Music

Goddess Fest plans Black History Month tribute

Salman Lee and Claire Detels plan concert of jazz, spirituals and a little blues

By Tamra Testerman
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 2/20/19

The program, spotlighting the talents of tenor Salman Lee and composer-pianist Claire Detels, is steeped in inspiration from the greats in this vibrant homegrown tradition.

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Music

Goddess Fest plans Black History Month tribute

Salman Lee and Claire Detels plan concert of jazz, spirituals and a little blues

Posted

Among works by great black American musicians, the next Goddess Fest concert will feature a tribute to singer-pianist-composer Nina Simone.

The program, spotlighting the talents of tenor Salman Lee and composer-pianist Claire Detels, is steeped in inspiration from the greats in this vibrant homegrown tradition.

"Both Claire and I have a lot of inspiration, considering our current political climate, from Nina Simone," Lee said. "It was amazing all she accomplished during her heyday in the Civil Rights era. Not only did she use her platform to induce awareness around civil rights, but she was also a fierce woman for her time and there is an inspiration to be taken from that [during] this Black History Month."

The concert is planned Sunday (Feb. 24) at Unity of Taos, 69 Blueberry Hill Road in Taos. Music starts at 4 p.m.

"This is the third year we have presented a program of great African American music as part of Black History Month," Detels said. "We do it because the history and importance of African American music needs to be better known."

Lee added, "We will cover a wide span of genres in the tradition of black American music. This will include jazz, traditional spirituals and a little blues. We are excited to present a full set to the late great Nina Simone and Duke Ellington and I'm happy to announce that Claire will play some [Scott] Joplin rags."

In addition, they plan to include music by classical composers John Wesley Work III (1901-1967) and William Grant Still (1895-1978).

The duo also plan to perform music from George Gershwin's opera "Porgy and Bess," the first all-black performed composition - "the music of which was greatly influenced by African-American styles," Detels said.

Lee added he is also very excited to perform the classic "Strange Fruit."

"Yes, it is an exquisite song," he said, "but it also takes a hard realistic view of what it was like to be black in this country. I think it is easy to sweep the bitterness of the past under the rug, as far as racism and discrimination, but I think it is very important to remember our history as black people so we are not doomed to repeat it and so we can recognize and work to change discrimination, as it is still very rampant in this country."

Of Nina Simone, Detels said she was "a great pianist who was precluded from the classical career she wanted because of racism, but she became a huge talent and influence in the jazz and pop realms and a strong voice during the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s for which her career, but never her talent, suffered."

There will be an "eclectic mix of music and an eclectic mix of emotions as a few of the songs we will perform are heartbreaking and a handful of the songs we will perform are funny," Lee said. "Come to the concert if you're ready for the full gamut of music and the human experience."

Goddess Fest founder Jenny Bird said, "Everyone is welcome to Goddess Fest, where you get a community of awesome folks coming together to hear uplifting music from a diverse group of musicians."

Six years ago, she started Goddess Fest at the now-defunct Lenny Foster's Living Light Gallery on Kit Carson Road. It was nice, she said, "to have a listening space that wasn't a loud bar venue, so my musical friends could come through Taos and have a lovely place to perform."

She eventually moved the event to Unity of Taos, where she has directed the music program for the past 30 years. She did it to accommodate the growing numbers of attendees. She said the Unity room "sounds so good and isn't used much in the evenings - it is sweet, cozy and intimate," and she said people tell her after concerts they felt love in that room as it's warm and magical - a spiritual reservoir of sorts.

Bird sets up the chairs for the event, does all the promotion and even runs the sound. "It's a labor of love" she said, "not a party vibe but rather community coming together."

Tickets are available at the door for $10 to $20 and on a sliding scale. All proceeds go to pay the musicians. Call (575) 751-1452 or visit unityoftaos.org.

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