The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


Erie Chamber Orchestra performs tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.

The Erie Chamber Orchestra celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day Friday with a unique tribute concert at Central Tech High School.

Steve Weiser, general manager of the Erie Chamber Orchestra, said he is in charge of several tasks including hiring musicians, renting music, season planning and various other jobs usually split among 10 different people.

Weiser said the reason the concert was held at Central Tech High School was because it was recommended by the board, and the lobby had great acoustics.

“The lobby just sounds incredible,” Weiser said. “It makes a 30-piece orchestra sound larger.”

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Weiser said since the chamber orchestra holds a concert once a month, January is reserved for the MLK Tribute Concert. Bigger orchestras across the country also do similar concerts in tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.

Weiser said he helps to choose the music for the concert with the music director. Since the chamber orchestra had a soloist for the MLK Tribute Concert, the violin soloist, Ade Williams, 15, also had some input on which songs to play.

Another group of people who had a say in the song choices was the Shiloh Baptist Choir, who performed along with the Erie Chamber Orchestra, Weiser said.

The choir sang the same songs that they’ve been singing since the very first MLK Tribute Concert including “I’m Available to You” and “We Shall Overcome.”

“It’s a neat way to end the concert,” Weiser said, “and it’s nice to see some of the audience members who know the songs sing along.”

Weiser said each year about one-third of the concert stays the same with songs chosen by the Shiloh Baptist Choir. The rest can change depending on what the soloist wants to play and what the music director and Weiser decide to rent.

“We try to represent Martin Luther King Jr. and African-American music,” Weiser said.

Weiser said the second half of the concert opens with a song by an African-American composer. He tried to showcase some uncommon music, but the concert also includes a song by Beethoven because he fought for equal rights during his time.

Another special aspect of the concert included having Dr. Parris Baker, assistant professor in the social work program, come in dressed as Martin Luther King Jr. and read the “I Have a Dream” speech, Weiser said.

Weiser said he wanted somebody to read it this year, so he asked A.J. Miceli, chairman of the communication arts program at Gannon University, if he knew anybody who would be willing. Miceli said that Baker had read the speech before and that he was connected with the choir.

He was also a close friend of the chamber orchestra’s previous director, the late Bruce Morton Wright, Weiser said.

Weiser said he’d like to make the reading a tradition for the MLK Tribute concert, but that he’d like Baker to read something different each year.

Weiser said along with Williams as the soloist, the chamber orchestra had a guest conductor, Dr. Dan Burdick, who is a tuba player in the chamber orchestra.

Burdick said he has conducted several groups around the country, but the MLK Tribute Concert was the first time he has ever conducted the Erie Chamber Orchestra.

The opportunity for him to conduct arose when the main conductor of the chamber orchestra was already engaged with something on the night of the concert, Burdick said. When he was asked to conduct, he said yes.

“Conducting this concert was wonderful,” Burdick said. “I really enjoyed working with the group, which is almost like a family, and working with Williams was a lot of fun.”

Burdick said conducting this concert was a new experience because he had the opportunity to conduct Beethoven and he conducted the soloist and the choir along with the chamber orchestra.

The possibility of Burdick conducting another show has already been brought up to him, Burdick said. He said yes to the opportunity immediately.



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