S1: Welcome to the KPBS Summer time Music Collection. On this episode , we speak to Ken Anderson , the founder and director of San Diego’s personal Martin Luther King Jr group Choir , who talks about spreading the gospel world wide and funding scholarships for college students and. Voices of our Metropolis Choir is made up of homeless musicians and singers. Govt Director Steph Johnson talks about competing on America’s Acquired Expertise and the transformative music they make. That is subsequent. Welcome to the KPBS summer season music sequence. San Diego’s personal Music Discovery podcast that options encore displays of our greatest in-studio performances and interviews celebrating our numerous music scene and past. I am your host , Kurt Conal. In exhausting instances , music ensue. They’re anxious minds , and there is nothing fairly like gospel music to uplift the spirit. We will hear some fantastic gospel music and be taught the historical past of black American spirituals , the unique American music that gave beginning to so many genres we get pleasure from. Right now , we’ll be listening to music from San Diego’s personal Martin Luther King Jr. Group Choir , who since 1996 has been spreading the gospel world wide and funding scholarships for college students. Noon Version’s Jade Hindman spoke with founder and director of the choir , Ken Anderson. However first , we start with their tune. Rejoice and be glad.
UU: Oh , effectively , I will be glad. That. Be.
S2: Becoming a member of me as we speak is Ken Anderson , the founder and director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Group Choir , San Diego and UCSD Gospel Choir director. Ken , welcome.
S3: Thanks. Needed to be right here.
S2: So you’re the director and founding father of the MLK Group Choir and a professor who teaches the historical past of black music.
S3: Alternatives of freedom. The songs. Within the songs , you can find tales of the Jordan River , which is a code title for the Mississippi , the Ohio River , the Cincinnati Rivers , and leaders within the Bible. Even God and Jesus Moses are the leaders within the Bible code title for individuals like Harriet Tubman. These have been leaders within the Bible have been code names for the abolitionists and different staff. They have been black , white , Hispanic , Asian , sure. People all over the place working collectively to assist slaves get away to free states , to Canada. I even discovered of some even escaping to Europe. And once they sang about going house or the Promised Land or Beulah Land , just about any good vacation spot. This was a code title for freedom. So in these songs they have been really speaking by way of this technique of communication. The Underground Railroad helped them to get away. Oh.
S4: Possibly I heard the voice of Jesus come on to me and relaxation. Lay down with me in the future , Don. However then my girl was working for Jesus love. We agree on what has. I belief that I am not going to say this fashion and.
S3: The Negro religious is often known as a code signal C.O.D. However not all the songs have been coded as a result of when she was a toddler , she was bought away from her brothers and sisters. And that is why she sang. He is received my brothers and sisters in his arms. He is received the entire world in his arms. And when a child was born , a child was taken from her , bought to a different plantation. That is why she sang He is Acquired My Little Bitty Child But is has received the entire world in his arms. In some way or one other , the slaves. They arrive to an understanding that the church buildings within the South have been abusing the Bible with a purpose to justify slavery. So that they did not reject God and so they did not reject the Bible. They only rejected their , , their masters , their homeowners , those that have been professional slavery. So many of those songs , they have been expressing religion in God. And a number of the songs they’re singing simply encouraging each other. However once you get to songs like Steal Away and Swing Low , Candy Chariot , there’s a balm in Gilead. Allow us to break bread collectively on our knees and on and on. If you get to songs like this , they have been really speaking. That is when and the place and the way we will get away. Wow.
S2: Wow. And I feel that is attention-grabbing as a result of within the tune that you just talked about , he is received the entire world in his arms. Many individuals , I feel I consider that tune as a tune of rejoicing. And actually , it is a tune that that’s speaking about deep trauma.
S3: Deep trauma. And however however extra to the purpose , encouragement within the midst of deep trauma. Is David singing songs like I am So Glad That Bother Do not Final At all times or Lord , assist me to carry out till my change comes , , and issues like that. They’re encouraging each other to carry on. Maintain your hand on the plow. Maintain on. And even on this tune , I am discovering encouragement within the as a result of , , they have been residing in a horrible time and so they have been mainly livestock. They’re mainly property households damaged up , crushed and made to work , pressured labor. In order that tune was , , it is lifting them up or encouraging them. Hmm.
