Mayor A C Wharton has some ideas about what makes a great city.
"Sometimes folks think a great city is based on tall buildings, wide boulevards, or green parks. And those things are important," he said in a prepared statement commenting on the Memphis Symphony Orchestra's (MSO) Rebirth of the Dream concert, which has been made free for Memphians thanks to the efforts of the MSO's corporate and community partners.
"What really strengthens a city is to know its history," Wharton continued. "To know its story: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because out of the ugly comes the beautiful."
The ugliness in question is the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel. The potential beauty he refers to is the city of Memphis coming together to attend Rebirth of the Dream, an original symphonic work created by composer/conductor Paul Brantley, inspired by the life and legacy of Dr. King and commissioned by Mei-Ann's Circle of Friends, a philanthropic group formed shortly after the arrival of MSO conductor Mei-Ann Chen.
Brantley has described his work as "a sequence of three movements — Invocation, Meditation, and Affirmation — that moves from an acknowledgement of the community's pain into a vision of hope and action — with hopes of evoking a new narrative for Memphis."
Rebirth of the Dream is an especially hopeful title for the MSO, which has fallen on hard times and scrambled to raise funds in order to complete its current season. Although a new Masterworks series was announced last week, the future remains uncertain, but maybe, as Mayor Wharton suggests, that struggle will produce some beauty as well.