executive director of Choral Artists of Sarasota. “That means engaging young people on their own terms.”
The Choral Artists of Sarasota’s 2022-2023 season continues with:
- The Children’s March: A moving and dramatic oratorio by Philadelphia composer Andrew Bleckner, which takes us on a journey to an historical event during the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s. Incorporating traditional African-American styles and spirituals, the work shows the incivility of segregation through the innocence and optimistic spirit of children. Guest artist: J. Warren Mitchell, tenor and Choral Artists soloists Maiya Stevenson, soprano; Amy Jo Connours, alto; Krista Laskowski, mezzo-soprano; Baron Garriott, tenor; John Whittlesey, baritone and Jesse Martin, baritone. Narrated by Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Sunday, March 5, 7 p.m., at Church of the Palms, 3224 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. Tickets: $35; students $5.
- Bach Du Hirte Israel, höre (Shepherd of Israel, hear us) Cantata, BWV 104 and Mozart Requiem, K.626: Passages of life expressed through the beauty of majestic choral music: Bach’s pastoral setting of the Twenty-third Psalm paired with Mozart’s Requiem, a poignant and dramatic contemplation of eternity. Guest artists: Adelaide Boedecker, soprano; Laurel Semerdjian, alto; John Kaneklides, tenor; William Socolof, bass. Sunday, April 16, 7 p.m., at Church of the Redeemer, 222 S. Palm Avenue, Sarasota. Tickets: $35; students $5.
- American Fanfare: Celebrate America with choral fireworks, rousing marches and patriotic fervor. Old Glory and Uncle Sam are feted in this annual performance featuring the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble and Choral Artists of Sarasota. Musical fireworks abound in this annual salute to America. July 4, 4:30 p.m., at Sarasota Opera House, 61 North Palm Avenue, Sarasota. Tickets: $35; students $5.
About the Community Foundation of Sarasota County
The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is a public charity founded in 1979 by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council as a resource for caring individuals and the causes they support, enabling them to make a charitable impact on the community. With assets of $520 million in more than 1,570 charitable funds, the Community Foundation awarded grants and scholarships totaling $27.5 million dollars last year in the areas of education, the arts, health and human services, civic engagement, animal welfare and the environment. Since its founding, the Community Foundation has been able to grant more than $350 million to area nonprofit organizations in our community thanks to the generosity of charitable individuals, families, and businesses. For more information, visit www.CFSarasota.org or call (941) 955-3000.
About the Choral Artists of Sarasota
The Choral Artists of Sarasota, entering its 44th season, features 32 of the region’s most notable professional singers and eight apprentice singers. The group celebrates the rich, artistic expressiveness of choral music through innovative repertoire, inspired performances and stimulating educational outreach. Under the artistic direction of Dr. Joseph Holt, Choral Artists of Sarasota performs a repertoire spanning four centuries, and includes symphonic choral works, intimate madrigals, folk songs, close-harmony jazz, and Broadway show music. The ensemble also specializes in premiere performances of lesser-known choral works—particularly music by living American composers. Choral Artists of Sarasota has performed premieres by René Clausen, Dick Hyman, Robert Levin, Gwyneth Walker and James Grant. As part of the organization’s educational outreach, eight young singers from area schools, colleges and universities, ages 16 to 22, are invited to join the group each year. For more information, visit www.ChoralArtistsSarasota.org.