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From MLK to Obama, The Battle Hymn of the Republic continues to inspire

caines | 1/17/2013, 4:30 a.m.

Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir to sing new rendition at Inauguration

On the evening of April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave an eerily prophetic speech, Ive Been to the Mountaintop, that foretold his death. As he came to the climax, he repeated the words from one of our nations most well-known and beloved patriotic songs, The Battle Hymn of the Republic. King said, I may not get there with you [the Promised Land] but we as a people will get there . . . Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. Those inspiring words penned by Julia Ward Howe in 1861, linking the judgment of the wicked at the end of time as described in Revelation from the New Testament with the Civil War, will be sung again on Monday, Jan. 21 but in a much different context. Its singing will be significant for two reasons: it is the day we honor Kings legacy during our national observance of his birth; and it is the day that Barack Obama will be inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States. Singing a new rendition of The Battle Hymn at the 57th Inauguration will be The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir a 300-strong choir of mostly untrained voices that is a blend of ethnic and economic backgrounds. The Choirs members include doctors, lawyers, ex-addicts, former homeless people and everything in between. The highly-anticipated new version was arranged by the choirs founder, Carol Cymbala, who started the choir in the mid 1970s with just nine voices, and its assistant music director, Jason Michael Webb. The choir is very excited and so are both Carol and I because this is a huge platform the world will be watching us and to sing Glory Hallelujah from that stage will be very special and a true honor, Webb said. The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a patriotic song but its also a national anthem for Christians. I think thats why it was chosen for the inauguration. In the arrangement weve created there are many scenes kind of like watching a movie. The colors change as we move around the world before ending in our nations Capitol. Most of the choirs 300 members will be part of a bus caravan. According to Webb, the trip will be a rarity as they dont often travel with their full membership. Our choir is reflective of the Kingdom of God because its so eclectic, there are many races, different ages and a variety of economic backgrounds, he said. If you love God, then youre part of His family and our music reflects that. Our music has a thread from all of the cultures represented in our group. Our music heals and speaks to people because we are sharing the love of Jesus. The world can be so ugly and dark because people dont realize that there is love in the world the love of Jesus Christ. Thats why we see this opportunity to sing as such an awesome responsibility. We are representing Jesus on a global stage and sharing the love of God. The Battle Hymn of the Republic, led by mezzo soprano Alicia Olatuja, will be bundled with another new anthem, Let Your Kingdom Come, and released on iTunes on Jan. 15th. Both songs will be part of the Choirs 28th recording that will be released in the spring. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com