September 12, 2005 | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ruth Sterling, 603 352-4410 RS@SterlingDes.com
Musical celebration of the history of a hero
"A Journey to Freedom, Honor & Glory: Celebrating Jonathan Daniels"
Virginia, Massachusetts, Alabama and New Hampshire all claim him as their hero. England's Canterbury Cathedral honors him in its official list of saints and martyrs. Former President Jimmy Carter called him a "great man" upon receiving a humanitarian award in his name in 2001.
And the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., immortalized him in words saying, "...the meaning of his life was so fulfilled in his death that few people in our time will know such fulfillment or meaning though they live to be a hundred."
The hero, martyr and man of greatness was Jonathan Daniels. On October 16, 2005, at The Colonial Theatre in his hometown of Keene, NH, Jonathan Daniels will be brought to life with the New England premiere of "A Journey to Freedom, Honor and Glory: Celebrating Jonathan Daniels." With soaring music by acclaimed composer Julius Williams and excerpts of the poignant film "Here Am I, Send Me: The Journey of Jonathan Daniels," the afternoon performance tells the story of a young man born to be a hero whose acts of courage forty years ago are as inspiring today as ever.
"A Journey to Freedom..." had its world premiere in Alexandria, VA, in the spring of 2004, commissioned and performed by the Reston Chorale, under the direction of Frederick Wygal. His wife Ellen Wygal, originally Ellen Fox from Keene, NH, had been childhood chums with Jon Daniels and knew his story well. Recalls Wygal, in 2001 her husband Fred decided that "there should be great music to tell this story."
Julius Williams, Composer
Frederick Wygal called upon Julius Williams, conductor, recording artist, and prolific writer of works for orchestra, dance, opera, musical theater and film, to create a new work to spotlight the little-known story. Williams, a native of Queens, NY, conductor of the Washington Symphony Orchestra, and faculty member of Bostons Berklee College of Music, "absorbed the essence of the thoughts and deeds of Jonathan Myrick Daniels," comments Frederick Wygal in the premiere's program notes. By illuminating Daniels chapter in our nations history, Williams has created a work which in Wygals words will forever inspire and motivate us with its power of presentation and its plea for the salvation and recognition of human dignity."
Documentary Film "Here Am I, Send Me..."
The nearly forty-year gap between Daniel's martyrdom and the creation of "A Journey to Freedom..." might have been longer if not for the documentary film, "Here Am I, Send Me: The Journey of Jonathan Daniels," produced by two filmmakers from Keene, NH, and narrated by Sam Watterston. In the decade or so of research that led to the eventual national release of the film on PBS, producers Lawrence Benaquist and William Sullivan unearthed a wealth of documents and photographs that illustrated the Jonathan Daniels story and created a new generation of fans of the hero. Film excerpts set the mood, tell the story and punctuate the show A Journey to Freedom....
Why his story never ends
One example of the timelessness of the story is a transcript of a CBS News broadcast from Daniel's funeral, reported by veteran newscaster Alexander Kendrick in which Daniels is compared to a hero returning from the war in Viet Nam: "For Jonathan Daniels, age 26, is described in his hometown today as a man doing his duty in Hayneville just as if he had instead been a marine doing his duty at Chu Lai." (Full transcript and audio recording available.)
What drew a bright young man from Keene to the desperate struggle for civil rights in Alabama? Why was he so devoted to the cause of voting rights and human dignities for all people? Why is he such a relevant topic for school-age students, parents and his contemporaries as they enter retirement?
"A Journey to Freedom..." provides multimedia answers to these looming questions. It is a captivating history lesson in music, photographic images and story telling that reaches its promise of explaining "why his story never ends."
Conductor Carroll Lehman, Soloists Maria Ferrante and Charles Lindsey, and the Music
Dr. Carroll Lehman, professor of music at Keene State College, and renowned conductor, teacher and bass soloist, will lead the 45-piece orchestra and 120-voice choir in the Cantata, a ten-part piece. Lehman is the music director for the entire event, which opens with the moving plainsong "Magnificat," a hymn of particular significance to Jonathan Daniels at a key turning point in his life. Soprano Maria Ferrante is slated to perform the traditional "Magnificat" and other solos.
The music of the Cantata reflects various stages of Jon's life including impressions of his training at Virginia Military Institute. Tenor Charles Lindsey will solo in the powerful "Black Faces, White Faces," part three of the Cantata. Julius Williams musical journey takes listeners from contemporary rhythms and clashing harmonies evoking the tragedy at Hayneville to the triumph of freedom and glory in the uplifting gospel-like choruses. The story culminates in a jubilant celebration of reconciliation "Let Freedom Ring," a rousing chorus expected to bring the audience to its feet.
Host Rawn Spearman
The format of "A Journey to Freedom" seamlessly blends artful narration by host Rawn Spearman, a "Living Treasure" (recipient of the 2001 Lotte Jacobi Award for contributions to the arts in NH), with music and special guest commentaries. Spearman's illustrious career spanning Broadway, television, concert stage and college classroom uniquely qualifies him to serve as master of ceremonies for this event. Much of the narration is drawn from the actual writings of the thoughtful, articulate Jonathan Daniels.
Special Guest Speakers including Ruby Sales
Featured in the first half of the program are four special guests who will share tributes to a hero they knew personally. Boyhood friend Carlton Russell and pal Judith Upham, Daniels' fellow Episcopal Theological School (Cambridge, MA) student and intrepid Alabama civil rights worker, will speak briefly. The spotlight will also fall on Ruby Sales, today a divinity school alumna and director of Spirit House in Washington, DC, where she works for community building. Forty years ago however, Ruby Sales was a daring and devoted civil rights worker who ventured into a store for a cold drink with Daniels behind her. Her message in "Journey to Freedom..." is not to be missed. Shots were fired at that store that took the life of Jonathan Daniels and left his friend Richard Morrisroe critically injured. Morrisroe is the fourth featured presenter.
"A Journey to Freedom..." is presented at The Colonial Theatre, 95 Main Street, Keene, NH, on Sunday, October 16, 2005, at 3PM. Tickets prices are: adult $20, youth $7, college student with ID $10. Group rates (for groups of ten or more) are: adult $10, youth $5. Low ticket prices encourage bringing family members; the program is designed for all ages, including youths, but is most suitable for children in fifth grade and up. Ticket information at 603 352-2033 or on-line, www.JourneytoFreedom-JonathanDaniels.com, which includes links to the theatre's website and ticket purchase site.
Study Guide for Schools, Supporters
A study guide, including questions for study and a time line of events in the history of Jonathan Daniels, has been made available to area schools. The school outreach and presentation of "A Journey to Freedom..." are the work of a Keene city-sponsored, largely volunteer committee, inspired by the Jonathan Daniels story. The project has received generous support from area and state contributors, including The Putnam Foundation, The Keene Sentinel, and the Monadnock Community Foundation of the NH Charitable Foundation. Reston benefactors John and Sue Adney underwrote the original commissioned work, A Journey to Freedom, Honor and Glory: Celebrating Jonathan Daniels.