A lot has changed in the nearly 30 years since Bev Conklin found herself immersed in the Lehigh Valley’s music scene.
But the one thing that has remained constant, Conklin said, is the community of musicians that has been built and nourished by Godfrey Daniels since its opening in 1976.
On April 5, the Bethlehem music club and coffeehouse will host the third annual annual “Come Together” benefit concert. Conklin, and her band are among set to take the stage that evening. The lineup is rounded out by singer-songwriter Michael Duck (a.k.a. Not for Coltrane), folk musician Dave Fry, singer Alyssa Allen, multi-instrumentalist John Huie, and renowned bassist Bakithi Kumalo.
“It’s a great lineup,” Conklin remarked Wednesday during a phone interview. “It’s like you have six trees and you take an apple from each tree and make apple pie and to see how the pie turns out is an exciting part, an alluring part for me. And what better place to have it than Godfrey Daniels?”
Proceeds from the “Come Together” show will benefit the Anti-Defamation League’s Philadelphia office to support its “No Place for Hate” program in participating Pennsylvania schools. “No Place for Hate” is a 20-year-old anti-bullying initiative of the Anti-Defamation League that's used in more than 1,600 schools across the United States.
The evening will include a discussion led by Jack Silva, Bethlehem Area School District's assistant superintendent and chief academic officer, about how Bethlehem schools use the “No Place for Hate” program.
“To be in the third one is an eye-opener for me,” Conklin said. “The momentum is growing. The musical mecca in the Lehigh Valley is so expansive we don’t even know all that’s out there.”
Conklin, known as the Valley’s “Queen of the Blues,” has been dazzling audiences as the award-winning front woman for BC & the Blues Crew and BC Combo. Her various philanthropic endeavors include Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley and Second Harvest Food Bank, among others. Additionally, Conklin is the founder of the Lehigh River Blues Jam.
“I started (performing) in 1990 and I immersed myself by accident. My best friend’s brother asked me to front a blues band; I never led a band before and the reason he asked me because I was black and I sang in the church choir. I had no idea what I was doing and it opened a whole world for me,” Conklin recalled. “Godfrey Daniels helped me grow as an artist. More than anything, it really taught me that music really is a universal language.”
For Fry, being a part of the “Come Together” concert has allowed him to expand his catalog of tunes. The creative rush of discovering new songs to perform has been an rewarding experience for the Godfrey Daniels founder.
“The thing I always look forward to doing is finding songs that have a positive message. Each year, I extend my own repertoire by finding songs that fit the bill,” Fry said Tuesday during a phone interview. “It’s important that (Godfrey Daniels) remains active in our community and this is one of the ways to do that; it’s an activity with a statement that is non-political but still community-focused.”
Fry, who has performed at each of the “Come Together” concerts since its inception in 2017, has become a favorite among his folksinging peers, and is a multiple Lehigh Valley Music Award winner.
“I really enjoy meeting new musicians and sharing our songs with each other and finding ways to add to the sound. That kind of improvisational creativity that I really enjoy, spur of the moment creativity we share with the audience and I think the audience picks up on that. That really works well at Godfreys.”
Fry said he has sheen a positive shift within the Valley’s music community to engage more with one another. Events such as “Come Together,” Fry said, encourage more cooperation and collaboration. “I think there are more efforts to reach out to other musicians. We’re not as parochial as we once were,” he said.
He then offered praise for Conklin. “I’ve never played with Bev before and always appreciated her onstage energy and confidence and I look forward to being on stage with her for the very first time.”
Those who will not be able to attend “Come Together” can show their support by donating to the event’s GoFundMe campaign.
“Come Together” is presented as part of the SouthSide Arts District “First Friday” concert series, and is supported by additional community sponsors.
“Come Together” will take place at Godfrey Daniels, 7 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem. There will be a $10 suggested donation at the door. Admission is free for students. Click here to make reservations.