S3: I used to be 4 years previous when my mom taught me my first tune. Jesus , maintain me close to the cross. She taught me the melody and I discovered the notes across the melody to make concord with it , as a result of I remembered what it gave the impression of in church. And that is when the household realized one thing was occurring with me musically. After which after I was six , I started taking part in in church. It wasn’t essentially all the things you needed to listen to from somebody taking part in piano and the opposite camp , however from what ? I do not bear in mind this , to inform you the reality , however that is what I am advised. And there are a lot of individuals within the congregation , if not all , saying , Please get the child off the piano. The pastor mentioned , Go away him alone. He is the one one exhibiting any curiosity. We’ll maintain singing , they will maintain taking part in. He’ll catch on. So after I get to heaven , I’ll depart a Greek debt of gratitude. After I began taking part in in church after I was six. Youngsters’s choir got here the kids’s choir director after I was about 15 or 16. By the point I used to be 17 or 18 , I turned the top of the music program. And from there I have been directing and singing and taking part in. There you will have it.
S3: And Dr. Martin Luther King expressed this sentiment in certainly one of his nice speeches the place he had a dream to see the totally different races collectively , singing the previous Negro spirituals and the Martin Luther King Group Choir and UCSD Gospel Choir particularly. We dwell that dream. One of many sensible impacts we’ve got on the group is we offer scholarships for graduating highschool seniors completely within the visible and performing arts.
S2: And the choir has carried out for various audiences world wide.
S3: It’s actually superior. Taking it world wide , it is similar to taking it round America. Only a few individuals , even within the black church , know the historical past of the music. So I all the time give the historical past of the music. I all the time educate on the music earlier than we start. If it is throughout the months of January and February the place we’re observing Martin Luther King’s birthday , our black historical past , I am going to give a extra complete and a few live shows , even have me lecture for a couple of minutes on it so I may give them no less than a historical past and understanding of the place the music is coming from. This music comes from a really darkish time of American historical past , similar to some other nation , America has embarrassing previous as effectively. However the greatness of any nation is to have the ability to acknowledge once you’re improper , repent and enhance and develop. After which that is constructed into America , the flexibility to do this. And that is an exquisite factor. The identical factor I do in America. I do. And the opposite seven nations we have been to , quantity eight was on the way in which after which the pandemic hit. We have been going to Canada , however we have been , , Germany , Prague , Rome. We really sang on the Vatican and we have been on the mass of the late pope , his final Easter mass.
UU: Oh , that is good. Oh , I had on a regular basis with that. However boy.
S2: That was worship the Lord by Martin Luther King Jr. Group Choir. San Diego. So.
S3: Gospel music speaks to each facet of life , even even the time of life we’re in now , as a result of the music is born out of exhausting time. I imply , this isn’t the primary time America’s been in a tough time. There are occasions when America appears to be doing very effectively , however there’s all the time part of America that is not doing so effectively. And so the music speaks to each a part of life , moderately you rejoicing otherwise you’re unhappy , whether or not you are succeeding otherwise you’re failing and should be inspired to maintain going. So long as you are alive , you continue to make it , , so long as you retain hope. It’s extremely straightforward to lose hope as a result of there’s only a barrage of issues that come at you. I imply , you watch an hour’s broadcast , you may get some excellent news. In direction of the top. They saved the kitten from a tree or a pet out of a pipe. After which , , they form of faux shuffle their papers whereas they smile and inform you to have evening after they’ve simply advised you. The entire world is about to go underneath and persons are stressed. What is going on on with the pandemic and what is going on on with the federal government , what is going on on abroad ? And we have not had time to speak about what is going on on in their very own houses and in their very own lives and relationships and in their very own hearts and minds. And so there’s quite a bit on this world to emphasize you out , however there’s additionally quite a bit on this world to be grateful for and to rejoice over is to know in case you can simply maintain going , in case you can simply maintain out until you modify comes.
