Orchestra pays tribute to American leader


The Erie Chamber Orchestra performed its annual concert “Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.” at Cathedral Prep High School Friday.

“Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.,” performed annually for the past 37 years, is one of the Erie Chamber Orchestra’s longest running shows.

“Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.” features collaborations with groups from all over the Erie community including MLK Community Choir and LifeThruMusic.

Erie Chamber Orchestra General Manager Steve Weiser said that each group did its own piece.

The show was a mix of solo and group acts from the Erie area. Pieces included “Fanfare on the Amazing Grace,” “Highlights from Porgy and Bess” and “Ellis Island.”

“Ellis Island” featured seven actors accompanied by the orchestra as they tell the stories of immigrants. “Ellis Island” featured Gannon theatre and communication arts students Michael Haas, Megan Hamm, Cassie Bielecki, Zak Westfall, Chase Miles, Brianna Woods and Lauren Loop. Weiser said that while the actors read the stories of immigrants, pictures were projected on a large screen behind them.

Haas, a sophomore theatre and communication arts and political science major, was staying true to the character while keeping in time with the Chamber Orchestra.”

“The monologues had specific timing that had to match with what the orchestra was playing,” he said.

Before the performance, sophomore theatre and communication arts major Chase Miles said the music accompanies the mood of the stories of the seven immigrants.

“It’s a real fantastic sounding suite,” Miles said “The music sets the mood perfectly and there is a fantastic group of actors.”

Haas said he loved “Ellis Island.”

“The words, music and multimedia elements both gave me a sense of patriotism, as well as appreciation for the Erie Chamber Orchestra,” Haas said.

Weiser said one of the greater challenges of putting the show together was working with the myriad groups performing. He said he had to find actors to read the stories of the immigrants in “Ellis Island.”

Miles shared that it was Paula Barrett, associate professor of theatre at Gannon, who recom mended the actors for this particular segment of the show. Weiser reached out to many local groups to set up rehearsal time and give out music and scripts.

He said it took a lot of prep work to give out music and arrange rehearsals. The prep work appears to have paid off.

The concert in total was an hour a half, packed with emotional and touching pieces from a number of different groups in the community.

The performance opened with numbers from the classic musical “Porgy and Bess” played by the Erie Chamber orchestra and later transitioned soulful songs sung by the MLK Community Choir, beautiful individual performances, a speech that recited words that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had once spoken and concluded with “Ellis Island,” the feature of the evening’s production.

The evening was an appropriate tribute this great American leader.



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