The spirit and songs of the Civil Rights movement will come to life onstage at CoMMA when local and national talent combine during the performance “We Shall Overcome”: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. featuring Damien Sneed, on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
The show at CoMMA, which falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is inspired by the words and actions of Dr. King. “We Shall Overcome” showcases a range of African-American music traditions that electrified generations of Civil Rights activists and defenders, and combines this music with spoken word from Dr. King’s recorded speeches. This production brings together a living lineage of music and culture that includes traditional gospel, modern gospel, classical, jazz, Broadway and spirituals.
A community choir under the direction of local minister of music Willette McIntosh will join Sneed and his ensemble for the event at CoMMA.
“Morganton and Burke County have a long history of paying tribute to Dr. King and honoring his legacy and his holiday, and this year is no exception. I think all celebrations and commemorations of Dr. King are critically important in the modern day, because when it comes to fulfilling Dr. King’s dream of what this country should be and realizing what he challenged our society to become, we still have many mountains to climb,” McIntosh said. “I am so humbled to be asked to participate in all these tributes and so grateful to have the opportunity to help build a deeper appreciation of Dr. King’s life and work.”
The community choir will have a 2 hour master class with Sneed prior to the performance, where they will learn the vocal technique and style from the 1950s and 60s that will be used during the performance. They will prepare several selections that were performed by Duke Ellington to present at CoMMA.
“When I look for shows, I try to find a couple of shows that allow local instrumentalists and singers to be part of the production,” CoMMA Director W. Jim Smith said. “This gives our local artists a springboard of opportunity, experience, and exposure with other professional musicians. CoMMA brings some great shows, but having the opportunity to include local talent makes for a more meaningful and successful show.”
Sneed is the Producer and Musical Director for the performance, and his career covers a breadth of genres. He has conducted and collaborated on major original works for Wynton Marsalis, regularly accompanies Jessye Norman, collaborated with Lawrence Brownlee, and has toured extensively with Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and the Clark Sisters. This experience across a berth of genres allows Sneed to have a unique understanding of the material at hand and bring it to life in a way that covers immense musical ground in a single performance.
“I look forward to honoring the life and legacy of the great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., in my upcoming tour as well as many other great artists and public figures who used their voices and their art to let the world know that one day we will truly overcome,” Sneed said.
Sneed’s performance at CoMMA is part of a nationwide tour that kicks off in January and concludes in March, running through Black History Month and ending in the early part of Women’s History Month. 2019 marks the 35th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was signed into law and made a federal holiday in 1983.
“The performance ‘We Shall Overcome’ will add a monumental and stirring artistic element to this year’s commemorations of the life and legacy of Dr. King,” McIntosh said.
Sneed handpicked the group of multi-genre vocalists and instrumentalists that will be accompanying him in this inspiring and timely tribute to Dr. King. These performers are Chenee Campbell (vocalist), Markita Knight (vocalist), Ayana George (vocalist), Anitra McKinney (vocalist), Quinn Brown (vocalist), Mark Clark (drums), John Matthew Clark (bass), and Marquéz Cassidy (keyboards). Special guests Patrice Eaton, Audrey DuBois Harris, and Brandie Sutton, who are classical recording artists, will appear on various dates of the tour.
Tickets for the event begin at $19. To purchase tickets, visit commaonline.org or call the Box Office at 828-433-SHOW. Box Office hours are Monday-Friday, 12pm-5pm.
Damien Sneed, left, is the Producer and Musical Director of “We Shall Overcome”: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Willette McIntosh, at right, is the Community Choir Coordinator for the performance.