A beloved tradition continues: 38th King Day free gospel concert & KVMR celebration | TheUnion.com

A beloved tradition continues: 38th King Day free gospel concert & KVMR celebration

Steve Baker
Special to Prospector
The Bethel AME Choir of Marysville and the Nevada City Community Chorus gather on the Nevada Theatre stage for a recent KVMR 89.5 FM Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Gospel Concert.


WHO: KVMR 89.5 FM and the Nevada Theatre

WHAT: 38th Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Gospel Music Concert & Celebration, featuring the Bethel AME Choir of Marysville and the Nevada City Community Choir

WHEN: Noon to approximately 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21 (doors open approximately 11:15 a.m.) and broadcast live on KVMR

WHERE: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., downtown Nevada City

COST: Free (donations accepted)

BROADCAST: Live broadcast on KVMR, 89.5 & 105.7 FM, 105.1 FM Truckee, kvmr.org streaming. Concert highlights will also be rebroadcast at 6 p.m. Monday

INFO: kvmr.org/events or 530-265-9073 weekdays

It’s the 38th time — yes, 38th — that the beloved Bethel AME Church Choir and its longtime director Zenobia Brown will make their yearly trek to Nevada City this Monday for KVMR 89.5 FM’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Gospel Concert.

And the noon concert at the Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad Street, is, as always, free and open to the public, with doors opening about 11:15 a.m. It will also be broadcast live at noon on KVMR (89.5 & 105.7 FM, 105.1 FM Truckee, kvmr.org streaming).

So that’s what you call a true civic tradition that locally dates back to the early 1980s, always in honor of the legendary civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Joining the tradition last decade was the Nevada City Community Chorus, which will perform with the Bethel Choir for the eighth year, making what KVMR volunteer and Chorus member Helena McDaniel calls “the MLK Mass Choir.”

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And while the demographics of the two choirs may not exactly match (Bethel features largely African-American performers), Community Chorus director Stan Thomas-Rose says the passion does.

“You see, it’s exactly the kind of thing Martin Luther King dreamed of,” Thomas-Rose explains. “He wanted people of all races to join together, not to be separate.”

“And it’s an incredible inspiration that something like this has such an important place in Nevada County. We (the Chorus) feel we’ve become a part of it. I was just a little kid in the civil rights era and now I feel a part of it.”


To event producer Paul Emery, “It (the concert) literally falls together each year. We’ll have 40 or so on stage with the choirs and band.”

A favorite part of each year occurs when “the choirs, the audience, everybody sings at the same time,” according to Emery. “It is gospel music, after all, and it’s meant to be sung.”

One musical highlight each year is no surprise.

That, of course, would be the classic civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome,” with the audience swaying back and forth and often holding hands.

“We’ve still got to sing it,” says one 30-year Bethel Choir veteran. “We must keep the fight going.”

KVMR’s McDaniel is once again a whirlwind of activity around the event now that she’s back in town after a four year absence.

“It all comes because of my love for their choir and Zenobia, their wonderful director,” she beams.

And it was McDaniel who invited Stan Thomas-Rose and the Trinity Church Choir to sing alongside Bethel; they quickly transformed into the Nevada City Community Choir for the King Day event.

The two choirs rehearse together before the concerts, according to McDaniel. “It’s a nice friendship that continues to grow.”

“Our community needs to be relating to people of other cultures and races because we’re so segregated from those experiences here,” she says. “You see, you can’t teach people to hate someone they already have a relationship with and are at peace with.”

Meanwhile, Emery also enjoys how the music “goes back and forth between the two choirs” and how the concert has become “a blend of the two.”

“And the Nevada Theatre just resonates with the joy of this music,” he adds with a smile. “Everybody leaves just feeling good.”


KVMR 89.5 FM will offer Martin Luther King-oriented programming from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the holiday celebrating King’s birthday this Monday.

That will include broadcasting the King Day Gospel Concert live beginning at noon, with an hour of highlights rebroadcast at 6 p.m. Monday night.

After the noon concert, Sacramento Blues Hall Of Fame member and KVMR broadcaster Derek Washington will salute King with music of his era that afternoon from the concert’s end (1:30-ish) to 4 p.m.


As part of KVMR’s special coverage of this weekend’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Elisa Parker will again broadcast live from the festival’s media reception Friday 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (89.5 FM, 105.1 FM Truckee, kvmr.org streaming).

She’s already been known to gather up and interview a dozen — often more —of festival special guests, producers, actors, with the goal of giving as many festival films radio exposure in the live remote broadcast from the Nevada City Winery.

KVMR’s Friday Night News will air at 6:30 p.m. to allow Parker to squeeze in those last guests.

Later Friday, it’s a live remote broadcast of Sam Chase and the Untraditional, a San Francisco group playing gypsy Americana and blissfully ragged folk, from the Crazy Horse in Nevada City at 9:15 p.m., with indie rock troubadour Josh Eagle opening the show.


The League of Women Voters Election Forum featuring candidates for three Nevada City Council seats will be broadcast live 6 to 8 p.m. on KVMR 89.5 FM tonight (Thursday, Jan. 16) from the Supervisors Chambers at the Rood Center near Nevada City.

On The Air is a weekly irreverent look at Nevada City’s volunteer driven, eclectic community radio station at 89.5 FM and streaming at kvmr.org An easy-to-use archive of past shows is at archive.kvmr.org The station also has a second signal — 105.7 FM — which airs NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, plus Pacifica’s Democracy Now! at 9 a.m. weekdays. Music of questionable taste and dubious distinction is always at kvmrx.org, an experimental stream.

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