“Let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire,” Martin Luther King Jr. said from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial nearly 55 years ago. Tonight, 45 of UNH’s most talented musicians will harness the spirit of those words and the man behind them, letting their music ring from the Johnson Theatre stage in a special UNH Wind Symphony concert conducted by graduate student Daniel Buchner and narrated by College of Liberal Arts associate dean Reginald Wilburn.
The composition, titled “New Morning for the World,” is a combination of music and text from some of King’s speeches, including “Behind the Selma March,” Stride Toward Freedom” and “I Have a Dream.” Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Joseph Schwantner arranged the piece back in the 1980s, and UNH graduate student Daniel Buchner says he is honored to be conducting it here at UNH.
Buchner is pursuing a Master of Arts in conducting. He says the first time he heard “New Morning for the World” he immediately connected with it because of the importance behind the text itself. He went to his advisor, music professor Andrew Boysen, and asked for approval to conduct it.
“We connect with music every day, no matter the genre, and it has the power to move us in ways we couldn’t imagine,” says Buchner, explaining how he was inspired to conduct the piece in part because of the way people treat each other in society.
Recently Buchner emailed Wilburn, who is also an associate professor of English and African American studies, to see if he would provide the narration, and he included a link to the music with his note. Wilburn says once he listened to it, he knew that it was going to be something amazing.
“I came into our first rehearsal last week, and I was just blown away by how precisely close the students sounded to the link I had listened to,” Wilburn says, adding that he can tell the composition means a lot to them by the way they play it.
They welcomed composer Schwantner to Friday’s rehearsal.
Although Wilburn got involved only a couple of weeks ago, the symphony and Buchner have been rehearsing three times a week since the spring semester began.
“Once we heard Dean Wilburn’s narrations, it immediately became something I and a lot of others really connected to. It is very powerful to hear him speak,” says junior percussion major Shannon Lundin.
Wilburn says he feels a huge sense of pride.
“I think about our students, who are primarily white, and these white students in the state of New Hampshire have dedicated themselves to declaring this message through music, through song, through intonation, through inflections,” Wilburn says. “It’s a double sense of pride because what our students in music are showing us is that they care, and they play a vital part in democracy and to let freedom ring.”
Buchner says he’s excited to showcase the symphony’s hard work at tonight’s show. The experience has “affected my life, the students’ lives, and soon the audience will be affected, as well.”
The UNH Wind Symphony will perform “New Morning for the World” tonight at Johnson Theatre in the Paul Creative Arts Center at 8 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public.