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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Nnenna's Christmas traditions
Grammy nominee Nnenna Freelon brings holiday spirit to the McGohon Theater Dec. 15
Published Wednesday, December 12, 2012
by Michaela L. Duckett

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Grammy nominee Nnenna Freelon brings holiday spirit to the McGlohon Theater Dec. 15 the The John Brown Big Band.

Six-time Grammy Award-nominee Nnenna Freelon has thrilled audiences worldwide and earned a reputation as a compelling and captivating live performer. In addition to being featured on a number of television shows, the versatile songstress also caught the attention of the White House. She was tapped in 2011 to headline the Asia Pacific Economic Summit and also performed this year at the Democratic National Convention.

This weekend, Freelon will be returning to the Queen City to perform a Christmas concert with the John Brown Big Band Saturday night at 8 p.m. at the McGlohon Theater. Freelon and Brown collaborated to record a Christmas album, the first collection of holiday classics Freelon has recorded.

In a recent interview with The Post, Freelon discussed the new album, spending her first Christmas without her parents and her passion for education.

Q: What made you decide to release a holiday album this year?

A: There’s no time like the present. I lost my mother last year and my father this year. So much of Christmas, for me, is about family and the gathering of those wonderful spirits young and old. So a feeling that this Christmas was going to be more different than others that have come before really made me want to capture that spirit on a recording. It really has been on my heart for a long time.

Q: Do you have any personal or family traditions during the holidays?

A; In our home, it’s all about food. It’s singing and food, not necessarily in that order. You cook the things that take too much time to cook on a normal day and the favorites that the kids have enjoyed through the years… I’m reviving some of the things I haven’t done in a while like baking cookies… Now that I have grandbabies, I have to bring back some of those traditions because they really warm you and that set the basis for what you remember going forward about the gathering of family.

Q: You are just as passionate, if not more so, about education as you are about music. What fuels this passion?

A: It’s the new forefront of civil rights, as far as I am concerned. The ability to get a good education, a well-rounded education that is directed towards the whole child is where the battleground is now. There is no moving forward if you don’t have the skills and the skill set you need. That’s not something that’s available to every child… I see a trend of marginalizing and labeling our children at a very young age as unteachable, troublemakers and learning disabled.

I happen to actually really love and honor children. I think that the problem with our system is that a lot of people who are teaching and who are in the area of making decisions about education don’t like children. If I could snap my fingers and have my Christmas wish, it would be that everyone who touches the life of a child has to really love, respect and honor children.

Q: You have a degree in health administration and spent some time working in a hospital before becoming a professional singer. How did you make the transition from health care to music?

A: Things are not as separate as they may appear… I love health care. I have a love of not only the healing nature of what happens in a hospital corporate setting, but I also have a great respect and a love for the arts in playing a role in patient healing. I feel like I’m still doing that. Music is very healing, and sometimes the healers need to be healed themselves.

Q: What do you consider to be the greatest accomplishment of your career?

A: My biggest accomplishment is my next accomplishment. I’m not riding in the car looking in the rearview mirror… My life in music is about the journey, not about the destination. At some point, I would like to take a Grammy home, but if that doesn’t happen, it’s OK because I didn’t come to this party for that.

Q: What are you working on now?

A:The next project that I’m working on is called “The Clothesline Muse.” It’s a very ambitious multimedia theatrical piece that looks at something mundane that I call “women’s work.” It looks at the washing of clothes and hanging them on the line. The whole piece moves forward by the items that are hung on the line. Each item has a story…

The question it asks is: Who is going to hold up their end of the line? What are the things that we’ve lost in our quest to move forward? What did our grandmothers know that we don’t know? It’s my hope that we begin to develop an intergenerational dialogue about what it means to be a real woman and not a video girl… The strength of our community rests on the shoulders of a woman. I don’t care what anybody says. When we have our act together, our communities thrive.


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