“The number one document of all is the ‘Letter from the Birmingham Jail.’ That is the symphony of social justice that he wrote.” – Dr. Clarence B. Jones, from “Peace Be Till”
In 1963, Clarence Jones smuggled the words of Martin Luther King Jr. out of his Birmingham, Alabama, jail cell, where he was being held for his participation in a peaceful demonstration. The former personal counsel, speechwriter and advisor to Dr. King reads from King’s defense of nonviolent direct action in this excerpt of “Peace Be Till,” a work written in 2018 by Oakland-based composer Zachary Watkins for the Kronos Quartet.
Music composed by Zachary Watkins
Featuring the voice of Dr. Clarence B. Jones
David Harrington, violin
John Sherba, violin
Hank Dutt, viola
Sunny Yang, cello
Additional vocals by Amber McZeal
Film edited by Evan Neff
Film produced by the Kronos Performing Arts Association
Zachary Watkins’ “Peace Be Till” was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by Carnegie Hall, with additional support from the David Harrington Research and Development Fund. “Peace Be Till” received its world premiere on January 19, 2018, at Carnegie Hall as part of The ’60s: The Years that Changed America festival.