Eye on TV
By JERRY KRUPNICK
How smart is was of public television to hold over a marvelous Boston Pops concert from last summer, in order to provide a special high note during February’s Black History Month.
The rousing result of all this planning ahead, “Songs of Freedom,” airs tonight at , Channel 13, with music and prose, illuminated by still photographs of the Civil War.
Above all, it sparkles with musical performances by soprano Shirley Verett, folk singer Odetta and the Boys Choir of Harlem, supported and enhanced by John Williams and his Boston Pops Orchestra. Put them all together and we have a stirring celebration of music from the Civil War to the civil rights movement of the ‘60s.
Among the highlights: a brash and compelling overture from the orchestra built around the “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” theme; the haunting “Ashokan Farewell” from Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” masterpiece; the theme from “Glory” sung by the Boys Choir, who are then joined by Verett for “The Battle Hymn of the Republic;” Odetta’s a capella rendition of “Black Woman” and “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind on Freedom;” Verrett’s sensitive reading of “Motherless Child;” and a medley from Verett, Odetta and the choir of “Oh, Freedom,” “Down by the Riverside,” and “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.”
In addition, Roscoe Lee Browne offers a moving “Lincoln Portrait” and recites Lance Jeffers’ “I Do Not Know the Power of My Black Hand.”
Making this concert even more meaningful is the wonderful collection of still photographs, many by Matthew Brady, depicting the Civil War, not only in its battles, but in its music as well.
The results are pure gold, rewarding and rollicking and moving, a superb way for us to see and hear those truths of freedom go marching on.