Connect with us


Fresno Philharmonic Marks Civil Rights Anniversary with California Debut of ‘Justice Symphony’



The Fresno Philharmonic will cap its 2022-23 season with an extraordinary event featuring Damien Geter's "Symphony No. 1: The Justice Symphony" on Sunday. (Fresno Philharmonic)
Share with friends

The Fresno Philharmonic will perform Damien Geter’s “Symphony No. 1: The Justice Symphony” on Sunday, marking an important milestone in the nation’s civil rights movement as well as the first time the work has been performed in California.

The concert will end with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a hymn to universal brotherhood. The concert will begin at 3 p.m. in the William Saroyan Theatre at M and Inyo Streets in downtown Fresno. It is the final concert of the philharmonic’s 2022-23 season.

The orchestra will be joined by the Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale and soloists Karen Slack (soprano), Sarah Mesko (mezzo-soprano), Adam Diegel (tenor), and Geter (bass-baritone). The philharmonic’s music director, Rei Hotoda, will conduct the concert.

Tickets are available at this link.

Civil Rights History on Display in Lobby

The event also will feature a lobby display on civil rights history curated by NeFesha Ruth Yisra’el of Black Folk Art.

Geter’s work, which is based on the anthems of the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, will mark the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s national television address on civil rights.

Kennedy delivered his Report to the American People on Civil Rights on June 11, 1963, following years of activism by Blacks and the U.S. government’s May 1963 confrontation with Alabama Gov. George Wallace over his attempts to block Black students from enrolling in the University of Alabama. The speech was the first time an American president had framed the civil rights struggle as a moral issue.

The president called on Congress to pass meaningful civil rights legislation that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 following Kennedy’s assassination.

JFK Meets Civil Rights Leaders

President Kennedy meets with the leaders of the March On Washington on August 28, 1963, in the Oval Office. Left to right: Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz, Mathew Ahmann, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, Rev. Eugene Carson Blake, A. Philip Randolph, President Kennedy, Vice President Johnson, Walter Ruether, Whitney Young, Floyd McKissick. Cecil Stoughton. (White House Photograph/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)