Jun 15, 2012 - Ernestine Dillard's Celebration of Our Fathers


You don’t have to be around Ernestine Dillard long to realize that she’s a genuinely inspirational person whose demeanor is reflected in the songs she chooses to perform. The world found out about her and her message on April 25, 1995, when the former registered nurse she sang her powerful and positive “God Bless America” medley at the nationally televised Oklahoma City memorial service for the victims of the Murrah Building bombing. Since then, she’s sung all over the world, often in patriotic celebrations like Philadelphia’s Let Freedom Ring and, last October, at the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty in New York.

            Given all of that, it makes sense that Dillard has only one criterion when she’s considering doing a song – and it doesn’t have anything to do with genre or style.

            “Because I do have a gospel background, I do some gospel music,” she says. “ I sing Broadway tunes and some stuff that’s kind of jazzy, too.  But everything I do has to have some sort of inspirational value. They don’t all have to be, quote, “church” songs, they just have to be inspirational – even if they just inspire a man to tell his wife that he loves her.

            “I don’t want anybody to think my show is going to be heavy,” she adds. “It’s going to be something everybody can enjoy. We’re going to have fun while we’re honoring the gentlemen on Father’s Day, along with the men and women who are serving our country. That’s important to me. They’re heroes, and while I won’t say they’re unsung, I will say that I don’t think they’re celebrated enough.”

            For that reason, she explains, her Sunday show at the Jazz Depot will be dedicated to both fathers and America’s service members. Thematically, it will be very much akin to the series of concerts she’s been doing for a while with the Tulsa Faith Orchestra and the 60-voice Celebration Choir, both of which accompanied her to New York for the Statue of Liberty event last year.

            “We’ve been playing all over,” she says. “We’ve gone to many churches and done concerts with `family, faith, and freedom’ as our theme. At the Statue of Liberty, we did almost a full program – I did the `God Bless America’ medley, and, of course, `The Star Spangled Banner.’ It was a wonderful occasion, and I think we made a good showing for Oklahoma. The Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars have been doing these celebrations for 75 years, and they’ve already asked us back for this coming October.”

            Logistics and other circumstances prohibit the orchestra and chorus from appearing with her on the Jazz Hall stage Sunday, but she’ll still be bringing along several other performers to participate in the show. Those guests include Cynthia Simmons, and up-and-comer who’s no stranger to the Jazz Depot stage.

            “We’ve performed together before, and she’s going to do a bit of jazz for us,” Dillard notes. “I also have two young ladies I’ve been coaching, Alaska Holloway and Madi Metcalf, who’ll do a couple of Broadway tunes. They’re both very talented young women, and I’m happy to highlight them a bit.”

            Other guest performers include Clark Mathews, who’ll be the pianist for the evening, and Tonnie Nichols, Dillard’s daughter,

            “Tonnie will do some pop songs, like `Wind Beneath My Wings,’” Dillard says. “So we’re going to have a real variety. There’ll be something for everybody.”  

            Ernestine Dillard’s Father’s Day Concert is set to begin Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St. Tickets for the event can be purchased at the Depot or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. General admission is $15, reserved table seating $20. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10, and high school and junior high students for $5.   

            The show is part of the Jazz Hall’s 2012 Summer Concert Series.

            The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.