Four of Augusta’s most famous musical siblings will appear on the same stage with operatic legend and Augusta native Jessye Norman in a concert at Augusta University next month being called a rare event.
Stage stars Russell Joel Brown and Karen Brown and jazz trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and performer Karen Gordon will join Norman at the Maxwell Theatre on AU’s Summerville campus Oct. 11 for Family Ties: Augusta’s Famous Siblings, a benefit concert for the Jessye Norman School of the Arts.
“It’s a great lineup,” said Karen Gordon, a jazz pianist and singer whose Garden City Jazz group both promotes and performs jazz in Augusta.
“I’m tremendously excited about it – almost giddy, you could say. I always enjoy the opportunity to work with my brother. However, this completely trumps that. I always wanted to work with Russell Joel, and with this caliber of talent and it’s supporting the school – I’m really excited to see what the possibilities bring,” she said.
Gary Dennis, executive director of the Jessye Norman School said he, Gordon and others brainstormed ways to surpass the success of the school’s 2013 fundraiser, headlined by
Disney’s The Lion King touring company member and Augusta native Russell Joel Brown.
“We thought, what about all four of them?” he said. “All of the siblings are tremendous admirers of Ms. Norman, so it really wasn’t a hard sell.”
While all perform frequently, “it’s a really rare opportunity to get either sibling pair performing together,” Dennis said.
Russell Joel Brown said he jumped at the chance to join his sister, Karen Brown of Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Gordons and Norman on the stage.
“It’s the first time that the four of us have ever been on stage together,” said Brown, who is helping develop the show.
The Browns, Gordons and Norman will all be on stage for the final number, “but there will be duets and trios and quartets during the show,” he said.
“I don’t think I’ve been a part of anything that was so wide-ranging and unique,” he said.
Norman, who will be honored Oct. 9 with the unveiling of Jessye Norman Boulevard at Eighth and Greene streets, charted a course for Augusta youths to pursue careers in the arts, Brown said.
“Not many communities our size have that kinds of arts exposure for children that is locally grown,” he said. “The seeds were being sown many decades ago for young people in our community.”