The Cleveland Orchestra demonstrated early its commitment to honoring this country’s greatest civil rights leader. Four days after the April 4, 1968, assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell performed the “Allegretto” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 as a memorial tribute to the life of Dr. King.
Toward the end of the next decade, the Orchestra played a key role in the evolution of a more formal and institutionalized recognition of Dr. King’s life. The annual Martin Luther King, Jr. concert first took place in January 1980. In the program book of that first concert, the Orchestra was applauded “for taking seriously the need for the whole community to recognize the vital role that the life and death of Dr. King continues to play in the struggle for racial justice and human dignity.”
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