‘Requiem for a King’: MLK honored through song at NMAAHC

 Darin Atwater's Soulful Symphony performs "MLK 50: Requiem for a King" at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Friday, April 6, 2018. (Lindsey Leake/American University)

Darin Atwater's Soulful Symphony performs "MLK 50: Requiem for a King" at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Friday, April 6, 2018. (Lindsey Leake/American University)

WASHINGTON — About half a mile from where he gave his famed “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. still stands. 

A memorial dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning civil rights pioneer overlooks Washington, D.C.’s, Tidal Basin, where visitors gathered Wednesday on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. 

Events honoring King were held nationwide throughout the week and on Friday night, the National Museum of African American History and Culture threw a concert half a century in the making. 

Darin Atwater’s Soulful Symphony took the stage at the museum’s Oprah Winfrey Theater to perform a three-hour musical remembrance: “MLK 50: Requiem for a King.” 

The show was divided into seven segments representing King’s multifaceted leadership, from “The Baptist Preacher” to “The Martyr” to “The Prophetic Dreamer.”

“If you’ve ever been to a Soulful Symphony concert, we demystify what it means to have a symphony in front of you,” Atwater told the audience. 

Composer Atwater dressed down for the occasion, citing King’s empathy toward the impoverished. 

“(You’re) probably wondering why the conductor is coming out here with a pair of ripped jeans, in this auspicious occasion in this wonderful facility,” he told the chuckling crowd. “I am standing, um, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, whose last-launched campaign was the poor people’s campaign.”

Ferguson, Missouri, native Keyon Harrold has been playing the trumpet since he was about 6 years old. He says he was honored to play at the African-American history museum.  

“To be here performing, touching works with, um, Darin Atwater’s Soulful Symphony is such an amazing experience,” he said. “Just the energy, just the soul, just the heart and the, the purpose of everything is really, really, um, second to none.

“And as a musician, you really wanna try to paint the times, and Darin really has that down to a science.”

Hosted by the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life, Friday night’s concert aimed to show King’s vision has, in many ways, been realized. 

Through hip-hop, gospel, soul and some of King’s most inspiring words, “Requiem for a King” reminded that we each carry a bit of MLK’s dream with us.

 

Lindsey Leake