Friday, September 22, 2017
Gala Concert Pays Tribute to Dr. King
By Troy Tieuel, Sentinel Contributing Writer
Published February 7, 2013


A DELICIOUS RECEPTION: Catered by Step onto Flavor Catoring, members of the orchestra as well as other honored guests gathered before the tribute concert to break bread and share a meal. Featured in the above photograph, from left to right, are composer Dr. James Lee III, AACMS conductor Janise White, honored flutist Herbert Laws, and composer Howlett Smith. 

THE AFRO-AMERICAN CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY musicians played in harmonic cohesion.  Procussionist Venessa Brown, and celloest Brenton Preciado and Kevan Torfeh play Dr. Lee’s “Gye Nyame.” 

ELEMENTRY MUSIC: Karah (centered with violin) and Hanah (centered lower with cello) lead the performance of the National Anthem.  The two talented musicians will be performing in Carnegie Hall this April with the Los Angeles Children’s Orchestra.

Photos by Troy Tieuel

King Tribute features Composers Dr. Lee III and Howlett Smith

On Sunday, January 13, The Afro-American Chamber Music Society hosted a ‘Musical Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’, a Gala Concert that was held at the Wilshire Methodist Church, two blocks west of the corner of Crenshaw and Wilshire Boulevards.  The tribute featured musical compositions from Jose Mauricio Nunes Garcia (1767-1830), an Afro-Brazilian composer that composed music for kings, Dr. James Lee, III, Los Angeles native and an Associate Professor of Theory and Composition at Morgan State University in Maryland, and Howlett Smith, a noted African American composer and jazz pianist.

The tribute began with the National Anthem, arranged by Janise White and included a special performance by sisters Karah Innis, 6th grader on the violin, and Hannah Innis, 2nd grader on the cello.  Both sisters are members of the Los Angeles Children’s Chamber Orchestra and the Los Angeles Children’s Orchestra, respectively. 

Following the anthem, was the stirring “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which set the background and mood for Howlett Smith’s “Glory Hallelujah Variation” performed magnificently by Janise White on the piano and conducted by Fernando Pullum.

The orchestra consisted of several talented musicians that flawlessly played the complex melodies of the classical symphonies “Abertura em Re,” “Sinfonia Funebre,” and “Abertura Zemira” by Jose Mauricio Nunes Garcia. 

“The Appointed Time,” one of two composition by Dr. James Lee III, changed the mood of the room as the unexpected mixture of melodies encompassed the audience like a blanket of familiar yet, unconventional harmonies.  “I like to use “Ostinati,” said Dr. Lee III regarding the unusual nature of his sound.  “With that, I will incorporate various layers to make a complex combination of initial harmonies and rhythmic changes.”

Dr. Lee III premiered “Gye Nyame,” a West-African inspired piece that he finalized just for this event. “Through mutual friends, Dr. White became aware of my music.” Said Dr. Lee III, “She, [Janise White], approached me about writing a piece.  This is a world premier piece, with two movements written while I was a student at the University of Michigan from 1999 to 2005 in the Masters and Doctorate programs.  “Gye Nyame” is a composition that contained multi-layered harmonies that were akin to rhythms commonly associated with African tribal songs and Caribbean melodies

“I am interested in the culture and history of Ghana and the connection with the Za Dynisty,” continued Dr. Lee III. “The music itself is a kaleidoscope, or a musical anthology, on the idea of storytelling in West-African culture.”

For more information on Dr. James Lee III, Howlett Smith, or the Afro-American Chamber Music Society go to or email:


Categories: Crenshaw & Around

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