GOSPEL & JAZZ SINGER
SUNDAY 13 JULY 2014
Marilyn Keller is from Portland, Oregon, a Gospel and Jazz singer of some 27 years who has gained an international reputation in places as wide spread as Scandinavia and Australia, as well as her home country. From her own words at this performance, she clearly has her home in Portland and the church there in which she is a member. Her life has been with the church, apparently being the daughter of a Baptist minister who when she was a teenager moved to Portland. She discovered that she had a good voice and capacity to sing both Gospel and Jazz and went on to develop a career singing both. She apparently has developed through her church life a commitment to peace and justice which she expresses among other ways through her singing.
The trio which accompanied her -- Robert Smith (piano), Wally Temple (clarinet) and Ben Jones (bass) are local. The structure of the concert enabled them to show how accomplished they are with some wonderful improvisation. Yet it was Marilyn Keller who clearly was the focus of the concert. It’s probably fair to say that the first part of her performance focussed on Gospel songs such as “Sweet bye and by”, “The old rugged cross” and perhaps the most moving, “Amazing Grace”. One of the pleasing aspects was the way in which she introduced each piece with some personal comments; with “Amazing Grace” she told of an English friend who was in Bristol where he visited an old mansion which apparently had been the home of an English sea captain. On looking at the display of ship models he discovered that they represented slave ships. The home was that of John Newman who had been a slaver, was converted, went on to work with Wilberforce for the abolition of slavery and composed “Amazing Grace”: a moving introduction and moving performance.
After a brief intermission the songs presented were more Jazz than Gospel, yet surely well known, such as “Pennies from heaven”, “The sunny side of the street”, “Sweet Georgia” and “Walk along with me to the Old Mississippi” (out of New Orleans).
All of the songs she sang clearly were familiar to the audience (congregation), many of whom joined in some form of accompaniment. Their appreciation of her performance and of the accompanying trio was manifest, especially in their call for her to keep singing. Sadly, as with all such special occasions, there is an end. Yet we were privileged to have her here in the Southern Highlands and present such a wonderful and moving concert.