The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia marks the final day of Black History Month with an uplifting evening of music featuring a talented group of artists, spearheaded by one of America’s foremost gospel and soul musicians. We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. featuring Damien Sneed takes place in the Chan Shun Concert Hall on Saturday February 29, 2020 at 8pm, part of a 40-city tour across North America. The Vancouver debut showcases familiar repertoire from across the African American music traditions that electrified generations of civil rights activists and defenders, with interwoven spoken word from Dr. King’s recorded speeches.
We Shall Overcome was first performed in 2017 at Ginny’s Supper Club in Harlem when Sneed was asked to put together a program of MLK-inspired music. The result wowed both audiences and IMG Artists—who subsequently decided to grow the project into an album and major North American tour. The production ties together a living lineage of artists and songs that include traditional gospel, modern gospel, classical, jazz, Broadway, and spirituals—from Nina Simone to Stevie Wonder to Dionne Warwick. Sneed’s unique understanding of a breadth of genres and icons allows for significant musical ground to be traversed in a single performance, pulling from a circulating repertoire of more than 50 beloved songs. The program also highlights anthems that celebrate victorious moments in the civil rights movement, including Duke Ellington’s “Freedom”, and the traditional title tune “We Shall Overcome.”
Born and raised in Augusta, GA, Damien Sneed is a pianist, conductor, composer, producer, and arts educator whose body of work spans multiple genres and includes collaborations with Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Lawrence Brownlee, and many others. He was a frequent accompanist and collaborator of both Jessye Norman and Aretha Franklin in their later years, considering them great mentors, and acted as the musical director and arranger at Norman’s hometown funeral service in October 2019. Sneed has studied at some of the finest music conservatories and universities, including Howard University, the Peabody Conservatory of John Hopkins University, New York University, the University of Southern California, and the Manhattan School of Music, where he is also on faculty.
In 2013, Sneed and his vocal ensemble Chorale Le Chateau joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on a 16-city tour across the American south performing the sweeping composition The Abyssinian Mass, Marsalis’ piece commemorating the 200th anniversary of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. Sneed was awarded the prestigious Sphinx Medal of Excellence in 2014, presented annually to emerging Black and Latino leaders in classical music. In 2015, he established the Damien Sneed Performing Arts Institute, a division of the Damien Sneed Foundation. Sneed was also commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera to compose the music for a new full-length opera based on Marian Anderson; Marian’s Song will have its world premiere on March 5, 2020 at Houston’s Cullen Theater.
Chan Centre Connects Events (chancentre.com/connects)
Programmed in conjunction with Chan Centre performances, exploring the role of arts and artists in society.
• Film Screening: Journey to Justice — Thursday February 13, 7pm at The Cinematheque (1131 Howe St). This powerful documentary tells the story of six unsung heroes of the Canadian civil rights movement, among them Viola Desmond and Fred Christie. Tickets at thecinematheque.ca.
• Pre-show Talk with Marcus Mosely - Saturday February 29, 7:15pm in the Royal Bank Cinema at the Chan Centre. A moderated conversation about gospel music with acclaimed vocalist Marcus Mosely.
Chan Centre Presents: We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. featuring Damien Sneed
Date: Saturday February 29, 2020 at 8pm
Ticket Prices: From $38
Address: Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
University of British Columbia
6265 Crescent Road
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
Box Office: 604-822-2697 / chancentre.com
Open Tue–Sat, 12pm–5pm
Photo by Frank Stewart
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