This past spring the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Choir San Diego (MLK Choir) was invited to appear in a special program at Carnegie Hall in New York City to celebrate a style of music called the Negro Spiritual. The MLK Choir is known for their Negro Spirituals and traditional gospel music, and the performance provided an opportunity for its members to share the rich culture and history of African American music. As a non-profit charitable organization, the MLK Choir uses concerts such as these to raise funds for educational grants to be distributed to college-bound high school students planning to major in the Visual and Performing Arts.
The MLK Choir is a "triple threat" when it comes to investing in the community. Not only does it contribute financial support to graduating high school seniors, it is also a 100% volunteer organization — from its board members and choir directors to its choir members and soloists— whose members contribute hundreds of hours of community service to share African American music both locally and abroad. This provides a great opportunity for fun, partnership and leadership in coordinating and carrying out its annual special projects, like the "All About the Blues" review coming up in May 2017.
In December, the MLK Choir will travel to Vienna, Austria for one week to participate in the Advent Sing Choir Festival, sharing the choir’s music in this incredible city of music and culture at the height of the holiday season. Vienna is where Mozart found inspiration, Strauss wrote his famous waltzes, and where Beethoven, Schoenberg, Berg, Haydn, Schubert, Liszt, and Bruckner lived and performed for decades. The MLK Choir will perform in Vienna’s prestigious City Hall, where Strauss first presented the waltz to the world and the renowned Three Tenors — Pavarotti, Carreras, and Domingo — performed. They will sing in the gilded Abbey of Melk, considered the most stunning example of Baroque architecture in Europe, and share holiday songs at the festive Christmas Market in front of Schönbrunn Palace, where a seven-year-old Mozart played for Empress Maria Theresa.
“We will represent San Diego and make gospel music part of a quintessential European Advent Season!” exclaimed Arnessa Rickett, MLK Choir Vice President. “This promotes the message of diversity and unity, the importance of African American music as part of America's history and culture, and, of course, helps boost sales of our new CD — ‘Make a Joyful Noise’. All of which allows us to award more grants!”
Traveling to Vienna as a group during the winter holiday season will present another exciting chapter for the MLK Choir — having already completed two European tours and two Carnegie Hall appearances to date.
“Most performing groups know what their entire season looks like before it begins, and they prepare in anticipation of being successful throughout,” explains Ken Anderson, MLK Choir Artistic and Musical Director. “The MLK Choir is different. We indeed have a season, but there are only certain parts that we know in advance. Our flexibility leaves us open to unexpected events and is no doubt the largest contributor to the fact that we are invited to perform in such a diversity of environments...churches, schools, civic events, conferences, conventions and even an open court session! We have managed to cross over generational, cultural, racial, socio-economic and national boundaries. We even find ourselves welcomed into venues where the rest of the performances have nothing to do with our style or message, from rock, jazz and R&B to classical. Talk about diversity and flexibility...Wow!”
As they approach their 20th season of giving, the MLK Choir encourages you to donate your time at one of their concerts, your talent as a member of their choir, or your resources as a donor or sponsor to improve the educational prospects of our local youth and to support the arts in San Diego. It takes a multi-skilled group of volunteers to research, cast, and choreograph a musical revue with backstage crew and front-of-house ushers and concessions providing support. Moving forward, the MLK Choir is looking for male tenor and bass voices and strong female soprano voices to fill out the choir. And they can always use referrals to qualified high school students who wish to compete for the educational grants. It's a fun group, with a joyous sound and a meaningful mission.
Since 1999, the MLK Choir has awarded 93 grants totaling over $196,000 through its gospel concert performances and other fundraising efforts. This season, they are starting with a total of 95 choir members.
To learn more about the MLK Choir, visit their website.