Charlayne Hunter-Gault to Narrate Florida's Premier of "The Children's March"
Award-winning journalist, author and school desegregation pioneer Charlayne Hunter-Gault will narrate the Choral Artists of Sarasota's upcoming performance of "The Children's March," an oratorio composed and written by Philadelphia composer Andrew Bleckner and librettist Charlotte Blake Alston.
The piece tells the story of a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement while incorporating traditional African American styles and spirituals and showing the incivility of segregation through the innocence and optimistic spirit of children. The pivotal moment in question was the Children’s Crusade of 1963, when Black children in Birmingham, Alabama, marched to challenge segregation and were met with a violent response from the city’s white leadership.
At the time of the march, images of the brutality 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.
“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 Choral Artists artistic director Joseph Holt.
According to Holt, the inclusion of Hunter-Gault as the narrator is hugely significant. “We’re beyond honored to share the stage with her," he says. "Ms. Hunter-Gault graduated the same month as the historical march in Birmingham."
Hunter-Gault graduated from the University of Georgia, where she and Hamilton Holmes were the first two African Americans ever admitted to the institution. Hunter-Gault was only 21 years old at the time.
"I am honored and grateful to be a part of The Children’s March," says Hunter-Gault. "The history it contains is so very important for this generation and for all generations, as it details the durable armor created by so many brave young people committed at such an early age to freedom, justice and equality. As we have said since then, and especially now: long live!"
The piece was originally commissioned by Philadephia's Singing City Choir, founded in 1948 as one of the first integrated choirs in America. They premiered the work to critical acclaim at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts in 2013. The Choral Artists' performance will be the Florida premiere of the piece and is part of its 44th season, themed “United in Song."
“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," says Holt.
The performance takes place at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 5, at Church of the Palms, 3224 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (941) 387-4900 or visit choralartistssarasota.org.