Ora Reed, other standouts will perform here Saturday as part of city’s Juneteenth celebration

Published 5:10 pm Friday, June 9, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Ora Reed, Mississippi’s International Music Ambassador, loves Natchez, and said she eagerly accepts every time she’s asked to come here to perform.

The Mississippi Delta native and renowned jazz singer will be in Natchez performing Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Jazz is her forte, but she said gospel and spirituals tell her story.

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On Friday night, Reed will sing for diners at The Kitchen on Main Street. She has performed at The Kitchen several times and said it fits her perfectly.

“That’s my kind of room,” Reed said. “I’ve been working at luxury hotels out of the country and I’ve always enjoyed fancy restaurants with entertainment. That’s what this little room at The Kitchen means to me.”

She said she is a formal person, which may be why she enjoys Natchez so much.

“Natchez has always been my favorite little town in Mississippi. I enjoy the formality of it. I’ve never been a casual person, and there are certain pockets of Natchez that are formal, like I am,” Reed said.

On Saturday, she will be a part of a group of performers paying tribute to legendary artists at the Legends Celebration 2023, a musical Juneteenth tribute sponsored by the City of Natchez and a number of local businesses.

In addition to Reed, the concert, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Natchez City Auditorium, will feature popular artists like Grammy nominee Dorothy Moore, Natchez’s own Blues Man YZ Ealey, Grammy winner Alvin Youngblood, Alvin Shelby and The Legends Celebration Choir.

The Legends being honored at the concert Saturday include The Williams Brothers, Cassandra Wilson, Dorothy Moore, YZ Ealey, the Mississippi Mass Choir, Walter Barnes and The Royal Creolians, Hound Dog Taylor, Larry Brown, Bud Scott, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield and Daisy Newman.

“I am looking forward to sharing my music with the audience on Saturday, but I’m also looking forward to experiencing all of these different genres of music,” Reed said.

She went to school at Jackson State with one of the musicians being honored, Daisy Newman.

Born in Greenville, Reed grew up in Lexington. Right after graduating Jackson State, she moved to Baltimore.

“I was there for 10 years. Since that time, I’ve lived in Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro and all over the world. One of her favorite places is Japan.

“While I’ve never had a residence there, I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan. I would go three to six months at a time and worked and lived in luxury hotels,” she said.

When she was 3 years old, her godmother wanted her to begin taking piano lessons, but her mother said not until she had learned her alphabet. Reed got busy learning the alphabet and was soon a natural on the piano.

She has held positions in education, television, politics, organized religion and public relations, which she said played an important role in preparing her for the unusual path that her life has taken.

Reed has performed in Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, and United Arab Emirates and throughout the U.S. Former Gov. Haley Barbour named her Cultural Ambassador for Mississippi. She enjoys sharing stories of Mississippi wherever she travels. Reed is also an inductee into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. She is a four-time cancer survivor and a longtime member of the First Baptist Church of Jackson. Reed attributes her profound faith and positive attitude as being responsible for her healing.

“I do jazz standards and Christian music. My faith is what keeps things going. I grew up in a church with anthems and hymns. I’ve sung in churches all over the world.

On Sunday morning, Reed will perform at Pilgrim Baptist Church.

“It will be a well-rounded weekend for me,” she said.

“I hope people will really appreciate that our history is varied, but it is important for us to accept where we are and be thankful for where we are at this stage of the game,” Reed said.