Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ninth Annual Let Freedom Sing! Concerts celebrate legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

2015 MLK Festival Choir

    Two upcoming concerts will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and showcase The Heritage Gospel Chorale of Pittsburgh, spoken-word artist Vanessa German, Family and FriendsChoir, Etta Cox, and the MLK Festival Choir   
    On the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, geographic, demographic, and economic lines are erased as choirs from city and suburb converge to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy in the Ninth Annual LET FREEDOM SING!, a two-concert series of inspiring music and oratory -- Sat., Jan. 16 and Mon., Jan. 18, both at 7 pm. 
    The concerts feature acclaimed visual and performance artist Vanessa German, The Heritage Gospel Chorale of Pittsburgh, and the MLK Festival Choir--comprised of combined high school, community and church choirs from city and suburb.  In addition, Saturday's concert will feature the Family and Friends Choir under the direction of Parrish Davenport, and Monday’s concert features renowned jazz vocalist Etta Cox.
    There is no charge for admission, but monetary donations are accepted to benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and the Westmoreland County Food Bank.
     The concerts are scheduled for Sat., Jan. 16 at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Hill District, and 
Mon., Jan. 18 at Franklin Regional High School, Murrysville
    Collaborating again on the LET FREEDOM SING! concerts are co-artistic directors Rev. Dr. Herbert V.R.P. Jones, director of The Pittsburgh Gospel Choir, and Kris Rust, director of choirs, Franklin Regional High School. More than a dozen musical selections are woven with the stirring performance of award-winning visual and spoken word artist Vanessa German.
    Let Freedom Sing! brings city and suburb together, blending performers and audience members of varied ages, races and creeds to realize Dr. King’s dream.
“This concert series empowers all of us to come together through music and find unity and love in the face of segregation, economic injustice, and racial tension,” says founder and co-artistic director Kris Rust. “Unity and love are ideas that Dr. King stressed in his work and we lift up these ideas in our singing.”
    THE MLK FESTIVAL CHOIR is made up of singers from the Family & Friends Choir, Franklin Regional High School Chorus, Greater Pittsburgh Universal Unitarian Churches, the Lemington Chorale, The Heritage Gospel Chorale of Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh CAPA High School.
On Sat., Jan. 16, 7 pm, LET FREEDOM SING! takes place at Ebenezer Baptist Church, 2001 Wylie Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
    On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Mon., Jan. 18, 7 pm, the concert is at Franklin Regional High School, 3200 School Road, Murrysville, PA, 15668.
    For directions or questions, e-mail or call 412-441-7677.
Visit the Let Freedom Sing website at Also see Facebook or Twitter @FreedomSingPgh for more details.
    THE HERITAGE GOSPEL CHORALE OF PITTSBURGH, under the direction of Dr. Herbert V.R.P. Jones, co-artistic director of Let Freedom Sing, is acclaimed for its inspirational performances of American Gospel music throughout Western Pennsylvania. Through its engagement of singers of all ages, races, and ethnicities, the chorale serves and cultivates diverse choir membership and audiences by infusing an appreciation of gospel music, including new works and arrangements. Founded in 2007 as The Pittsburgh Gospel Choir, the chorale was the first regional ensemble dedicated to the genre.

Etta Cox
 Originally from St. Joseph, Missouri.  Etta Cox has appeared on Broadway in I LOVE MY WIFE with Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs and in the 1940’s RADIO HOUR with Dee Dee Bridgewater.  She also had the starring role in Showtime’s production of THE ME NOBODY KNOWS.  Locally, she has appeared in the Pittsburgh Public Theaters’ MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM, City Theaters’ productions of FROM THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA, SPUNK, AVENUE X and CROWNS.
    She is well remembered for her starring roles in Ken Gargaro’s production of BEEHIVE and the Shakespeare Festivals TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA.  Her film career started in 1985 with SILENT WITNESS, starring Valerie Bertinelli and John Savage, LADY BEWARE, with Diane Lane and Michael Woods, CRIMINAL JUSTICE with Jennifer Grey and Forrest Whitaker, BUMP IN THE NIGHT with Meredith Baxter and Christopher Reeves, THE CEMETERY CLUB with Ellen Burstyn and Danny Aiello, WARRIOR  starring Nick Nolte, THE NEXT THREE DAYS with Russell Crowe and ME EARL AND THE DYING GIRL which won the Sundance Film Festival Award. Ms. Cox was the co-host of the television talk show CITYLIFE for eight years.
    She and trombonist Al Dowe have been performing not only in the Pittsburgh area but also in New York, Atlantic City and Key West Florida. They have opened for such artists as Ray Charles, Doc Severinson, David Brenner, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Danny Glover, Ossie Davis, Mavis Staples, Mark Murphy and Allen Harris.  She and Mr. Dowe made a premiere performance with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theaters’ production of SMOKIN’ ROSES with performances at Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater and Wolf Trap.
    Etta Cox has been voted “Best Jazz Vocalist” in Pittsburgh for 8 consecutive years and has received the Harry Schwalb Award for Excellence in the Arts.  She was selected as one of the 25 MOST POWERFUL WOMEN IN PITTSBURGH by Pittsburgh Magazine and voted Performer of the Year by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Ms. Cox is currently on Faculty at CAPA (Creative and Performing Arts High School).
Parrish Davenport
    Family and Friends Fellowship Choir formed in January 2015 under the direction of Parrish Davenport.  The Choir is a community choir focused on outreach, and composed of vocalists, including many ministers, from the Tri-state area. The repertoire includes several original songs written by their director.

