Still Dreaming: A Musical Tribute to MLK
Sunday, January 31, 2021 at 3:00pm
Milton Community Concerts, in collaboration with Courageous Conversations Towards Racial Justice, will present a livestream benefit concert, “Still Dreaming: A Musical Tribute to MLK”. This one-hour program will feature a diverse and prestigious group of composers and performers in a program to benefit the Neponset Neighbors Together Fund through the United Way. This concert will also feature an appearance by antiracist activist and best-selling author Ibram X. Kendi. The concert can be found on the Sparrow Live concert platform for a minimum donation of $10, and will continue to be streamed throughout the month of February in celebration of Black History Month.
Soprano Brianna Robinson will be singing the powerful and dramatic song cycle “Songs of Love and Justice” by Adolphus Hailstork, from the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ms. Robinson is an Emerging Artist with Boston Lyric Opera, and is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and Ohio Wesleyan University.
Soprano Mary Johnston Letellier will be singing four deeply moving songs by Black American composers Cedric Adderley, Nadine Shanti, David N. Baker, and Thomas H. Kerr, Jr, featuring texts by Mari Evans, Langston Hughes, and Paul Laurence Dunbar that reflect on civil rights and racial justice. Ms. Letellier is a graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music and is currently on the voice faculty at the University of Southern Maine.
Baritone Philip Lima will close the program with “I Have a Dream” by Lee Hoiby, a rousing musical setting of Dr. King’s iconic speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, 1963. Mr. Lima is a distinguished performer on the operatic and concert stage, having performed with the Boston Pops and over sixty musical organizations around the world. He is a graduate of Boston University and is currently an assistant Chair of the Voice Department at the Berklee College of Music.
Ibram X. Kendi will be speaking about Dr. King in a featured narration during this program. He is currently the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is the author of many books, including three #1 New York Times bestsellers. In 2020 Time Magazine named his one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
All singers will be collaborating in this program with pianist Timothy Steele, producer of Milton Community Concerts and Music Director at First Parish of Milton. Special narration will also be provided by Cynthia Harmon; recording engineers are Eric Miller and Gabriel Raines.
Due to COVID precautions Ms. Robinson and Mr. Lima will be singing live beginning at 3pm, but at separate times and differing locations in the Meetinghouse at First Parish of Milton. Ms. Letellier and Ms. Harmon, and Mr. Kendi will be prerecording their portions of the program. All net proceeds from this livestream concert will go to support the Neponset Neighbors Together Fund, a COVID-19 fund to support neighbors of Milton, Mattapan, Hyde Park, and Dorchester who are adversely impacted by the current health crisis, with a focus on our most economically vulnerable neighbors. Funds will go to assist families with rent, food, utilities, internet connectivity for families with school-aged children, essential supplies and medications, and other basic needs.
A generous grant from Celebrate Milton is assisting in the production of this concert.
Soprano Brianna J. Robinson returns to Boston Lyric Opera as a Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist, having covered roles in BLO’s The Handmaid’s Tale and performed the role of Lucy in Spears’ Fellow Travelers. She served as a Rising Artist with Pegasus Early Opera, performing in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Ms. Robinson also sang the title role in Caccini’s La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall’Isola d’Alcina with the Baroque performance ensemble, Collegium Musicum. Her most recent work includes singing the role of Florence Price in Florence Comes Home by Francine Trester with Shelter Music Boston and as a soloist with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra. Brianna has also participated in international programs such as the Berlin Opera Academy, Opernfest Prague and will make her international debut in Ruse, Bulgaria as Ophelia in Joseph Summer’s Hamlet in 2021. In January 2020 she was awarded 1st prize at the 6th ‘Getting to Carnegie’ Competition, at Carnegie Hall, New York City.
Baritone Philip Lima has regularly garnered critical acclaim for his performances on both concert and operatic stages: “His singing was glorious” (The Boston Globe) – “vibrant baritone and a commanding presence” (Cleveland The Plain Dealer) – “keen musicianship along with total dramatic intention.” (Opera News Online).
He has sung leading operatic roles in Germany and for regional American opera companies in repertoire ranging from traditional favorites by Handel, Mozart, Puccini, and Verdi; to important works of twentieth century masters such as Samuel Barber, Benjamin Britten, and Viktor Ullmann; to the comic masterworks of Gilbert and Sullivan. Of particular note have been his featured roles in the world premieres of operas by jazz greats Leslie Burrs, Nathan Davis, and Mary Watkins, and by award-winning composer Larry Bell.
