A musical tribute to the Little Rock Nine will be performed for the first time in Fayetteville this fall.
The tribute, called the No Tears Suite and written by Little Rock jazz pianist Christopher Parker and vocalist Kelley Hurt for the 60th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School held in 1997, will be performed on the evening of Sept. 24 at Fayetteville Public Library.
The performance is part of a four-day series of events to be held in Fayetteville and Tulsa Oklahoma intended “to honor the sacrifice and ongoing work of those who strive to build a more just and equal society,” organizers said.
The series, created through a partnership between Oxford American, Fayetteville Roots, University of Arkansas Center for Multicultural & Diversity Education, Vernon AME Church, and The Woody Guthrie Center, will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 23 with a workshop and panel discussion at Fayetteville Public Library moderated by staff from the University of Arkansas Center for Multicultural & Diversity Education. The next morning, musicians in town to perform the No Tears Suite will lead a master class for local jazz students, with the performance of No Tears Suite to follow that evening inside the library’s new performing arts center.
Similar events, including panel discussions, potlucks, and another performance of music are scheduled in Tulsa Sept. 25-26.
Parker and Hurt, co-composers of the No Tears Suite, will be part of the ensemble performing the music for the event, along with jazz drummer Brian Blade, in addition to Bobby LaVell (tenor saxophone), Roland Guerin (bass), Marc Franklin (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Chad Fowler (baritone and alto saxophone).
“The No Tears Suite immediately drew me in because of its power to tell the Little Rock Nine story through song,” said Fayetteville Roots co-founder and Director of Arts & Culture for the UA Center for Multicultural & Diversity Education, Bryan Hembree. “It was immediately clear to me that Chris Parker and Kelley Hurt and the team at Oxford American had created an important musical narrative of the Little Rock Nine and their heroic efforts to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The original piece of music is not only vital to the Little Rock community but will impact Northwest Arkansas and beyond.”
Ticketing and other event details will be released at fayettevilleroots.org in early September, organizers said in a press release issued this week.
A version of the No Tears Suite recorded by Parker and Hunt, along with a bit more info about the project, is available at the artists’ Bandcamp page.