Make a Joyful Noise: A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson at Summerstage, featuring Joshua Nelson and Della Reese 6/22/13

Make a Joyful Noise: A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson featuring Joshua Nelson and Della Reese

Summerstage at Rumsey Playfield

June 22, 2013

As you all know, this summer has been pretty busy for me as I’ve been squeezing in live show coverage, interviews, reviews and other blog-related stuff in between my responsibilities at my day job. Somehow, I’m kind of managing to do it all, too. Interestingly enough. this post now seems strangely fitting in light of the George Zimmerman trial down in Florida. 

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the civil rights movement, and as we all know, the Black church played a pivotal role in the movement. And as Joshua Nelson, the self-proclaimed King of Kosher Gospel mentioned to the Summerstage audience on a hot summer afternoon, “without Mahalia Jackson, there would be no Martin Luther King, Jr.” So the afternoon paid tribute to the first queen of modern gospel music, and to the Civil Rights Movement. One couldn’t help but to think of the enormous sacrifices generations of brothers and sisters made in order for Blacks to move up – and yet after the verdict in the George Zimmerman case, it’s evident to me that we still have quite a bit to go. 

Sonically, Joshua Nelson stuck to more traditional gospel songs for about 99% of the set – most of them from what i can tell were some of Jackson’s most beloved songs. He did do one Hebrew song at the end, a song that he and his band had almost forgotten to play. Ooops! In any case, Nelson is a dynamic, captivating presence with a 10,000,000,000 megawatt smile; you can’t help but feel a great sense of joy by just looking at him. But most importantly, he has an incredible voice – a voice that also conveys a graceful, infectious joy. 

The day’s guest was the legendary Della Reese. In her early 80s, Reese still has a motherly/grandmotherly air – the sort of woman who would never forget your birthday and mail you a check for a few dollars. And although she’s sweet, there’s a sense that she keeps it real. She would have some story that would be inspirational and have a profound nugget of wisdom. Yes, some readers will remember Reese as an actress but before she made a name for herself as an actress, she was a gospel singer. A gospel singer, who had a close, almost familial relationship with Mahalia Jackson. Jackson had served as  a mentor for the young Reese. In fact, Reese told a couple of interesting stories – one of them was pretty hilarious: she mentioned that she had been singing as far as she could remember, and that when she first starting singing, she didn’t know any lyrics, so she would spend her time singing about the things she observed in the neighborhood. And as a result, it got her family kicked out of their home. She also told a story about how she first met Mahaila Jackson and how profoundly wise was. Reese still has a very pleasant and strong voice 

It was quite a pleasant afternoon that had the Summerstage crowd walking out with an additional pep in their step. 

Check out some photos from the show below.

For these photos and the rest of the photos from this afternoon, check out the Flickr set here: