• Press Release

Virginia Symphony Presents Annual Celebration of Dr. King

Popular Annual Event Will Be Virtual


Dr King waves in front of a large crowd of marching citizens. A virginia symphony orchestra harmony project community concert, songs for a dreamer, a virtual concert, available for 45 days beginning January 18, 2021 virginiasymphonyorchestra.org/mlktribute, Simon Lapointe, violin, Seiko Syvertsen, violin, Alexandra Takasugi, viola, Rebecca Gilmore Philips, cello, Dr. Gregory Gardner, vocalist, The Annual Dreamer Award to be presented to Beverly Kane Baker, former principal violinist of teh VSO, VSO and City of Norfolk Logos.

Words and Images courtesy of Virginia Symphony Orchestra.


The Virginia Symphony Orchestra will pay homage to the visionary civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. via the Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s YouTube Channel for 45 days beginning January 18, 2021. Entitled “Songs for a Dreamer,” it is the largest arts celebration of Dr. King’s life in Hampton Roads every year.


Presented in collaboration with the City of Norfolk and VSO’s HARMONY Project partner churches, the annual “Songs for a Dreamer” concert will be presented virtually this year, including welcoming remarks by Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander. In addition to the traditional invocation, delivered by Pastor Robert Lee of Collinswood Agape Baptist Church, excerpts from inspiring speeches made by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be recited by Pastor Jerome Barber of Sixth Mt. Zion Baptist Temple and Pastor Geoffrey Guns of Second Calvary Baptist Church. A string quartet will perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing” with featured vocal soloist Gregory Gardner of Norfolk State University, George Walker’s “Lyric for Strings,” the African American hymn “He Looked Beyond My Faults,” and Adolphus Hailstork’s “Adagio for Strings.”


The concert will feature a VSO string quartet comprised of Simon Lapointe, Seiko Syvertsen, Alexandra Takasugi, and Rebecca Gilmore Phillips.


A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Gregory Gardner has performed locally, nationally, and internationally in opera, musical theater, oratorio, and concert productions. The baritone teaches voice at Norfolk State University. He earned his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Howard University.


Headshot of Beverly Kane Baker in black and white, she is holding her viola.

This year, the VSO’s Dreamer Award will be presented to Beverly Kane Baker, former principal violist of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, based on her outstanding example of the King legacy relative to areas of diversity and inclusion and furthering their impact in the orchestral arena. In 1983, Ms. Baker joined the Virginia Symphony as a section player. In 1987, she was appointed assistant principal viola and won the principal position in 1994. The Virginia Symphony made its Carnegie Hall debut in 1997, and Ms. Baker performed with her colleagues on NBC’s The Today Show. She performs regularly with the Virginia Chamber Players and was invited to perform Berlioz’ Harold in Italy with the Bismarck Mandan Symphony Orchestra in North Dakota. Beverly also performed with the Re-Collective Orchestra at Sony Studios to record the film score of Lion King under the direction of Hans Zimmer. A passionate advocate of diversity in the arts, she works with organizations including the Gateways Music Festival and the Sphinx Organization that connect, inspire, and mentor young people of color in classical music.


The “Songs for a Dreamer” concert has been presented by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the HARMONY Project and the City of Norfolk since January 2012. Since its inception in the 2005, the HARMONY Project has served as an example of how the power of music can bring all people together.


The VSO’s Harmony Project collaboration with 10 historically black churches throughout Hampton Roads, also provides VSO musicians to perform during worship services, Family Night events, and education programs for church youth programs and schools. Current partner churches are First Baptist South Hill in Chesapeake, Sixth Mt. Zion Baptist Temple in Hampton, Agape Baptist Church in Portsmouth, East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, First Baptist Church Denbigh and Carver Memorial Presbyterian Church in Newport News, and First Baptist Church Bute Street, Second Calvary Baptist Church, Bank Street Memorial Baptist Church and Calvary Revival Church in Norfolk.


This shortened but powerful presentation, honoring Dr. King’s life and accomplishments, will be available via the Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s YouTube Channel for 45 days beginning January 18, 2021.

For more information, please visit www.virginiasymphony.org/MLKtribute


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