Sun January 19, 2014 7:00pm

In the Name of Love: Music for MLK Tribute

By Molly Colin

 

Children's Choir"In the Name of Love" takes the stage Sunday evening at Oakland's Scottish Rite Center with a program that offers families and children of all ages an inspiring way to remember the slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. through music.

Spirituals were a touchstone for the Rev. King. Gospel great Mahalia Jackson soothed his soul with traditional songs she often sang to him over the telephone. And so 12 years ago, when Living Jazz Executive Director Stacey Hoffman began producing what has become an annual event in Oakland, she was inspired to create a tribute in observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day that is a non-demoninational musical one and also includes a gospel choir.

“I believe it’s important to continue this tradition because Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most powerful people of our time,” said Hoffman, in a telephone interview. “He also understood that music was a key component in preserving legacy and passing down tradition from one generation to another.”

Sunday’s program will feature artists whose own musical legacies stretch from traditional American gospel music to working with greats such as Count Basie and Albert King to singing a very different version of the Beatles ballad “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Moviegoers may recall Bay Area native and R&B singer Martin Luther McCoy singing that song as the character Jojo in the film Across the Universe.

Oakland Interfaith GospelThe Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra joins forces with legendary Bay Area singer Faye Carole in the world premiere of three interlinked musical pieces inspired by the civil rights movement. Living Jazz, an Oakland-based nonprofit, commissioned the work from Shelby, an award-winning composer and bassist, with support from the East Bay Community Foundation.

The 55-voice Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, directed by Terrance Kelly, has been featured on three Grammy Award-winning albums and has performed for international leaders from the late Nelson Mandela to Mikhail Gorbachev. The Oaktown Jazz Workshops will back the 300-voice Oakland Children’s Community Choir, directed by Melanie DeMore.

A project of Living Jazz, the Oakland Children’s Community Choir provides free weekly music lessons to 430 students during the regular public school day. This year’s concert features first to third-grade students from Fruitvale, Glenview, and Cleveland elementary schools who have little, or no access to the arts through school.

Prior to the tribute’s start, a slideshow of images of the Rev. King will run inside the theater. Archival footage of various speeches by him will screen interspersed between musical sets. The evening will also include the presentation by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan of the Oakland Citizen Humanitarian Award to an Oakland citizen who has made a difference.

Sunday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m., The Oakland Scottish Rite Center, $23 adults/ $8 children 12 and under, $25 at the door. For tickets, www.mlktribute.com. More information: (510) 287-8880.

Journalist Molly Colin writes about the arts and cultural trends.