S2: And I have been talking with Ken Anderson , the founder and director of the Martin Luther King Jr Group Choir , San Diego and UCSD Gospel Choir director Ken Anderson. Thanks a lot for becoming a member of us.
S3: Oh , thanks a lot for having me. This can be a pleasure.
UU: She ? All proper. Regardless of. Oh , my God. How are you going to say.
S1: Up subsequent , extra uplifting music from Voices of our metropolis choir. And.
UU: And. Comfortable to. Oh.
UU: My God. However I’ve to be. However.
S1: Welcome again to the KPBS summer season music sequence. Out of tragedy comes triumph and transformational music. That could possibly be the motto of San Diego’s Voices of our Metropolis Choir. Not too long ago , the complete nation received to fulfill this group of homeless musicians and singers who first assembled in a small metallic church again in 2016 as contestants on America’s Acquired Expertise. The group wowed the judges and made all of it the way in which to the semi-finals. Noon Version’s Maureen CAVANAUGH spoke with the choir’s government director , Steph Johnson. However first , we start with the voices of our metropolis choir performing Sounds of the Sidewalk on America’s Acquired Expertise.
UU: And hearken to the sound. From. So this. So I’ve. With nobody to be seen. As a substitute.
S4: We are going to see down the road.
UU: No , I am not. I will be serving to myself arise right here.
S4: I received to maintain that hope.
S5: That was the voices of our metropolis choir performing Sounds of the sidewalk on America’s Acquired Expertise , successful them a golden buzzer , sending them to the semifinals. Govt and artistic director of the Voices of Our Metropolis Choir , Steph Johnson , joins us now. And Steph , welcome to Noon Version. Thanks a lot. Maureen , I am so honored you will have me on as we speak. Congratulations on making the semi-finals for America’s Acquired Expertise. What was that like performing for a nationwide viewers ? I might must say it is probably the most stunning , surreal expertise we have ever had. You already know , after all , we’re all going by way of this pandemic. We’re a choir that began on the streets of San Diego. We by no means even had the intention of performing dwell. It was only for us to return collectively and make music and be collectively. And the performing actually has given our choir members a lot confidence in them and created this household dynamic that we go and do these occasions and gigs collectively and exhibits that it simply it is a it is an honor to get to share our love with an viewers. So now that have is being achieved on this large stage on nationwide tv , and America calls in and so they vote and so they vote for us. It is exhausting for me to not get emotional as a result of it is simply it is so unimaginable. Oh , I can think about. I imply , I feel it chokes everyone up , simply simply listening to the choir. I am questioning , although , how did you apply for this expertise , particularly contemplating we’re in the midst of a pandemic ? The primary audition we did , which garnered that golden buzzer that put us within the quarterfinals , that was one of many final performances that occurred in Pasadena in entrance of a dwell viewers. Proper after that , we received all of the quarantine homestay orders. Instantly we went into placing all of our music applications on-line , after which we realized loads of our choir members lacked expertise and Wi-Fi. So then it changed into , , buying 75 laptops and distributing the laptops and ensuring individuals had entry to Wi-Fi and and likewise had the coaching and had tech assist. However we have discovered a lot throughout this complete time. And the choir members discovered all their elements through Zoom. It was actually unimaginable. Nicely , in addition to the pandemic , the choir additionally misplaced co-founder and choir director Nina Dearing in a tragic automotive accident. How is everybody dealing with that loss ? It comes up on a regular basis , really. You already know , the choirs grown. We now have about 250 members. Nina and I began the choir collectively in 2016. A few of these unique choir members are nonetheless concerned , however she was with the group for the primary two years and he or she for the individuals who met her and knew her. It has been a very tragic loss. And we prefer to suppose that she is that this angel and this omnipresent drive that is with us after we’re doing these wonderful issues. As a result of I do know it is past it is past her desires. However she all the time held this actually large imaginative and prescient for for the choir. So it is she’s with us in all these large moments for positive. Now , voices of our metropolis has already made an amazing affect on the individuals who’ve heard the choir and within the lives of the unsheltered individuals right here in San Diego. Are you able to give us an thought of how the group has modified lives by way of this , , 12 months after 12 months of this type of dedication to one another ? We have helped over 60 individuals transfer up the road. Lots of our choir members have