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Singing 'We Shall Overcome' for the 37th Time, King Day Concert & KVMR Celebration Set For Monday

Steve Baker

One thing you can count on this Monday at KVMR 89.5 FM's 37th Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Gospel Concert is you'll hear a stirring version of "We Shall Overcome."

It'll be sung by the Bethel AME Choir of Marysville as it has every year, and the local Trinity Community Choir, which joined the annual event earlier this decade.   So will the audience, who will sing and sway back and forth, many holding hands, arms around each other. 

"We've still got to sing it," said one Bethel choir veteran. "We must keep the fight going."

That's the sort of spirit you'll savor at the  King Concert, which starts at noon in the Nevada Theatre, downtown Nevada City. Admission is free, donations are accepted, and doors open at 11:15 a.m.

The concert is also broadcast live, of course, on KVMR (89.5 FM, 105.1 FM Truckee, streaming) and The Bridge 105.7 FM, with an hour of concert highlights rebroadcast at 6 p.m.

KVMR will also air special King-related programming from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during King Day.

Back as concert emcee this year for the tenth time is KVMR volunteer Helena McDaniel, who started helping with the concert in 1996. She's always a whirlwind of activity before and during the event, only she's really back this year after living four years or so in the Bay Area.

"It all comes because of my love for their choir and Zenobia (Brown), their wonderful director," she beamed. 

And Helena says she invited Trinity choir director Stan Thomas-Rose and his group to join the King festivities seven years ago.


This Saturday, the two choirs will rehearse together for the concert in Marysville, according to Helena.  "It's a nice friendship (between the choirs) that's growing."

When Helena was raising her half-black son in Nevada City back in the '90s, she'd bring regularly bring him to the Marysville Bethel AME Church "so he wouldn't only be surrounded by white people and could connect to the black experience."

"Our community needs to be relating people of other cultures and races because we're so segregated from those experiences here," she said. 

A Minnesota native, Helena holds a master's degree in "multi-cultural communication", from both ethnic studies and communicaton departments. She went on to teach kindergarten. 

"You see, you can't teach people to hate something they already have a relationship with and are at peace with," she continued.

"Nevada City is not a bigoted place. We are sharing our open hearts, even though we don't have a diverse population here so we do miss elements of other cultures."


And having the Bethel AME Choir here?

"There's something in the black culture that's so warm and open," Helena noted. "And the choir brings it to us for a day each year."

But about those details she's working on.  Tell the choir not to worry. 

Once again, she's arranged for a free lunch follows their performance, provided year after year by Flour Garden Bakery of Grass Valley, courtesy of Flour Garden's Susan Copeland. 

Oh, Foothill Flowers. Last year, they brought 50 red roses in commemoration of the 50 years since Dr. King's tragic death in 1968.

Then Helena scurried off. Other details to get done. Like where are the posters?


How many can she get on air this time at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival's Media Lounge reception this year?

Yes, KVMR broadcaster Elisa Parker's been known to gather up and interview a dozen -- often more -- festival special guests, producers, actors, with the goal of giving as many festival films as possible some radio exposure on the live remote broadcast from the Nevada City Winery this Friday 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (KVMR 89.5 FM, Truckee 105.1 FM, streaming).

So go get 'em. And KVMR's Evening News will air at 6:30 p.m. Friday to allow Parker to squeeze in those last guests. 

(On The Air is a weekly irreverent look at Nevada City's volunteer driven, eclectic community radio station at 89.5 FM and streaming at   An easy-to-use archive of past shows is at  The station also has a second signal -- The Bridge 105.7 FM -- which airs NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, plus Pacifica's Democracy Now! at 9 a.m. weekdays.) 



WHO: KVMR 89.5 FM and the Nevada Theatre

WHAT: 37th Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Gospel Music Concert & Celebration, featuring the Bethel AME Choir of Marysville and the local Trininty Community Choir

WHEN: Noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21 (doors open 11:15 a.m.) and broadcast live on KVMR (89.5 FM, Truckee 106.1 FM, streaming) and The Bridge 105.7 FM, with an hour of highlights rebroadcast at 6 p.m. Monday. 

WHERE: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., downtown Nevada City

TICKETS: Free (donations accepted)

INFO: or 530/265-9073 weekdays