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Take my hand

Boston Children’s Chorus Celebrates Martin Luther King at Symphony Hall

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Take my hand
Singers perform during the annual tribute concert to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by the Boston Children’s Chorus in 2016. (Photo: Gretjen Helene)

On Monday, Jan. 15, Boston Children’s Chorus performed their 15th annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for the first time at Symphony Hall. “Take My Hand,” paid homage to Dr. King’s legacy while calling attention to the work that is still to be done.

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Social justice and diversity are integral to the mission of Boston Children’s Chorus. The students involved experience rigorous musical training as well as lessons designed to foster compassion and community. BCC uses music as a catalyst for dialogues about current events, to educate students and encourage empathy.

BCC President and Artistic Director Anthony Trecek-King says, “Our city is becoming increasingly segregated. This safe space allows the singers to interact with people they otherwise wouldn’t. Art is a vehicle for breaking down barriers. Our goal in every chorus is to have a cross section of society.”

Every BCC choir came together for this celebration, totaling over 450 performers ranging in age from 7 to 18. In addition to the current BCC choirs, a newly formed choir of BCC alumni performed. The program was designed to honor Dr. King’s legacy by calling attention to current issues. The program made reference to the Syrian refugee crisis with “Oh Canada,” a composition by Missy Higgins inspired by Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy whose drowning sent shockwaves through the media. Tributes to Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin and a rendition of “Strange Fruit” served as a reminder that the assassination of black men persists today.

The title “Take My Hand” comes from a conversation King had with musician Ben Branch on April 4, 1968. He requested Branch play “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” one of his favorite hymns, at a meeting scheduled for later that evening. Just hours later, King was assassinated. Mahalia Jackson performed the hymn at his funeral. This week, on what would have been King’s 89th birthday, BCC hoped to underscore the importance of seemingly small gestures of compassion, like taking the hand of someone in need.

In the coming spring season BCC will celebrate its 15th anniversary with performances scheduled at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, and the Strand Theatre. As with all BCC performances, Trecek-King hopes the upcoming season will spark a dialogue in the community. “All of our programs are made to get people to think,” he says. “Change starts with one person at a time. It’s never too late to take that step.”