Performer at 27th Annual Realizing the Dream Concert Brings Celebration Atmosphere to Moody Music Hall
By Taylor Armor
CCBP Graduate Assistant
South African award-winning artist Jonathan Butler brought enthusiasm for life and music to his high-energy performance at the 27th Annual Realizing the Dream Concert Sunday, January 17 at the Moody Concert Hall on the University of Alabama’s campus. The concert was one of many events in the Tuscaloosa area honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Butler described the event as a “celebration” and his “dream.” Butler said, “This was all I ever wanted to do. I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer. I just wanted to sing and play guitar.”
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Sponsoring student representatives Elliot Spillers, UA’s SGA president, Donielle Allen, Shelton State Community College’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society president, and Christopher Ruffin, Stillman College’s SGA president, acknowledged Friday night’s Legacy Award winners (link to the video of the Legacy winners) and introduced Sunday night’s performer.
In their jazz-infused style, Butler and his band of three played a few instrumental sets that received applause and even whistles of approval from the sold-out concert hall audience.
Before strumming the guitar to play his 2014 album-titled song, “Living My Dream,” Butler shared a story about his early calling as a musician while performing at his parents’ concert in a South African community center. “I remember when I was six years old,” he said. “I sang my first song which was ‘My, My, My, [Delilah]’ by Tom Jones. In the middle of the song, I fell on my knees with the microphone and I didn’t know where it came from. People threw money on the stage, and I picked it up and I left. I forgot to sing the rest of the song. I knew I had a ministry.”
Butler and his group ministered further with his 2010 hit gospel single, “Falling in Love With Jesus.” Almost on cue, the concert hall was moved to sing, sway and praise along with Butler.
At the concert’s end, Butler and company received a standing ovation. The Prentice Concert Chorale, a local group that encourages appreciation of choral music, led the audience in singing “We Shall Overcome,” which has become a Realizing the Dream tradition.
“In this 27th year, the committee selected as theme Realizing the Dream Through the Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person. We believe the concert once again provided an opportunity for our community to reflect on important aspects of the work done by both Dr. King and President Nelson Mandela,” said Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president of the Division of Community Affairs, speaking for the committee that plans the annual event. “Mr. Butler’s performance was another in a long line of outstanding performances honoring Dr. King.”
Stillman College and UA unveiled the inaugural Realizing the Dream conference in 1990 to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King. Later, Shelton State and the Tuscaloosa Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference joined as sponsors in the planning and executing of events that surround Dr. King’s holiday.