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Bodhi Tree Concerts Presents San Diego Premiere Of ‘And They Lynched Him On A Tree’

Speaker 1: 00:00 This weekend. Bodhi tree concerts presents two performances of the long dark shadow, a musical consideration of injustice in America. KPBS arts reporter Beth haka, Amando previews the show with Diana de Mel, cofounder of Bodhi tree concerts and Ken Anderson, director of the Martin Luther King jr community choir. Diana Bodhi tree concerts is staging a concert long dark shadow. So explain what this is going to be about. Well, we're calling it a musical consideration of injustice in America and it will feature the Martin Luther King community choir singing spirituals and gospel for the first half. And then the second half will be a premier San Diego premiere of a William Grant, still choral Cantata called. And they lynched him from a tree. It can explain what a Cantata is. Speaker 2: 00:51 Well, a Cantata is kind of a smaller version of musical or opera. It's a story told in music though it's all in music. No dialogue is just song to song as you sing out the story. And in this case the canal is very short in about 19 minutes. And so, but the story is told, the narrator and soloist two courses. And Speaker 1: 01:19 how do you think music can approach these social issues in ways that maybe you can't through other avenues? Speaker 2: 01:27 Music always has had that ability to communicate and whatever that message is good or negative for war or for peace or for love or for, you know, whatever the subject matter is. Something about the music. When you watch the movies, the, the P, you know, very few movies go without a music score because the music helps with the emotion, the emotion of the words, the emotion of the message. There. There are other pieces that have been written with messages like this and sometimes they're, you know, 20th century, very classical. And so perhaps not as deeply impacting as when you have a piece like this where the emotion is really written into the music, Speaker 1: 02:19 feeling it. And can you are the director, conductor of the Martin Luther King choir. So what does that entail? Speaker 2: 02:32 Martin Luther King, community choir, San Diego, that's a mouthful. So we normally refer to as M L K choir. And we're a nonprofit. Uh, we, we award scholarships exclusively in the visual and performing arts for graduating high school students. We are 100% volunteer organization. Most of our singers are from San Diego, but from some from Temecula. Our repertoire is primarily gospel, but we sing hymns and anthems and and every once in awhile we get to be a part of something like this where we get to collaborate with other musicians, singers, even in orchestra and seeing a masterwork by a black composer. Speaker 1: 03:12 And Diana explained a little bit about how this is going to be presented because there are two choirs working together. Yes, we have two choirs. It's written for double choir and the first choir was put together by Ken Anderson and members of his Martin Luther King choir. And then the second choir is put together by our conductor of the piece, David Chase and singers that he's worked with in his 40 year career as a conductor here in San Diego. Talk about the venues you have. We have two fabulous venues. One is the st James by the sea and LA Hoya, which is our regular venue for Bodhi tree concerts. Incredible acoustic and a beautiful space. And the second is new. It's called downtown Abbey. It's in national city and it was intentionally presented in two very different neighborhoods. We wanted to tell this story in two neighborhoods that we thought would enjoy hearing it or need to hear it. And one of the other pieces that's going to be performed is strange fruit, which is a song people may be familiar with from Billy holiday. What is the importance of including this song for people? Uh, it's an older song, but why do people today need to be reminded of it? Speaker 2: 04:19 Well, the events that I'm inspired a photograph, a Jewish American composer saw this photograph of these three young men who had been lynched and he was moved by what happened and decided to not only write a poem but then to put it to music. And Billy holiday of course made it famous, but the message that inspired that story, the message of the photo that inspired that song is the same. Um, the same subject matter of 'em and they lynched him on a tree. We have, we have someone who has broken the law and instead of allowing due process to take its place, take its course, the citizens decide to storm the jail, remove the prisoner, and then shoot them. Sometimes when you go to court, I guess there's a chance you may have to be declared, you know, according to circumstances innocent or you may not get, um, the level of punishment society believes you ought to have. Speaker 2: 05:22 And back then it was very common for a mob mentality to take over and people decided just take the law in your own hands. And this is an American story. We at a time where we say black history, and that's okay to say, but maybe more to the point is the history of blacks in America. This is American history. This is an American story. This happened in America. It's a part of America. The statement that is America struggling to live up to such lofty ideals as justice and Liberty for all. And we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal. And it's kind of interesting that such documents came from the minds of people who owned slaves. And so such a great inspiration in America for raise human relations and now the struggle to live it. Speaker 1: 06:17 Diana, remind people what Bodhi tree concerts does. Cause one of the things that is in your mission statement is to work with local artists. We hire exclusively local artists. Yes, that's true. And we like to shine a light on artists in our community. And this piece we wanted especially to shine a light on this amazing American composer who's virtually unknown right now. And there's probably a reason behind that. And we just wanted to shine a light on the excellence of this. This composer Bodhi tree concerts also donates our profits back to charity. And for this concert we're donating back to the Martin Luther King jr scholarship fund, which is a great program that can just spoke about. Speaker 3: 06:59 Thank you both for coming in and talking about the long dark shadow break. Thank you Beth. To go out, let's hear Dale Fleming sing strange fruit. Southern tree Speaker 4: 07:10 D Belle Speaker 3: 07:15 a stray Speaker 4: 07:22 [inaudible] Speaker 3: 07:24 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 07:36 body swing. Yeah. Speaker 3: 07:43 [inaudible] strange food Speaker 1: 07:50 from the [inaudible] that is soloists. Dale Fleming recorded here at the KPBS studio. She'll be performing as part of Bodhi tree concerts, the long dark shadow. The concert will be held at st James by the sea in LA Jolla on Saturday night and downtown Abbey and national city on Sunday. Speaker 3: 08:19 Mmm. Since Madden Speaker 4: 08:28 [inaudible] Speaker 3: 08:32 then the sudden smell Speaker 4: 08:43 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 08:45 [inaudible] Speaker 5: 08:59 [inaudible] [inaudible] Speaker 3: 09:10 Oh, the truth. Speaker 4: 09:14 [inaudible] Speaker 3: 09:15 to [inaudible] astray. Chris.

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This weekend, Bodhi Tree Concerts presents two performances of "The Long Dark Shadow: A Musical Consideration of Injustice in America." KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando previews the show with Diana DuMelle, co-founder of Bodhi Tree Concerts and Ken Anderson, director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Choir. Special thanks to Kurt Kohnen for technical assistance in recording the song.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments