The Cleveland Orchestra announces details of 41st Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Events will take place virtually, with video and audio performances presented on the Adella streaming app and website, social media, radio, and TV

Beginning on January 14, an encore broadcast of the Orchestra’s 38th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Concert will be available for free on Adella

Celebration includes new and revived performance and historical videos from The Cleveland Orchestra and Community Partners, released on social media starting January 18

ideastream® to broadcast past Cleveland Orchestra concerts on WVIZ/PBS, 90.3 WCPN, WCLV 104.9, and ideastream.org

CLEVELAND – Today, The Cleveland Orchestra announced details of its 2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, which will take place virtually because of the ongoing pandemic. In the Orchestra’s 41st year of offering music to celebrate and reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King, it will provide a variety of ways for guests to honor him in the safety of their homes from January 14 through early February.

“While it is sadly not possible for all of us to gather at Severance Hall for this year’s concert, The Cleveland Orchestra is committed to continuing the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration into its 41st year,” said André Gremillet, President & CEO of The Cleveland Orchestra. “Every year, we honor the legacy of Dr. King by offering inspiring and meaningful music performances to our community. This year, we will present free video performances through our Adella streaming service and social media networks — and through radio and TV broadcasts with our partners at ideastream.”

“This year’s celebration highlights the work of Black composers George Walker, Florence Price, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, and Cleveland native Leslie Adams in new and recent video recordings performed by members of The Cleveland Orchestra” said Mark Williams, Chief Artistic Officer. “The celebration includes an opportunity to watch the 2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Concert for free on Adella. This concert featured Music Director Franz Welser-Möst leading The Cleveland Orchestra, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Chorus, soloist Ryan Speedo Green, and narrator James Pickens, Jr. in a reverent and uplifting performance paying homage to Dr. King’s message of unity and equality.”

“In a typical year, one highlight of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration is our Free Community Open House and Day of Music,” said Joan Katz Napoli, Senior Director of Education and Community Programs. “For the 2021 celebration, we’re proud to amplify and showcase the work of our community partners by sharing videos of their music, art, and powerful words in honor of Dr. King. The celebration concludes with the MLK Community Service Awards, which this year recognize several Northeast Ohio organizations that fight for racial equity, economic justice, and education — and that champion these causes through the arts.”

2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Concert on Adella

Recorded in 2018, The Cleveland Orchestra’s 38th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Concert will be available for viewing free through the Adella digital streaming service (www.adella.live) beginning on Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. until Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

The Cleveland Orchestra’s 38th annual free concert in celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took place at Severance Hall on January 14, 2018 led by Music Director Franz Welser-Möst. This concert was sponsored by KeyBank and supported by a grant from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation.

The January 14, 2018 program featured classical selections by Beethoven, Respighi, and George Walker, as well as traditional hymns and spirituals such as “Down by the Riverside,” “Precious Lord,” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The complete program is listed below. The Cleveland Orchestra was joined for this performance by:

  • Narrator James Pickens Jr., a Cleveland native who is best known as Dr. Richard Webber on Grey’s Anatomy and Deputy Director Alvin Kersh on The X-Files;
  • Guest soloist Ryan Speedo Green, called “a show stopper” by The New York Times; and
  • The Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Chorus — an all-Cleveland community volunteer chorus — directed by Dr. William Henry Caldwell.

Community Celebration on Social Media

Starting on January 18, 2021, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration will include videos released on the Orchestra’s social media channels (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter). Members of The Cleveland Orchestra will perform music by Black American composers Florence Price, Leslie Adams, and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson in new video recordings filmed at Severance Hall.

  • A composer, pianist, and organist, Florence Price became the first Black American woman to have one of her compositions performed by a major American orchestra when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered her Symphony No. 1 in E minor on June 15, 1933. Over the course of her career, she composed more than 300 works and found inspiration in jazz, spirituals, church music, and European art music.
  • Leslie Adams was born in Cleveland and received his bachelor of music degree from Oberlin College. His classical works, which incorporate elements of traditional African-American music, have been performed throughout Ohio and across the U.S., including a 1994 commission from The Cleveland Orchestra titled Western Adventure.
  • Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s music career spanned the genres and mediums of pop, jazz, film, TV, and classical music. In addition to serving as music director for Jerome Robbins’s American Theater Lab and The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Perkinson wrote arrangements for Marvin Gaye, Harry Belafonte, and Max Roach, among others. His innovative compositions feature hints of Baroque counterpoint, American Romanticism, blues, and Black folk music.

More details of these performances are listed below.

Recent Cleveland Orchestra videos will be re-released, including George Walker’s “Lyric for Strings,” performed by Cleveland Orchestra musicians this past summer; “Oh Happy Day” performed by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Chorus in collaboration with Cuyahoga Community College’s (Tri-C®) Vocal Arts Mastery Program, both led by Dr. William Henry Caldwell and filmed remotely this past summer; and Beethoven’s Overture from The Creatures of Prometheus performed by The Cleveland Orchestra and featuring dancers from Cleveland School of the Arts, created in fall 2017.

