Award-winning Multi-genre Recording Artist Damien Sneed Honors Martin Luther King, Jr.

Damien Sneed
Damien Sneed

“We Shall Overcome” featuring Damien Sneed brings the spoken works of Martin Luther King, Jr. together with a rich history of African-American music on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center Concert Hall.

Led by producer and musical director Damien Sneed, “We Shall Overcome” ties together a living lineage of music and culture that includes traditional gospel, modern gospel, classical, jazz, Broadway and spirituals. From Aretha Franklin to Wynton Marsalis; Duke Ellington to Stevie Wonder; Nina Simone to Donny Hathaway; and traditional spirituals and music from “the Wiz,” Sneed’s unique understanding of each genre allows him to fluidly cover so much musical ground in a single performance.

There will be a pre-performance talk on gospel music and the late Horace Clarence Boyer in the lobby at 6:30 p.m. by Stephanie Shonekan, chair of the UMass W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies. Boyer was one of the foremost scholars in African-American gospel music and a faculty member with the UMass department of music and dance for over 25 years. 

Joining Sneed on tour is an ensemble including vocalists Chenee Campbell, Anitra McKinney, Alicia Peters-Jordan, and Linny Smith; drummer Joel Tate, bassist Arthur Sutton and organist Marquéz Cassidy. Members from the UMass Amherst Gospel Choir and Amherst Area Gospel Choir will perform in the program as well.

Sneed is a pianist, organist, composer, conductor, arranger, producer and arts educator whose work spans multiple genres. The Sphinx Medal of Excellence recipient has conducted and collaborated major original works for Wynton Marsalis, regularly accompanies Jessye Norman, collaborated with Lawrence Brownlee, and has toured extensively with Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and the Clark Sisters.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which was made a federal holiday in 1983. Sneed says, “I look forward to honoring the life and legacy of the great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in my upcoming tour as well as many other great artists and public figures who used their voices and their art to let the world know that one day we will truly overcome.”

On Monday, Jan. 27 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Sneed and the vocalists of “We Shall Overcome” will lead a free, public community sing-a-long at the Wesley Methodist Church in Hadley. To RSVP or for more information, email Yvonne Mendez at yvonne@umass.edu or call 413-545-4161. Light refreshments and drinks served.

Tickets for “We Shall Overcome” featuring Damien Sneed are $35, $25, $15; FAC Club Seating is available in the pit for $70. Tickets for Five College students and youth 17 and under are $10. For tickets call the Box Office at 545-2511, toll-free at 800-999-UMAS, or purchase online at fineartscenter.com/Overcome. This performance is sponsored by 93.9 The River, WEIB 106.3FM, El Sol Latino, and Conklin Office Furniture and is funded in part by the Expeditions program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the six New England state arts agencies.