Now Is The Time (A Song of Hope) was written in the Fall of 2013 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech given on August 28th 1963. The work is a tribute to Dr. King’s life and his work as well as the many other civil rights activists that fought so courageously for equality and an end to racial injustice in the 1950’s and 60’s. But overall this piece is a musical portrayal of the pursuit of freedom and equality that many in our country still dream of.
In his speech Dr. King asks for the United States to hold true to it’s founding doctrines of equality for all men and women, and freedom from oppression. The piece begins with a clarinet solo, so simple and pure. It represents the basic ideals of our founding fathers and the American dream. So as our country began with these ideals the piece starts with this motive and it appears throughout the work as the dream Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of was the in all actuality, the American dream. The first theme heard initially in the clarinet develops and blossoms into a hymn-like setting with the low winds and strings. Expressive solos from trumpet and again clarinet weave around the chorale texture, and as the chorale decays the flutes echo the theme. The next section introduces a new theme, foreshadowed by the trumpet solo earlier in the piece. This theme is humbly stated by the oboe and bassoon, then again by the brass. We now enter a lush dreamy soundscape that accompanies the solo English horn. The music becomes nobler and with the entrance of the snare drum signals the march on Washington that happened earlier that day. Out of the dream marches the reality of the civil rights movement implementing Dr. King’s dream and demanding the rights guaranteed to all men and women by the constitution. After the bold climax the piece slowly winds down, gradually fading off to the distance revisiting the dream-like textures from earlier in the piece. The song ‘We Shall Overcome’, which was in a way the anthem of the civil rights movement, is played briefly by the solo clarinet. The percussion and strings create a shimmering layer of tremolos and arpeggios while the brass states the second theme in broad strokes over musical canvas created by the shimmering layer. The timpani restates the martial drumbeat of the snare drum earlier, signifying that the movement for equality still marches on into the present day as our country and the rest of the world continue to address the issue of equality, human rights and discrimination.
Recorded by the George Mason University Orchestra; Dr. Dennis Leyendecker conducting.