Maccabeats, Naturally 7 Come Together for MLK Performance

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Maccabeats (Photo provided)

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and for the third year running the Gordon Center for the Performing Arts is putting on a celebration.

This year, the much-loved Maccabeats, a Jewish a cappella group, will be performing with another well-known a cappella group, Naturally 7, for the first time. Last year, the two groups came together to record James Taylor’s “Shed a Little Light” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., releasing it for MLK Day 2016.

Among the nearly half million views of the video was Randi Benesch, managing director of arts and culture for the JCC of Greater Baltimore. She asked the two groups if they’d come and perform together — something they had yet to do — and both groups agreed.

“I love that video and was so inspired,” she said. “It’s probably the event I’m most looking forward to this season.”
Benesch said she believed the performance will be the biggest MLK Day event in Baltimore County. There are two shows on Sunday at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. Both are almost sold out, Benesch said, as of late last week.

The Maccabeats are known for singing about Jewish holidays and have been touring since 2011. Naturally 7, whose members are all African-American, formed in New York in 1999. Both groups are looking forward to performing with the other, especially since neither usually performs with other groups.

“I think it’s going to be exhilarating performing music that we love with people that we love for people that we love,” said Julian Horowitz, the music director for the Maccabeats.

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Naturally 7 (Photo provided)

Roger Thomas, the leader of Naturally 7, agreed. He went on to say that, in this time, a coming together of disparate groups is a perfect celebration of what King stood for.

“With the many racial tensions in the nation, particularly right now, I think that this is super significant,” he said. “I’m very pleased that we’ve done [the video] and made that statement.”

That, said Benesch, gets to the heart of what she hopes the concert will inspire in those who attend.

“That’s the part I most look forward to,” she said. “This is a celebration, and art can really bring us together. Music, especially, can unite a community.”

Along with the concert, student choirs from Owings Mills High School and Milford Mill Academy will be performing beforehand in the lobby, which will be decorated with art from students of Krieger Schechter Day School.

The last time the Maccabeats came to Baltimore, for Chanukah in 2015, they sold out the performance.

With all the performances they do, Horowitz said, it can sometimes be hard to work up new excitement for the next one. Not so for the MLK performance.

“This one actually is really special, and I think it’s going to be a day to remember,” he said.

Benesch too thinks this event is going to be a big hit — for everyone.

“No matter what age you are, what religion you are, what race you are, you will love this event,” she said.

Each year since they started, the JCC’s MLK Day events continue to grow, and Benesch is pleased she can reach a wide, varied audience with this show.

“Our community is diverse, our membership is diverse,” she said. “I always look for
opportunities to bring our diverse community together through the arts.”

For more information and to buy tickets, visit jcc.org/gordon-center.

The event is sponsored by JCC Association’s Making Music Happen Centennial Grant Initiative, which is funded by a grant from Marvin J. Pertzik and the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation.

hmonicken@midatlanticmedia.com

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