OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra tunes itself to an A note before every rehearsal which might have been the letter grade someone like history teacher and civil rights icon Clara Luper gave to an entire orchestral work composed in her honor.

Marilyn Luper Hildreth accompanied her mother on that first sit-in protest at the Katz Drug store in 1958, and it many other peaceful protests over the next six years.

She recalls, “I could feel the spit and the kicks that we received here.”

The music, with full orchestra and choir, even her own narration, brought it all back in a different way.

“I know it brought tears to my eyes,” she continues. “When I did my little bit of narration, it got to my heart and to my soul.”

Conductor Alexander Mickelthwate was new to Oklahoma when he began encountering Clara Luper’s name and history. Two years ago he found a composer he thought might be worthy of putting what she did to music.

Hannibal Lokumbe’s own mother took part in civil rights protests where he grew up.

Composing music for one meant creating tributes for mothers who did the same thing in lots of cities during that time.

“If you pay tribute to one you pay tribute to all,” he states, “because their work, and their intent, and their lives were for the same purpose,”

Of the musi itself, Mickelthwate adds, “So much history, so much passion.”

Lokumbe’s piece is partially titled, ‘Trials, Tears, and Transcendence’.

That it strikes a triumphant note in the end is no accident. The journey of Clara Luper has always arched toward justice.

The Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra will premiere Hannibal Lokumbe’s work Saturday evening, May 13 at the Civic Center Music Hall.

For more information go to okcphil.org.

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