The Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers, who will be performing at the Grand Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11, was formed in 1987, but its roots stretch back more than a century.
In 1871, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a choir from historically black Fisk University in Nashville, began touring to raise money for the financially troubled, newly founded school.
Over the next seven years, the choir performed for countless thousands both nationally and abroad, and, in doing so, popularized the Negro spiritual tradition among white audiences more accustomed to minstrel performers. Even more importantly, the choir raised enough funds to help keep the college open, and Fisk continues to operate today.
The Brotherhood was formed in 1987 as an outgrowth of the renowned Ninth Street Baptist Church Men’s Choir, according to founder Ric Jennings.
The group took its inspiration not only from the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, but also more contemporary groups that have kept the tradition alive, such as The Soul Stirrers and The Dixie Hummingbirds.
One of the highlights of the Brotherhood’s career was the opportunity to perform on the same bill as The Dixie Hummingbirds.
“We performed with them in Ottawa, Canada, at a blues festival,” Jennings recalled.
The five-member group sings a capella and consists of a second soprano, first and second alto, tenor and bass. Group members are Jennings, Eric Riley, Stace “Babydeac” Darden, Demetrius “Chilly Wind” Davenport and Sam “Watson” Norris Jr.
“These guys that I have are versatile,” Jennings said. “Four of the five can switch over to anything from second alto to baritone.”
While the Brotherhood is popular in the greater Cincinnati area, the group spreads its joyous music around the globe. They’ve made repeated trips to Spain, and have also performed in Portugal, Italy, Switzerland and Russia.
Jennings is proud of The Brotherhood’s ability to appeal to a wide range of audience members.
“Our style has the ability to reach from the oldest to the youngest,” Jennings said. “It just seems to come natural.”
Audience members can expect an upbeat, life-affirming evening of traditional gospel hymns, along with 1960s R&B and patriotic songs.
Jennings said the group looks forward to returning to Frankfort to perform. The Brotherhood has sung several times at the Executive Mansion and at the Kentucky Folklife Festival on the grounds of the Old Capitol.
The Brotherhood concert is sponsored by Fifth Third Bank.
Tickets, priced from $10-$20, may be purchased at the door, online at the Grand Theatre Web site, http://www.grandtheatrefrankfort.org, or by visiting the ticket office, 312 W. Main St., weekdays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The phone number is 502-352-7469. At press time, tickets are available in all price ranges.
The historic Grand Theatre reopened as a performance venue in the fall of 2009 after a $5 million restoration spearheaded by the non-profit organization Save the Grand Theatre Inc. The Grand opened in 1911 as a vaudeville house and later became a movie theater before it closed in 1966. With its resurrection, the Grand is a 428-seat performing and visual arts theatre featuring state-of-the-art facilities. The Grand also hosts social, educational and civic events.