Concert for Jazz Luminary Henderson Slated for Saturday Print
Music - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 24 September 2002 18:00
Jazz fans should make a point to take a trip to Galesburg this weekend for the second annual memorial concert for the late jazz and R&B guitarist and singer Ken Henderson – who spent most of his life around Galesburg raising a family on a farm.

The concert will be held at the Bethel Baptist Church sanctuary on Saturday, September 28, starting at 7 p.m. The performance will feature Ken’s daughter, the versatile jazz artist Semenya McCord, as well as gospel singer Ophelia Dargan from Atlanta and the Limelight Barbershop Quartet from Nashua, New Hampshire, featuring Ken Henderson Jr. Proceeds will be used to establish a music scholarship in Ken’s name at Knox College.

Ken Henderson’s musical career included leading his jazz trio around the Chicago area and performing in and around Galesburg. I saw Ken one time in the late ’70s with what looked like a one-man band performing guitar, drums, and vocals at the same time. He sang songs related to and in the style of Nat King Cole. Local blues legend Hawkeye Herman told me in an interview that when he was eight or nine years old, he was inspired to learn how to play guitar after hearing Ken Henderson.

Semenya McCord was born in Monmouth, Illinois, grew up in Galesburg, and earned a degree in music education at Knox College. She moved to Massachusetts in 1975 for graduate study at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and soon began working with jazz masters Max Roach and Archie Shepp. She composed and sang the title song of Shepp’s There’s a Trumpet in My Soul album on Arista.

The singer, composer, and educator has been performing concerts and conducting workshops featuring spirituals, blues, and jazz for audiences of all ages in the New England area since 1975 through the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Young Audiences of Massachusetts, and the New England Foundation of Arts. She has also performed concerts and conducted workshops in France and Costa Rica. Semenya has used her acting skills on a number of occasions, including Synapse Productions’ Harlem Renaissance, which toured from North Dakota to Florida in 1991, and in the Going to the River celebration of African-American women playwrights in New York City in February 1999. Semenya directs annual tributes to the life and dream of Martin Luther King Jr. and the music of Billie Holiday.

Semenya has brought her trio to Galesburg on a number of occasions to perform concerts, including a tribute to Billie Holiday that I was fortunate to catch. She can be heard on her latest CD, Good for Me, on the We Jazz label, and she’s currently on the faculty at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, teaching “The Art of Rock & Roll” and “Jazz: A Listener’s Guide.” She also teaches voice students.

Performing with Semenya will be her New England-based trio of pianist Frank Williams, bassist Glen Brooks, and drummer Herb King, with special guest Greg Ward II, an outstanding 19-year-old Peoria native who plays alto saxophone. Greg is a sophomore at the University of Northern Illinois, is a featured soloist in that school’s jazz ensemble, and performs regularly with his quintet at Sunday jam sessions at Fred Anderson’s Velvet Lounge Jazz Club in Chicago.

Ophelia T. Dargan is a native of Atlanta, where she has lived most of her life. Much of Dargan’s musical career involves singing in gospel choirs around Atlanta such as the Philharmonic Society at Clark College and the Atlanta University Community Choir under the direction of Wendell P. Whalon. She has also been featured with the Voices of New Africa House Workshop Choir of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst under the direction of Dr. Horace C. Boyer. She has performed works by and under the direction of Max Roach and Archie Shepp.

All of the members of the Limelight Barbershop Quartet have been performing in various barbershop and gospel groups in New England for more than 25 years.

The second annual memorial concert for Ken Henderson will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Bethel Baptist Church sanctuary, 1996 North Academy Street at Fremont Street in Galesburg. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students. Tickets will be available at the door. For directions to Bethel Baptist Church, call (309)342-3166.