It was originally planned as a Black History Month show. But illness forced the postponement of the Feb. 27 concert at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater — by the Jubilation gospel choir, featuring Dionne Warwick as a special guest — to June 26, so it will finally take place this week. Tickets for the original date will be honored.
The show is titled “From the Middle Passage: An African American Journey.” According The Rev. Stefanie Minatee, who leads Jubilation,”The production chronicles the journey of the African-American from their homeland in Africa up to the Age of Obama. So we’ll go through all the particular areas that African-Americans have dealt with, once coming to America, and now the culmination of a black president, which is probably one of the pinnacles of our existence here.”
There will be narration in the show, plus “images, dance and singing,” says Minatee. “And we will also choose some children, and they will participate in a couple of numbers. They’re gonna do James Brown’s ‘Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud’; he did that with kids. And also they will perform a song that I wrote, called ‘Keep the Dream Alive,’ in tribute to Dr. King and President Obama.”
Warwick will sing lead on a choir arrangement of her 1965 hit “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” “First of all, we are just honored to have Dionne with us,” says Minatee. “She has allowed me to take one of her signature songs, ‘What the World Needs Now Is Love,’ and add choir to it. That has never been done in the history of the song.”
Minatee, a longtime music teacher in the Plainfield public school system, retired in 2012, though she still does consulting for various school districts, and is an adjunct professor at New Brunswick Theological Seminary.
Jubilation was formed under NJPAC’s auspices in 1998, though it became independent in 2004. In 2010, it won a Grammy for its singing on the compilation album Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration, named best traditional gospel album.
Minatee says the choir has done this show before “down through the years, but this is the first time that we will be using dance and children. It’s really a more extensive production. And of course Dionne, it will be her first time participating with us.”
She says she has known Warwick for a long time, though. “Dionne’s family, the Drinkard Singers, were people that I revered, growing up, in the gospel music arena. My mother sang with the Rev. Lawrence Roberts and the Angelic Choir up in Nutley. And the Rev. Lawrence Roberts was also a member of the Drinkards. So we’ve kind of been friends down through the years.”
For information on the show, visit NJPAC.org.
Here’s a clip of Dionne Warwick singing “What the World Needs Now Is Love” in 2012: