Back for mo’ Mo Town: Annual concert celebrates legendary label’s 60th anniversary

Rev. Bobby Lewis and “Maestro” Eustace Johnson will be in town to lead a performance

The Reverend Bobby Lewis leads a gospel singing workshop at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

The Reverend Bobby Lewis leads a gospel singing workshop at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Motor City’s music is coming to the capital city.

The annual Motown for Our Town concert is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 1 at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, and again the Rev. Bobby Lewis and “Maestro” Eustace Johnson of Harlem, New York, will be in town to lead a performance featuring music from the legendary Motown record label.

“It’s an exhilarating and uplifting and anointing time not just for us but the community,” said Sherry Patterson, president for the Black Awareness Association of Juneau. “This is one of the highlights of my year.”

The Juneau Arts & Humanities Council produces the event in conjunction with the BAA, and the concert doubles as a celebration of Black History Month.

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While they’re in town, Lewis and Johnson will also be leading gospel workshops throughout the week that culminate in a pair of Sunday gospel concerts at 2 and 5:30 p.m. at the JACC. Patterson said this is either the duo’s seventh or eighth year leading the gospel events in Juneau.

Motown for Our Town is a direct descendant of those events.

“The idea for Motown came up, and we thought we’d try it, and it caught on fire, and we’ve been doing it ever since,” Patterson said. “I believe what they bring here, Juneau doesn’t have. The black community is very small here, and they just have a dynamic that is unlike anything else that goes on here.”

“We just don’t have the flavor here because of the small African-American community that we have,” she said. “And when these guys come, it’s like, ‘Wow.’”

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This year’s Motown for Our Town concert will be a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Motown and will feature a wide range of selections.

“We’ve done the traditional Motown sounds — the Temptations, the Supremes, the Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson,” Patterson said.

Patterson, who has performed with both the gospel choir and Motown team, acknowledged it can be daunting to cover some of the best vocalists in popular music history, but the Motown for Our Town performers are up to the task.

“We do the best we can, and Eustace is an incredible pianist and Pastor Bobby is an incredible vocalist, and we bring in Dr. Jaunelle Celaire, Professor of Voice at Fairbanks,” Patterson said.

The guests are backed by local musicians, who Patterson also said do great work.

“We have an incredible music scene here,” Patterson said.

Know & Go

What: Motown for Our Town

When: 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 1

Where: Juneau Arts & Culture Center, 350 Whittier St.

Admission: General admission is $30, table seats are $75. Tickets can be purchased online through Jahc.org.

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