Community partners from across Northeast Ohio will join the Orchestra in this Community Celebration, creating music, theatre, or arts video performances honoring Dr. King’s life and legacy. Partners include:

  • Musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra
  • Inlet Dance Theatre performing to Maya Angelou’s beloved poem, “Still I Rise.”
  • Karamu House
  • Djapo Cultural Arts Institute
  • Cleveland School of the Arts / Cleveland Metropolitan School District
  • Cuyahoga Community College

Documentary-style videos will also be presented as part of the Community Celebration, highlighting Dr. King’s life, some of his most powerful speeches, and individuals and organizations who continue his legacy today. The annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award honorees will be announced in a video tribute near the end of the Community Celebration in early February.

All performances, videos, and community partners are subject to change.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Concert Broadcasts on ideastream

Ideastream, Northeast Ohio’s largest public media organization, will broadcast archival Cleveland Orchestra Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Concerts as part of this year’s offerings. A TV presentation of the aforementioned 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Concert will air on WVIZ/PBS on January 17, 2021 at 4:00 p.m. and January 18 at 5:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. The 2019 concert will air on the radio on 90.3 WCPN and ideastream.org on January 17 at 8:00 p.m., and the 2020 concert will air on the radio on WCLV 104.9 and ideastream.org on January 18 at 8:00 p.m.

The Cleveland Orchestra and ideastream enjoy a long and growing partnership, dedicated to collaborating on projects that can transform lives through the power of music. Cleveland classical radio station WCLV 104.9 has worked for more than half a century in producing and recording the Orchestra’s weekly radio broadcasts, while more recent projects have included the involvement of ideastream in taping for the Orchestra’s video recordings of Bruckner and Brahms symphonies (available on DVD through Clasart); online video and audio streaming of live community concerts; producing an episode of PBS’s Great Performances that featured the Orchestra’s 100th anniversary gala concert; a new initiative at the Orchestra’s summer home, Blossom Music Center, to offer live image magnification (IMAG) for Blossom Music Festival concerts; video production for the Orchestra’s In Focus series; and a new radio series Lunchtime with The Cleveland Orchestra which airs each weekday at noon on WCLV 104.9.

The Cleveland Orchestra and ideastream are committed to expanding and extending their collaborative partnership to reach new audiences through affordable and accessible avenues. Collaborative projects enhance musical performances and learning experiences through engaging storytelling, quality education programs, and state-of-the-art technology.

The Cleveland Orchestra’s Education and Community Programs Serving Northeast Ohio

The Cleveland Orchestra’s commitment to education and community service was central to the establishment of the Orchestra in 1918, and has never been more important. Over the past hundred years, The Cleveland Orchestra has introduced more than four million young people to symphonic music through live concert experiences. Today, with the support of many generous individual, foundation, corporate, and governmental funding partners, the Orchestra’s education and community programs in recent years have reached more than 100,000 young people and adults annually, helping to foster a lifelong relationship with music. As Music Director Franz Welser-Mӧst leads the Orchestra into its second century with a renewed commitment to music education and community engagement based on his belief that every child’s life should include music, he continues to emphasize that the arts are critical to a well-rounded education and that learning is a lifelong pursuit and journey.

As we look to the future, we strive to be Cleveland’s Orchestra, engaging our diverse citizenry and building community through music, removing barriers to participation, advocating for and helping to facilitate equitable access to comprehensive music education in schools, nurturing the next generation of musicians and audience members, and harnessing the life-changing power of music to make the world a better place through new initiatives developed for even greater impact. For more information visit these links: Education, Community, and Learning Resources.

Support for the 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

The Cleveland Orchestra extends its gratitude to KeyBank, our Community Access Partner, for its support of the 2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration.

The programs detailed in this release are supported in part by the Ohio Arts Council, which receives support from the State of Ohio and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the residents of Cuyahoga County through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.


Calendar Listing and Program Information

The Cleveland Orchestra’s 38th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Concert
Available for free on Adella: Beginning Friday, January 14, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. until Wednesday, April 14
Recorded Sunday, January 14, 2018 at Severance Hall
The Cleveland Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
James Pickens, Jr., narrator
Ryan Speedo Green, bass-baritone
Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Chorus
William Henry Caldwell, director

BEETHOVEN - Overture to Egmont
WALKER – Lyric for Strings
TRADITIONAL/arr. FLOYD – Down by the Riverside
RESPIGHI – Pines of the Appian Way from Pines of Rome
STEFFE/arr. WILHOUSKY – Battle Hymn of the Republic
TRADITIONAL/arr. FLOYD – Precious Lord
JOHNSON/arr. SMITH – Lift Every Voice and Sing

In 2018, honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on the 50th anniversary year of his tragic death, The Cleveland Orchestra presented this special community concert. Music Director Franz Welser-Möst led The Cleveland Orchestra in a program celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Broadcast live by ideastream on 90.3 WCPN and WCLV 104.9, and in a delayed broadcast on WVIZ/PBS. All Ohio public TV stations had the opportunity to broadcast on their own schedule.

Sponsored by KeyBank and supported by a grant from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation.

41st Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration – New performances by Cleveland Orchestra musicians
To be recorded at Severance Hall
Stephen Rose, violin
Jeanne Preucil Rose, violin
Mark Kosower, cello
Lynne Ramsey, viola
Afendi Yusuf, clarinet

PRICE (arr.RANZ) “Adoration” for clarinet and string quartet


To be recorded at Severance Hall
Eliesha Nelson, viola
Dianna White-Gould, piano

L. ADAMS “L’extase d’amour”


To be recorded at Severance Hall
Mark Kosower, cello

PERKINSON “Lamentations”


High resolution photos and video clips available upon request.