North Delta jazz artist Leora Cashe is gearing up for her 10th Motown Meltdown, happening April 8 at Vancouver’s historic Commodore Ballroom.
The 57-year-old singer first started performing at the Motown Meltdown concert in 2004. At the time, it was a fundraiser for the Shooting Stars Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising awareness for people with HIV and AIDS.
In 2014 the fundraiser was taken over by Seva Canada, an organization that restores sight in developing countries.
The concert features a “who’s who” of the Vancouver music scene; this year, 25 singers from primarily rhythm and blues backgrounds will be performing.
“You won’t see this amount of professional vocalists in one show in front of a 12-piece [band] anywhere else, [or] for such an incredibly reasonable price,” concert producer Kendra Sprinkling said. “It’s unique.”
For Cashe, getting involved with the concert back in the early 2000s was an opportunity to build community.
“I think that is the essence of music,” she said, her purple handmade earrings dangling beneath her earlobes. “Before we had electricity and TVs and such, that’s what [musicians] did…They created places for the community to gather and strengthen, and it just seemed like a good thing to do.”
In the past, Cashe has sung a number of different Motown tunes, although her go-to artist is Marvin Gaye. This year, she’ll be performing his seminal hit “What’s Going On.”
“For all the things that are going on in our world right now, it seemed like a good song to sing for the lyrics, for the prayer part in it,” she said. “I love a song that digs in their and helps us think and change.”
When Cashe practiced the song in her North Delta home, it was slow and soulful. Her singing voice was rich and full, different from her slightly-singsong speaking voice.
“In Motown Meltdown, it won’t be like that,” she said when she finished. “But when I do it like that, it just helps me get more…in the prayer of the song…because when you’re standing out there on that stage, and all that energy, it’s overwhelming.”
At the Commodore, Cashe will be backed by a 12-piece band, and the stage will be set up with the sound system and light show of a high-end concert.
“It’s this energy force,” she said. “To have that light show and those sound systems…it’s like a real concert.”
Cashe hasn’t toured in a number of years, although she is currently working on a collaboration with Italian pianist Luigi Bonafede. So for Cashe, the concert is a lot of fun in part because it’s an opportunity to get on that kind of powerful stage, but also “because everyone’s there in a supportive way,” she said.
“The singers are backstage rooting on for the next person. It just gets better and better.”
This year’s Motown Meltdown will kick off at 8 p.m. on April 8 at the Commodore Ballroom (868 Granville St., Vancouver). Tickets are $32.50 when you buy them online at ticketmaster.ca/event/11005178B4FF6627, or $44 at the door.