Suze Diaz…Wednesday night took an enlightening significance at the California Center for the Arts Escondido. In acknowledgement of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, an evening of inspirational and uplifting gospel songs celebrating the history of the Negro Spiritual was performed by one of San Diego’s talented non-profit charitable organizations, The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir.
Originally founded in 1990, The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir’s mission is two part: 1) to sing glory to God and share the art of worship through gospel music; and 2) to raise funds conducting a series of concerts to award scholarships to aspiring college-bound students around San Diego County majoring in the visual and performing arts. Since 1998, they have bestowed 101 educational grants totaling over $218,000. Presenting their concert schedule throughout various venues in San Diego and internationally across Europe, the Choir sings original and cover tributes ranging from gospel to contemporary worship, accompanied by piano and percussion and averaging 60 to 80 singers with prior choral experience from all denominations.
Photos by Suze Diaz
The California Center for the Arts Escondido is faithfully committed to present a variety of quality art and cultural programs and performances to enrich the community. As Public Programs Manager Stephany Farley gave a warm welcoming speech to the audience, she emphasized that each event featured brings people together to discover, create and celebrate the visual and performing arts. Ms. Farley acknowledged that the evening’s exceptional concert was generously sponsored by Mrs. Lois Brossart and introduced the Director of The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir, Pastor Ken Anderson.
Pastor Anderson described how gospel music was originally known as “oral stories” or “code songs” and how the slaves used these songs in order to communicate their secret meanings as they were not allowed to speak with each other directly. The “call and response” of Negro Spirituals chants (the “preacher” sings the first line, the “congregation” echoes with a response) during the song was how these hymns communicated the “when”, “where” and “how” of escape ideas to local places along the Underground Railroad. Their expressions of faith in God favored Bible songs as code names utilized to describe locations. Encouraging positive energy and inspiring the spirit of community within the audience, Pastor Anderson cheerfully rallied each person to greet the people around them and introduce themselves, similar to meeting your neighbor sitting next to you in church.
With Antar Martin on bass guitar and Damion Willis on drums, the concert opened with the spiritual “O Freedom”, emotionally performed by Dale Flemming. Ms. Flemming hit the high notes effortlessly, as she sang the hope of what will be forthcoming once freedom has been achieved. In the 1950s and 1960s, the song was commonly sung as part of the Civil Rights Movement. The motivational spirit of Judith Malone’s performance of Mahalia Jackson’s “Didn’t It Rain”, John Ballard and David Flemming’s stirring rendition of “How Great is Your Faithfulness”, and Dale Flemming’s solemn “Hold Onto His Hand” was felt throughout the audience. Pastor Anderson spoke to the audience in the devotion of songs to the Lord, invigorating them to fully participate by standing and clapping along to “Glory, Glory Hallelujah”. Along with Assistant Director Billie Collins, the Choir then filled up the venue with joyful voices to “Worship the Lord”. As the concert came to its closing hymn, Pastor Anderson conveyed the feeling of hope with everyone in the audience joining the Choir in singing the impactful “We Shall Overcome”.
It was a beautiful evening of inspiration, the uplifting of the spirit and the continued promise of hope. The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir together in strength and faith express through song the praise and worship of giving God the glory sharing with the community the optimistic hopes of a better tomorrow.
For more information on how to join the choir, upcoming performances, cd releases, and scholarship fundraising in connection with The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir San Diego, please visit their website at http://www.mlkccsd.org
For more information on performances, educational programs and other community services offered by the California Center for the Arts Escondido, please visit their website at http://artcenter.org/