    Raised in Los Angeles, California and Loveland, Ohio, Vanessa German is a self-taught artist—the middle of 5 children; her mother, Sandra German, is a fiber artist, and her father is retired. She is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s historic Homewood neighborhood.
    Vanessa is an actress, playwright, sculptor, performer and educator. She has pioneered a performance style called Spoken Word Opera—a dynamic hybrid of spoken word poetry infused with the theatrical elements of opera. She has written and performed several evening-length Spoken Word Operas including: "root, "testify," and "fire" and has been a featured performer at The Vineyard Playhouse, the Three Rivers Arts Festival, and the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. She has been a featured performer at the International Arts Festival in Grahmstown, South Africa, Pop TECH, Harvard, MIT, TED Women, and TED Education.
Vanessa German
  German’s sculptural work has been shown and exhibited in galleries and museums nationwide and is in several public and private collections including: The Progressive Collection, The Weisman Foundation, the American visionary arts museum and the David C. Driskell Center. German is also the founder of, “Love Front Porch” and Homewood’s Art House, and the “STOP SHOOTING, WE LOVE YOU” yard signs. The Huffington Post noted her, "One of 30 contemporary art makers under 40 that you should know about."
    Her work is presently touring the nation in the Driskell Center's African American Art 1950-Present. She is one of the 102 contemporary artists selected to be in, what's been touted as the biggest show of 2014, "STATE OF THE ART" at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. Her exhibition, "Bitter Root", opened at the Montana Museum of Art and will tour the state through the summer of 2015.
    Director of The Heritage Gospel Chorale of Pittsburgh since its founding, Dr. Herbert Vincent-Ricardo Pea’dro Jones is one of the nation's foremost figures in choral conducting and pedagogy and an expert in the intersection between theology and musical expression. A Southern transplant to Pennsylvania, Dr. Jones has cultivated a broad-based, multifaceted career as a choral conductor, educator, operatic and oratorio bass, liturgical dancer, orator and pastor, teaching and performing across the United States and Europe.
 Dr. Herbert Vincent-Ricardo Pea’dro Jones
Dr. Jones holds numerous degrees: B.S. in Music, M.S. in Counseling Psychology, M.Mus. in Choral Conducting/Music Education, M.Divinity (M.Div.) in Sacred Music, Dance & Drama, D.M.A. in Music, Choral Conducting, Performance Pedagogy & Choral Music Education, and has done Ph.D Studies in Ethnomusicology.   Dr. Jones has taught in the Public Schools of Mississippi (grades 6-12), the Private High School sector (The Piney Woods School, Mississippi, The Neighborhood Academy-Pittsburgh) and colleges in universities in North Dakota, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi, respectively.
    Dr. Jones is an active member of the American Choral Directors Association, the Music Educators National Conference, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Tau Beta Sigma, and the National Guild of Sacred Dancers. He has published articles in the Mississippi ACDA/Mississippi Music Teachers Journal, the Academic Division of GMWA, the Milestone Christian Bookstore Newsletter, and several others.
    Dr. Jones is listed in: Who's Who Among American Teachers (dual listing); Distinguished Church Musicians In America, Outstanding Personalities of the America, Marquise International Who's Who, Residential Scholars, Choral Scholar, (University of Mississippi); in 2011, 50 Men of Excellence (selected by the New Pittsburgh Courier), in 2013, one of 5 men selected as “Men of Distinction” recognized by the Rachel Randall Education Ministry of the Pentecostal Temple Church of God In Christ, Pittsburgh, PA., and several others.
    Dr. Jones is considered a leading authority on the music of Moses George Hogan. His Doctoral Dissertation, “THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN SPIRITUAL AND GOSPEL SONG: THE MUSICAL CONTRIBUTIONS OF MOSES GEORGE HOGAN, COMPOSER AND ARRANGER”, is the only definitive work on the life, music, compositional style of the composer.
     An Ordained Minister of Music, Dr. Jones is Executive Administrative Assistant to the Academic Dean, Academic Division, of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Inc. (GMWA), and sits on the Boards of The Simmons Scholarship Foundation, Inc. (Columbus, OH), the Afro-American Music Institute (AAMI) (Pittsburgh, PA), ‘All Nations Dance’ (Pittsburgh, PA), the Pentecostal Temple Development Corporation, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA), Professionals for Christ, Inc. (Birmingham, AL), and RAISE Academy (Columbus, OH), and is on the faculty of Community College of Allegheny County, Allegheny Campus – Department of Music.

    Dr. Jones continues to maintain an active schedule conducting seminars and workshops, guest conducting, and adjudicating choral festivals and competitions.

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