reconnected with household. Lots of choir members have chosen sobriety , given up smoking cigarettes , selecting a more healthy path , a more healthy way of life , gone again to work. And loads of our choir members , together with our case supervisor and two members of our employees , they have been unsheltered after we began the choir and so they turned a part of the choir and now have have jobs as not solely of their , , of their place , however they’re like peer advocates. So it is individuals who , with lived expertise being there as a useful resource and connecting individuals to assets at their time , at their tempo. We’re a continuing presence , even throughout the even throughout the pandemic. We nonetheless associate with Dwelling Water Church downtown , and we have opened up a 5 day week people meals distribution , scorching meal distribution , clothes. Additionally , we’ve got a 5 day every week charging station , which is all run by choir members. It is simply it is a gateway and it is a it is a it is a path and a connection with none judgment and solely simply love and a friendship , ? Let’s hear one other tune. We will hear voices of our metropolis choir performing , interested by love. That was interested by love carried out by Voices of our Metropolis Choir. And I am talking with the manager and artistic director of Voices of Our Metropolis Choir , Steph Johnson. What’s the one factor that you prefer to individuals to see the following time they see somebody on the streets of San Diego who resides unsheltered ? What ought to we search for in addition to the actual fact , oh , that is a homeless individual ? Nicely , I want that everyone knew once they see an individual who’s experiencing homelessness , that that individual did not they did not do one thing to to need to be there. There’s there is a sequence of occasions that occur typically which are fully out of our management. And homelessness may occur to anyone. And if in case you’re unable to really feel that , in case you’re unable to see that , then I feel it is essential to strengthen your your personal empathy and your personal capability to place your self in an individual’s sneakers. And if an individual because it for example of , , what what is going on on , if an individual is unsheltered for only a week or two , they’re already struggling extreme post-traumatic stress. And once you’re once you’re in a once you’re in a battle to outlive , , not simply the place can you employ the restroom and the place are you able to get water , however persons are , you need to keep awake all evening as a result of individuals may steal your final belongings or they might assault you. Or in case you’re a girl , they might assault you bodily , sexually , and you don’t have anything by no means to guard your self. If any of us skilled what shelter individual goes by way of each evening , then I do not suppose homelessness would exist. I actually do not. For members of the choir employees , what do you suppose has been the most effective a part of this complete expertise about being within the choir and getting this nationwide recognition ? Nicely , it is it is meant that we’re capable of assist extra individuals. You already know , we proceed to serve a couple of thousand as much as a thousand people every week the place , , dreaming greater and greater. Maureen , we’re like , perhaps we will get a constructing. Possibly we will have our personal housing. I feel the largest , biggest factor from this complete endeavor that Nina and I began is that individuals individuals really feel higher. Individuals are getting higher. They usually it is it is led to housing. It is led to restoration. It is simply now once you win America’s Acquired Expertise , what are you going to do with the prize cash ? Nicely , I like the way in which you are considering , Maureen. I , I feel that we might maintain placing it into the group for positive. I feel that there is a want for us right here , and it continues to develop. And through COVID , we have discovered new methods to achieve out to individuals. So we might simply proceed and put it put it again in into all the applications that we provide. I have been talking with the manager and artistic director of the Voices of Our Metropolis Choir , Steph Johnson , who’s a musician in her personal proper. And Steph , I wish to thanks a lot for talking with us , and thanks for what you do. Thanks a lot for having me. Thanks.
S4: Hopefully so , too. Stressed. Arms reaching. Wow. Battles happening. With chaos throughout , and the mom reassures herself all the things shall be all proper as she steps in rhythm to the south. The.
S1: Thanks for listening to the KPBS Summer time Music Collection. To catch a brand new episode each two weeks , subscribe wherever you get podcasts and for efficiency movies and extra nice artists go to KPBS Jorge’s Summer time Music Collection. John Decker is Interim Affiliate Normal Supervisor of content material. Lisa Jane Morissette , operations supervisor. And Megan Burke , the senior producer. I am Kurt CONAN.
UU: And also you. By way of the. Oh , my. Sure. Sure.