Arts Listings

Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute This Sunday

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:35:00 PM

In the Name of Love, Rhythmic Concepts Inc.’s seventh annual musical tribute honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be presented at 7:30 p.m. this Sunday at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeshore Dr. in Oakland.  

This year’s event features the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, with vocalists Faye Carol, Kenny Washington, Jeannine Anderson and Nicholas Bearde; Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir; Destiny Arts Youth Performance Co.; and Oakland Children’s Community Choir with the Oaktown Jazz Workshops; Clifford Brown, Jr. of KDYA, KCSM and KDIA as emcee. 

Stacy Hoffman, founder and executive director of Rhythmic Concepts, recalled the inspiration to produce the event: “One of our programs, the Oakland Jazz Choir, was invited about nine years ago to perform at a Dr. King tribute in San Jose. I thought it was cool the city was providing that, and it occurred to me the East Bay had nothing like it. Something was lacking. So we started it. And have tried from the beginning to highlight traditional larger vocal groups. Our organization created both the Interfaith and Jazz Choirs; both have since spun off. So we’ve really wanted to feature local and nationally-known groups, with archival footage of Dr. King shown on a big screen between acts.” 

As a result of RCI’s educational program to bring fundamental music classes to elementary schools having no access to the arts, 180 second through fourth graders from Cleveland and Glenview Schools will start off the tribute, led by Melanie DeMore and pianist Ben Heveroh, who have been visiting the schools for five years. DeMore, a founding member of Cultural Heritage Choir and former director of the Oakland Youth Chorus, has composed three numbers to teach King’s message. The Oaktown Jazz Workshops are directed by Khalil Shaheed. 

Marcus Shelby will be leading a 15-piece orchestra. He’s said of his music for the tribute: “I am composing an oratorio for jazz orchestra based on Dr. King’s life, using Civil Rights songs, Freedom Songs and original composition. ... [His] use of language to express his ideas was full of character, strength, rhythm, soul, inflection, dynamic contrast and effect. His speeches and sermons were Shakespearean in organization and provide an inspirational model from which to organize a musical composition.” 

Hoffman said of Shelby: “Marcus has spent the last few years resurrecting slave songs, spirituals, a whole body of work ... last year, a piece in the spirit of Harriet Tubman ... he’s more than just a musician; he’s using the orchestra to create a narrative.” 

Of the 60-voice Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir (Terrance Kelly, director), Hoffman said, “Everything they do is so in keeping with that message [of Dr. King]; everything they sing is appropriate to this event.” 

Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company is a multicultural group of teens who put on performance pieces with hip-hop, modern and aerial dance, theater, martial arts, song and rap. The Destiny Arts Center has worked with youth for over 20 years. “They’re known for using dance methodology to inspire kids to be nonviolent, healthy and in the community,” said Hoffman. “This is the first year dance has been included on the program.” 

In addition, the tribute will see the City of Oakland Citizen Humanitarian Award bestowed on Kevin Grant, “who helps people who’ve been through rehab, through addiction or through prison re-enter life. He gets people back on their feet,” said Hoffman, who commented that her group had worked with the Oakland Department of Public Services to create the award. 

“With the Inauguration only two days away,” said Hoffman, “this will be a profound celebration of Civil Rights—not just of Martin Luther King but of profound change, of possibility.” 


$12 general, $5 ages 6-10 (under 6 free) at Oakland bookstores, Pendragon, Laurel and Marcus; in Berkeley at Pegasus Books or Reid’s Records, or at (800) 838-3006, RCI info: 287-8880.