Musical duo present civil rights concert

Performance blends songs, images of civil rights movement

ctruman@herald-leader.comNovember 9, 2012 

Longtime musical storytellers and political satirists Charlie King and Karen Brandow will present a multimedia history of the civil rights movement on Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington.

  • Musical history of the civil rights movement

    When: 11 a.m. Nov. 11

    Where: Unitarian Universalist Church, 3564 Clays Mill Road

    Cost: Free.

    For more information:

Charlie King and Karen Brandow have made a life's work of blending their art with their politics — but it's not all solemnity and granola-style hectoring.

The pair, who will be performing at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington on Sunday, will include music, images and spoken word in their concert.

It's "a scripted performance piece made up of historical narrative from that era, songs and images taken from the civil rights era," King said in a recent phone interview. "It's a kind of dramatic re-creation, but the visual focus is on historic photographs from the era."

Their performance will include some intense points including the assassination of Medgar Evers, the civil rights activist assassinated in 1963 by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens' Council.

The Massachusetts-based entertainers have been working together since 1998. King has worked in folk music for decades, citing as his major political musical influences the folk music revival of the 1960s and the "protest songs" of the civil rights and Vietnam war era.

Brandow did civil rights work in Guatemala from 1986-1994. She does Spanish language interpreting and translating for social justice groups and national and international meetings.

The life partners also have a Kentucky connection: an infant granddaughter in Louisville, Viviana McGloin-King.

The two also have in their repertoire a snappy Bye Bye Bluebird takeoff song called Don't Pay Taxes, in which the pair sing about Brandow's commitment to not paying taxes that support war. And King performs a song called Hey Little Ant in which a stomp-happy child holds a colloquy with an ant about the value of all forms of life.

Brandow is the more committed of the pair to the non-payment of taxes, King said. In a radio interview in 2011 she said that she limited her income and owned neither house nor car as a strategy to avoid government collection efforts to finance war against her will.

Brandow said she feels "quite blessed" to perform with King, since she had some friends who married, began working on a CD and divorced. "You have to have a pretty solid foundation in a relationship to do some shared project together," she said.

King and Brandow spend time crafting their multi-media presentations for the viewing and listening public, she said. "We do rehearse a lot," Brandow said. "The show we'll be doing in Lexington is one that we love doing because there are ways that it may seem to be less spontaneous because it is scripted. (But) we are moved by the process of sharing it with other people."

Although her voice is at times reminiscent of the anti-war activist and folk singer Joan Baez, Brandow had not planned on becoming a performer.

"The first couple of years we sang together I was terrified," she said. "There was a turning point at which it became much more fun."

The civil rights piece will highlight the challenges of the movement as well as the spiritual underpinnings of those who helped lead it, Brandow said.

Said King: "It takes you through the trouble, the heroism, the tragedy and ultimately the hope."

Cheryl Truman: (859)231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman

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