Musicians, speakers to come together for ‘O King’


Community leaders to speak at “O King,” a musical performance that celebrates the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his associates.

Chattanooga, TN – People from different cultures, ages and educations unite through music. Even differing points of view can share a common experience through music.

One way people in Chattanooga can get together and enjoy a variety of musical performances is by celebrating the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his associates.

On Thursday, Jan. 25, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Department of Music, the Ruth Holmberg Professor of American Music, the Vice Chancellor for Access and Engagement and the Office of Multicultural Affairs will partner with the Bessie Smith Cultural Center to present “O King.”

The free concert, open to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. in the Bessie Smith Cultural Center performance hall (200 E. M.L. King Blvd.). The venue is accessible.

“O King,” a concept initiated by Dr. Jonathan McNair, the Ruth S. Holmberg Professor of Music at UTC, was first presented in March 2017.

“‘O King’ promises to be an engaging, enlightening and uplifting program that touches many bases in hopes of reaching many hearts and minds,” said McNair, who has been working with local literacy groups SoLit (previously known as Southern Lit Alliance) and Rhyme N Chatt on the event.

“Short reflections on the impact of Dr. King’s work on current community and campus leaders will be interspersed between musical selections, while a slideshow will provide visual images linked to the program. SoLit and Rhyme N Chatt will offer a list of appropriate readings for those wanting to know more about the vital movement Dr. King and his associates brought to national attention.”

Musical performances will include the UTC Singing Mocs, a Pentatonix-style a cappella vocal group; a UTC Music faculty trio; the Littleton H. Mason Gospel Choir from UTC; vocalists from Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, including Ella Hill and JerRod Taylor; and local professional musicians. Additionally, spoken word artist Erika Roberts will perform a newly created work.

Speakers include John Edwards, publisher of the Chattanooga News Chronicle; Dr. Ernest Reid, pastor of Second Missionary Baptist Church; Eric Atkins, president of the Unity Group; Dr. Eleanor McCallie Cooper; and Stacy Lightfoot, Vice Chancellor for Access and Engagement at UTC.

McNair said a different program involving speakers and musicians from the community and campus was offered in 2018 with Dr. Moises Baptiste as co-director. The new January 2024 presentation was planned with input from McNair, Lightfoot, Bessie Smith Cultural Center President Paula Wilkes, Bessie Smith Cultural Center Director of Community Relations Elijah Cameron, and SoLit Executive Director Chelsea Risley. For more information, contact the Bessie Smith Cultural Center at 423-266-8658 or the UTC Department of Music at 423-425-4601.