On the arts and culture front, we spotlight two Memphis programs that we should all be bragging about and putting their events on our calendars:

The Pearce Shakespeare Endowment at Rhodes College is pleased to announce free public lectures by highly-regarded Shakespeareans:
• October 11: Shakespeare symposium, “The Past and Future of the Book,” with Robert Darnton, Lukas Erne, and Michael Witmore (9 am, Blount Auditorium):  rhodes.edu/book
• March 27: Marjorie Garber, “Occupy Shakespeare: Shakespeare and/in the Humanities” (7 pm, Hardie Auditorium): marjoriegarber.com
Below is a calendar of Shakespeare-related performances in the Memphis area:
September 7 & 10: “Unto the Breach!” Tennessee Shakespeare Company (GPAC)
October 27: Othello, National Theatre (Malco Paradiso)
November 5: West Side Story (Orpheum Theatre)
January 28 & 30: Romeo and Juliet, Tennessee Shakespeare Company (GPAC)
February 14 – March 2: As You Like It, Theatre Memphis
April 11 – 27: Twelfth Night, Germantown Community Theatre
April 17 – 26: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, University of Memphis Theatre & Dance
April 23 – May 4: The Taming of the Shrew, Tennessee Shakespeare Company (Dixon Gallery & Gardens)
May 8 – 11: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) Bartlett Repertory Company

Meanwhile, the Memphis Symphony continues to show the impact of its inspirational Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, whose emphasis on the orchestra’s relevancy in Memphis is a story being watched nationally.  Here’s the latest:


Composer Selected Following National Search

Memphis, Tennessee, August 13, 2013— The Board of Directors of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra today announced The Dream Project; an original commission and elementary school educational curriculum inspired by the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King.  Following a nationwide search through the American Composer’s Forum, Paul Brantley has been selected to compose the work called The Rebirth of the Dream which will be performed by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra on May 16, 2014, at the Cannon Center.  Brantley has been challenged to capture a symphonic narrative that will reflect the pain and hope of the Memphis experience through a series of movements that are meant to evoke the community’s dreams for the future.

The idea of the Dream Project began with Mei-Ann’s Circle of Friends, a women’s philanthropy initiative envisioned by MSO consultant, Ellen Rolfes.  The group’s mission is to be an instrument of inclusion through the Symphony and to honor Music Director Mei-Ann Chen’s passion for deeper community engagement by the organization. The Circle’s membership has grown to nearly 150 diverse women and is co-chaired by community leaders Mary McDaniel, Ritche Bowden and Becky Wilson.

“The creation of the Dream Project vision was an authentic process. For months, small groups of over 70 women from the Circle engaged in deep dialogue about our collective memory of the MLK assassination and the impact it had on our community, then we explored our collective imagination about what we want Memphis to be for the next generation. It was very honest and powerful. The concert and companion educational curriculum will support this vision,” said McDaniel on behalf of the co-chairs.

“The Memphis Symphony Orchestra is known nationally for its innovation,” stated Gayle S. Rose, Chairman of the MSO Board. “The Dream Project’s symphonic commission and elementary school educational curriculum is an outgrowth of nearly eight years of investment in community engagement by the MSO.  We believe that projects like the Dream Project represent the future of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and of orchestras in general.  We strive to be an organization that is fully engaged, relevant, and an indispensible part of the community’s cultural landscape.”

Following a nationwide competition, Brantley was selected as the composer for The Rebirth of the Dream from 282 composer candidates from 35 states. A committee from Mei-Ann’s Circle made the final selection through a blind evaluation in which the competing artists were asked to express their vision for the score and to provide samples of their work that they felt captured the passion and emotions required to compose The Rebirth of the Dream. There were no criteria for age, sex, race, national prominence or geographic background, nor were any of these items known to the committee.

Paul is a Georgia native who currently resides in New York City where he free-lances as a composer and cellist, and teaches conducting at the Manhattan School of Music. He has 16 published titles through Bill Holab Music and Oxford University Press. More information on Paul’s background and work can be found at www.paulbrantley.com and www.billholabmusic.com/composers/paul-brantley.

“I am honored and rather humbled to have received this wonderful commission from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra,” said Brantley.  “I have for a very long time been moved by the universal and active spirituality of Dr. King and his vision for a better world. My first major commission, years ago, came from my hometown symphony to compose a piece in 1986, not only to commemorate Augusta, Georgia’s then 250th anniversary, but also the first Martin Luther King Day – which I was able to attend. Now, the idea of creatively encountering Dr. King’s words and spirit, the tragedy of his assassination, then moving the score into a vision for a better community is rather daunting, but also deeply inspiring. I look forward to offering the Memphis community my heart and soul.”

The Symphony’s impact will extend well beyond the concert hall.  The Dream Project’s educational curriculum to be developed in the 2014-2015 school year will provide an ensemble to perform in the fifth grade civics classrooms as a pilot in the Charter Schools.  In addition, it is hoped that the vision of this project could quickly expand to other communities with orchestras playing an adaptation of The Rebirth of the Dream that captures their own communal story shaped by the MLK legacy.

The co-chairs Bowden, McDaniel and Wilson believe The Memphis Symphony Orchestra has a unique opportunity to be an instrument of dialogue, storytelling, visioning, teaching and healing both on stage and in schools by using the power of its extraordinary art form to tell an iconic part of Memphis history through The Rebirth of the Dream. The Dream Project concept is not to be about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., rather it will be a documentation about how the horrific event of his assassination took our city on a different trajectory than its sister cities in the South. The Dream Project can ultimately teach the next generation the importance of how history molds any community, but more particularly, the importance of having a dream – both personally and collectively – in order to create a meaningful life and live in a thriving, just place for all citizens. It is hoped that the vision of this project could quickly expand to other communities with orchestras playing an adaptation of The Rebirth of the Dream that captures their own communal story shaped by the MLK legacy.

For more information about The Dream Project, visit www.rebirthofthedream.org. The Dream Project is still seeking a wide range of sponsorship opportunities for The Rebirth of the Dream concert. For more information contact Ellen Rolfes at Ellen.rolfes@memphissymphony.org.

About Memphis Symphony Orchestra: The Memphis Symphony Orchestra, under Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, strives to enrich the lives of our diverse community through exceptional music and dynamic programs. More than 400 musicians, staff and volunteers make up the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Memphis Symphony Chorus and the Memphis Symphony League, operating educational programs, organizing community engagement events and performing concerts. Find information about all upcoming performances, watch videos from select concerts, get details on the Symphony’s involvement in the Memphis community, and find out how to support MSO by visiting www.memphissymphony.org.