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On the air: It’s a whole new twist as KVMR, Marysville Church celebrate King Day for the 40th year

 

It sounded like so much of a true KVMR 89.5 FM broadcast event: the 40th anniversary of the Bethel AME Church of Marysville Choir performing in Nevada City on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

But something called the ongoing Pandemic threw a few curve balls its way.

Still, it’s going to happen, according to the long-serving Bethel Choir director Zenobia Brown, who was 35 years old when the first KVMR MLK Day concert took place. Now she’s 75 and still going strong.



Whew.

“This is the big one,” says Zenobia. “Forty years, four decades of meaningful concerts, we’re so grateful to Nevada City and KVMR. To think we came together like this, it’s marvelous.”



Just think, a Black church choir venturing to a nearly all-white county to perform a concert in honor of King … especially when it started in the early ’80s . That takes guts and, yup, beliefs. Double whew.

Thanks to Rosa Lopez, another former KVMR broadcaster, for making what became the annual concert a reality, according to Zenobia.

“Rosa was looking for a choir in the Oakland area,” she recalls. “Then she heard about us in Marysville. It was a match made nearby.”

That put quite a smile on former KVMR News Director, longtime volunteer and now freelance producer Paul Emery’s face.

“You know, I’ve been producing the sound of it for the last ten years, likely more than that,” he beams. “I’m proud we’ve had the AME Choir onto our airwaves for so long. Forty years, now that’s a real achievement.”

Now this year, it’s going to be quite different. In 2021, it was simply canceled because of the pandemic.

In recent years, the Nevada City Trinity Community Choir has joined the Bethel Choir in the festivities.

This 2022 year, it’ll be recorded in Marysville at the Bethel church that noontime, not open to the public to keep exposure to a minimum.

“I think this works out best for the situation because some of our choir members wouldn’t have been able to come to Nevada City and now they can still participate,” according to Zenobia.

The more, the merrier, and the Trinity Choir will be onstage at the church as well.

So Emery will hustle that recording back to KVMR and produce it for a 6 p.m. Monday night broadcast special in place of the station’s usual Evening News show. Hey, it’s a holiday known as MLK Day.

Plus it’ll fit in with the independent, nonprofit Nevada City radio station’s annual day-long, King-inspired programming, with Joyce Miller and a morning special at 7, King documentaries from 10 to noon, Sacramento Blues Hall of Fame member Derek Washington doing noon to 2 p.m., pop music genius Mark Leviton 2 to 4 p.m. with alternative rock host Greg Jewett on until 6 p.m. after that.

Then it’ll be the hour concert from the Bethel and Trinity Choirs in honor of MLK Day. When the two choirs sing together, Zenobia calls it the “MLK Community Choir”.

That includes “Standing Up Together,” an original written by Trinity Choir director Stan Thomas-Rose, and the classic “I Have A Dream.”

“Both of those songs really, really mesh well together,” says Zenobia.

Heck, she should know. She’s been choir director at Bethel AME since, yup, 1978.

“It’s very, very important to live the dream,” Zenobia adds. “It symbolizes that we’ve been living the dream, that we’re one in the spirit…”

Point in fact, Zenobia notes that KVMR volunteer Helena McDaniel, who has been involved with the concert over 20 years, suggested a lyric change in the classic “We Shall Overcome” from “We shall overcome some day” to “We shall overcome today.”

Triple whew. Done.

And about time.

On The Air is a periodic feature in The Prospector featuring people and personalities from the non-commercial community radio station KVMR 89.5 FM in Nevada City CA and online at kvmr.org, plus 105.7 FM, and at kvmrx.org

KNOW & HEAR

WHO: KVMR 89.5 FM, Nevada City

WHAT: Nonprofit community radio station offers broadcast of Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday special programming, including 40th anniversary MLK Day recorded concert from Bethel AME Church in Marysville featuring the Bethel Choir and the Nevada City Trinity Community Choir

WHEN: Recorded MLK concert 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday night, Jan. 17, plus earlier special programming 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

WHERE: KVMR 89.5 FM and kvmr.org

INFO: kvmr.org website

Members of the Bethel AME Church Choir of Marysville and the local Trinity Community Chorus joined forces for the KVMR Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Gospel Concert in 2017. This year, the concert will be broadcast through KVMR.
Photo by Charolette Peterson

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