Composers Datebook®

"Truth Tones" for MLK

Composer's Datebook - Jan. 19, 2023


Each January, Martin Luther King Day is observed on the third Monday of the month, and in 2009, MLK day fell on January 19th.

To celebrate, the director of the Boston Children’s Chorus commissioned and premiered a new work from the American composer Trevor Weston. Rather than set words spoken by King, Weston took a different course:

“[Dr. King’s] speeches speak to … the beauty of living in a society where the truth of equality is actually realized and often demonstrate a broad historical perspective,” says Weston, “so I celebrated King by using texts from the African Saint Augustine and the African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.”

From Saint Augustine’s “Confessions,” Weston includes the line, “O Truth, you give hearing to all who consult you … you answer clearly, but all men do not hear you,” and from a Dunbar work entitled “The Poet,” this line: “He sang of life, serenely sweet/With now and then a deeper note.”

Musically, Weston echoes works both medieval and modern, specifically the 12th century composer Hildegard von Bingen and the 20th century composer Morton Feldman, with a variation on the spiritual “Wade in the Water” tossed in for good measure.

The result is a haunting, inward-looking choral work that Weston entitled “Truth Tones.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Trevor Weston "Truth Tones" Trinity Youth Chorus; Julian Wachner, conductor. Acis 72290

On This Day


  • 1903 - German composer Boris Blacher, in Niu-chang, China;

  • 1936 - American composer Elliott Schwartz, in Brooklyn;


  • 1576 - German "mastersinger" Hans Sachs, age 81, in Nuremberg;


  • 1674 - Lully: opera "Alceste," in Paris at the Palais Royal Opéra;

  • 1735 - Handel: opera "Ariodante" (Julian date: Jan. 8);

  • 1787 - Mozart: Symphony No. 38 ("Prague"), conducted by the composer, in Prague;

  • 1853 - Verdi: opera, "Il trovatore," (The Troubador), in Rome the Teatro Apollo;

  • 1873 - Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1, in Paris;

  • 1884 - Massenet: opera, "Manon," at the Opéra-Comique, Paris;

  • 1895 - Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 3 (1st movement only), posthumously, in St. Petersburg (Julian date: Jan.7);

  • 1898 - Glazunov: ballet "Raymonda," in St. Petersburg (Julian date: Jan. 7);

  • 1924 - Auric: ballet "Les Fâcheux," by the Diaghilev company in Monte Carlo;

  • 1948 - Douglas Moore: "Farm Journal" for chamber orchestra, in New York City;

  • 1953 - Bernstein: musical "Wonderful Town," as a trial run in New Haven at the Schubert Theater, choreographed by Donald Saddler, directed by George Abbott, conducted by Lehman Engel; The show opened in New York City at the Winter Garden on February 26, 1953;

  • 1961 - Bernstein: "Fanfare," at the Inaugural Gala for President John F. Kennedy, in Washington, D.C.;

  • 1969 - Ligeti: "Ten Pieces" for woodwind quintet, in Malmö, Sweden;

  • 1970 - Shulamit Ran: "O, the Chimneys," in New York City;

  • 1986 - Babbitt: Piano Concerto, in New York;

  • 1990 - Peter Maxwell Davies: "Strathclyde Concerto" No. 3 for horn, trumpet and orchestra, at Glasgow's City Hall, by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by the composer, with soloists Robert Cook and Peter Franks;

  • 1994 - John Adams: Violin Concerto, with Minnesota Orchestra, Edo de Waart conducting and Jorja Fleezanis the soloist;

  • 1996 - David Ward-Steinman: "Prisms and Reflections," for piano (and piano interior), by David Burge, at the Music Teachers National Association meeting in San Diego;


  • 1962 - White House dinner party in honor of Igor Stravinsky hosted by President and Mrs. Kennedy.

  • 1973 - Leonard Bernstein leads a performance of Haydn's "Mass in Time of War" at a "Concert for Peace" at Washington DC's National Cathedral, with members of National Symphony, in protest against President Nixon, on the eve of Nixon's second term in office; The concert was timed to coincide with Nixon's official inaugural concert, which concluded with Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture";

  • 1977 - Leonard Bernstein conducts his song "Take Care of This House" at Inaugural Concert for President Jimmy Carter at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with Frederica von Stade as vocal soloist with the National Symphony.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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