The Princeton area community will celebrate the 120th anniversary of Paul Robeson’s birth at a benefit concert at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 8 at the Nassau Presbyterian Church.
Baritone Keith Spencer will present selections from a Robeson concert that was performed in 1956 in New York.
Susan Robeson, the granddaughter of Paul Robeson, will attend the concert as a guest of honor, and will offer personal remembrances of her life and times with her grandfather. A reception will follow the concert.
Tickets for the Paul Robeson Day Benefit Concert are $75 each and can be purchased online at the Paul Robeson House of Princeton website. Reservations can also be made by phone by calling the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church Office at (609) 924-1666. Organizers say a capacity audience is expected. Reserve your tickets early to guarantee a seat. Online reservations will be accepted until April 5.
All proceeds will benefit the Robeson House renovation project and program activities. The Paul Robeson House of Princeton is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Corporate sponsorship opportunities are still available for the concert. Call (609) 955-4640 for more information.
The concert features Keith Spencer, who has pursued his love of the stage and concert performances in many Philadelphia area venues, including the Bristol The Riverside Theatre, the Act II Playhouse, the Prince Music Theatre, the Hedgerow Theatre, and the Broadway Theatre of Pitman. His national tour highlights include the Broadway tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Music of the Night” with Betty Buckley and Melissa Manchester. He is also a highly acclaimed cabaret concert artist and appears regularly in various ensembles.
Spencer recently launched “Brothers on Broadway,” a blend of concert and musical theatre works saluting the journey of African-American stage performers from minstrel days to present times. He is currently workshopping an extension of his gospel and American spirituals programming in “The Robeson Songbook: A Negro Spiritual and Gospel Celebration of the Music of Paul Robeson.” Spencer has performed live concert back-up vocals for artists such as Roberta Flack, Rosemary Clooney, and Sandi Patty.
Denyse Leslie, vice president of the Paul Robeson House of Princeton Board of Directors, first heard Spencer perform last year at an exhibition showcasing Paul Robeson’s legacy at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie.
“Keith Spencer’s performance of Paul Robeson’s repertoire of spirituals was inspiring. He engaged the audience with song, and with storytelling between songs that demonstrated his familiarity with Paul Robeson’s life,” she said. “We’re delighted that he can join us on this special day to celebrate Paul Robeson’s life and legacy, and support our efforts to preserve his childhood home.”
Susan Robeson is an award-winning author, filmmaker and broadcast journalist, and has produced many programs for public television stations and network affiliates in New York City. She has worked with street gangs around the nation documenting efforts to organize peace treaties, and spent time in post-apartheid South Africa training activists on broadcast-quality video production. She is the co-founder of Third World Newsreel, an independent film production and distribution collective.
Robeson has been a visiting professor at several colleges and is an adjunct professor in the communications department at William Paterson University. She is the author of “The Whole World In His Hands: A Pictorial Biography of Paul Robeson,” and the forthcoming children’s book “Grandpa Stops a War.” She lives in New York City, where she is producing her first dramatic feature film and is the head of the Paul Robeson Foundation.
“We are very fortunate to have Susan Robeson as our special guest at this event, and we look forward to hearing her share personal remembrances of her grandfather,” said Benjamin Colbert, president of the Paul Robeson House Board of Directors.
“We are grateful for the support of individuals, Princeton organizations and local business owners who have made this event possible,” Colbert said. “The rehabilitation of the home where Paul Robeson was born will preserve an important part of Princeton’s history, serve as a lasting memorial to the challenges and opportunities faced by African Americans and the underserved worldwide, while supporting future generations.”
Planet Princeton is a proud media sponsor for this community event that supports the Paul Robeson House of Princeton.