The Mann Center for the Performing Arts announced Tuesday that on Saturday, July 19, it will open its doors to the community for the Philadelphia Freedom Festival finale – a free concert, Gospel Meets Symphony, headlined by gospel singer-songwriter Dr. Marvin Sapp. Sapp is one of the few gospel artists to have topped urban contemporary radio charts, doing so with his mega hit song "Never Would Have Made It." Also being featured at this event is the critically acclaimed Philadelphia Orchestra, soprano Barbara Walker, community and church choirs, and the world premiere of a Mann-commissioned work by composer and Philadelphia native Uri Caine. The Freedom Festival has been a multi-faceted, six-month series of events combining the arts and civil rights history as a tribute to the life and legacy of 19th century Philadelphia and early civil rights pioneer, Octavius V. Catto.
Catto was born in Charleston, S.C. in 1839 and settled in Philadelphia with his family in 1850. A well-educated man with a dedication to learning, he graduated valedictorian from the Institute for Colored Youth, now known as Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. He was insistent on equality for all men and became a leader of local and national prominence for enfranchisement and civil rights for African-Americans. He worked alongside other black leaders, including Frederick Douglas, to fight for equality. On Election Day, Oct. 10, 1871, Catto was murdered on his doorsteps for his efforts. He remains an important figure in early civil rights history for both the Philadelphia region and our nation. To acknowledge his legacy, later this year Catto’s will be the first installation of a statue commemorating an African-American in Philadelphia.
The Gospel Meets Symphony series finale will feature contemporary gospel songs performed by Dr. Sapp, along with the premiere of "The Passion of Octavius Catto," an original 25-minute, 10-movement symphony inspired by the life and sacrifice of Catto. Tickets to the event are free, but registration is required. To register for complimentary tickets, go to www.manncenter.org, click on July 19 and follow the "Get Tickets" link.