“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter,” is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that captures the theme of the 15th annual Music4Martin, at 3:30 p.m. March 12 at Grace Lutheran Church 1300 Kishwaukee Valley Road, Woodstock.
Each year the performance blends different aspects of performance art: dance, song, instrumental, and spoken word of over two-dozen performers, from three generations. Each performance emphasizes an aspect of Kings mission and vision.
Directors Bob Diss, Paul Fields, and George Mulgano bring together a multi-age troupe of community members to celebrate the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with spoken word, song and dance.
They all bring dedication and a love of music to the performance. Gabby McMillan, a returning artist will perform “Fight Song,” by Rachel Platten. The group updated Billy Joel’s song, “We Didn’t Start the fire” with a new verse from 1990 until now. The original song began with Joel’s birth through 1989.
The Woodstock Community Choir will perform “Lord Protect my Child” by Bob Dylan and back up the house bands performance Pink Floyd’s “On the Turning Away,” which, according to West, implores us to face suffering in the world head on, rather than ignoring what happens to those less fortunate.
The Woodstock Ballet Studio Dancers will perform to “Down in the River to Pray.” West researched the origin of the song, often re-named to “Down to the River to Pray.” According to him, the song originally referred to to walking in the river as a way for escaping slaves to avoid blood hounds and bounty hunters.
According to West, the founder of Music4Martin, “There’s a lot of frustration, and feelings powerlessness. Some of what’s going on politically scares people. We want to show that King’s philosophy endures and is as important now as ever.”
Taras Ivasyuk, who performed his original song in last year’s performance, says of West, “He helped me out so much. He’s such a huge part of my career. I wouldn’t be where I am today, without him.”
Ivasyuk is in California this year, following his dream to be a professional performer. One of his band members, Dan Noyes-Mills will perform “Iron Sky,” which references the need to be vigilant about fighting oppression of the many by the few. Noyes-Mills will perform at Music4Martin as a soloist and as part of the six house bands on the program.
West, whose background is art education, believes the generation gap is a myth. He explains, “When young people got involved during the 1960s, especially when college aged, and kids started getting carted away to jail and knocked down by fire hoses, the media could not ignore the Civil Rights movement.”
West and his two sons began the annual event in 2002.
“It was really a rag-tag event,” said West, “with mainly family of the performers attending.”
He approached Grace Lutheran with talking points in hand. He felt Grace Lutheran had the best venue, with a great sound system. The son of a lawyer and an admirer of eloquent speech, West is known for preparing his requests with logic and justification. He barely began his argument when the pastor said “Fine, you can do it.”
As always, the performance is free. A free-will offering benefits two local organizations. This year’s collection goes to The Break Teen Center, in Crystal Lake. The Center provides a safe place for kids to hang out, serving McHenry County. The other half of the proceeds go to Community Connections for Youth (CCY) founded by West.