Mr. Lima has appeared as soloist with the Boston Pops and over seventy orchestras, choral societies, and concert series across the United States and in Korea and Ukraine in beloved choral works of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Fauré, Handel, Mendelssohn, Orff, and Vaughan Williams, as well as works by Bernstein (Arias and Barcarolles and major excerpts from Mass), Dave Brubeck (The Light in the Wilderness), Mahler (Kindertotenlieder), Ravel (Don Quichotte à Dulcinée), and Lee Hoiby (his setting of the “I Have a Dream” speech of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).
The Assistant Chair of Berklee College of Music’s Voice Department, Mr. Lima is a frequent recitalist whose performance of Schubert’s Winterreise with pianist Beverly Orlove was cited by The Boston Phoenix in an annual summary of Boston’s “Unforgettable Classical Events,” and is featured in the recording of pioneering African-American composer Florence Price’s Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight that won the 2020 American Prize for the Performance of American Music.
More information about Mr. Lima is available at philiplima.com, and at his YouTube channel, PhilipLimaSings
Mary Johnston Letellier is a lyric coloratura soprano known for a warm expressive voice. Recently, Mary performed in Opera Maine’s The Magic Flute, Snowlion Repertory’s Mesmerized, and Biddeford City Theater’s The Light in the Piazza. She also regularly sings for The Portland Rossini Club. Other favorite roles include Violetta in Flagstaff in Fidenza’s La Traviata, Magda in The Boston Conservatory’s La Rondine, Tisiphone/ Charito in Seagle Music Colony’s Lysistrata by Adamo, Peep-Bo in The Mikado, Mrs. Pinkerton in The Old Maid and the Thief, and Norina in Don Pasquale. Her next performances include Broadway at Good Theater, Snowlion Repertory’s The Secret Princess and Opera Maine's The Flying Dutchman in 2021.
A Gorham native, she received her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Opera Performance from The Boston Conservatory where she studied with Dr. Rebecca Folsom. She was awarded the Arthur P. Whitney Medal of Highest Academic Achievement upon her Bachelor’s graduation and was awarded summa cum laude for both her undergraduate and graduate work and was inducted into the Music Honors Society Pi Kappa Lambda.
Timothy Steele is an active vocal coach, collaborative pianist, and conductor, and has taught for twenty-nine years on the opera faculty at New England Conservatory. He has conducted for outreach tours with the Boston Lyric Opera and is a former music director for Opera Providence. He has served as assistant conductor/pianist for over 190 productions with twenty-five opera companies, including Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, Wolf Trap Opera, Central City Opera, and Opera Maine. He assisted with the Pulitzer Prize winning opera MADAME WHITE SNAKE for productions in Boston and Taiwan and the OUROBOROS TRILOGY in 2016, and for three years collaborated with WaterFire-Providence on a unique and popular series of opera evenings. In Boston he has performed with Emmanuel Music, the Handel and Haydn Society, and the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, among others.
Cynthia A. Harmon is the Chief Operating Officer of NorthStar Asset Management, Inc., a socially responsible investment management firm she joined in 2018 after twenty-three years of service to The Park School in Brookline. She held a variety of positions at Park, including the Head of School, demonstrating vision and skilled leadership, and working tirelessly to increase the school’s diverse populations. She has presented at the National Association of Independent Schools’ People of Color Conference, served on numerous academic committees as well as on the boards of Thompson Island Outward Bound Educational Center and Boston Center for Community and Justice. As an educator and administrator, Cynthia has balanced big-picture thinking and attention to detail, essential elements to running a successful, mission-driven institution. Her role at NorthStar allows her to bring a fresh perspective to the company’s systems and processes.
Cynthia eagerly supports organizations dedicated to social justice, education, and youth leadership. She sits on the Board of Trustees at the Cambridge School of Weston and is a founding member of the Board of Directors for The Possible Project, an entrepreneurship program for underserved high school students from Cambridge and Boston. Recently, Cynthia joined the Board of Visitors at Fenway Health.
A native of Philadelphia, Cynthia holds a Bachelor of Music Education, a Master of Music degree in classical voice, and a Graduate Diploma in Opera.
Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor. Kendi is the 2020-2021 Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.
He is the author of many books including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, making him the youngest ever winner of that award. He also authored three #1 New York Times bestsellers, How to Be an Antiracist; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored with Jason Reynolds; and Antiracist Baby, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. His newest books are Be Antiracist: A Journal for Awareness, Reflection, and Action; and Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, co-edited with Keisha Blain, which will be out in February. In 2020, Time magazine named Kendi one of the 100 most influential people in the world.