Street Corner Renaissance
Not just another singing group, Street Corner Renaissance breathes new life into classic doo-wop music. The quintet performs a stirring tribute to the legendary Sam Cooke, a rousing gospel celebrationa civil rights anthem and more, their superb harmonies standing out in all the material they take on. Led by NAACP Award winner Maurice Kitchen, Street Corner Renaissance has opened for Chuck Berry, Kool and the Gang, Boyz II Men and many more top acts.
Looking forward to the past, S.C.RENAISSANCE defied the odds and did what many thought was either crazy or impossible. The group’s founder, Maurice Kitchen, was an accomplished but frustrated 25-year insurance industry claims professional when he decided to quit his job and join forces with Torre Brannon Reese, a community youth advocate and founder of a successful mentoring program, Kwame Alexander, a former Seventh Day Adventist Minister/Pastor, Anthony (Tony) Snead, an itinerant legal assistant and Charles (Sonny) Banks, a retiring city transportation worker. These five banded together to form a professional, a cappella Doo Wop group of distinguished gentlemen.
RENAISSANCE was born, creating a unique and consistent sound that has delighted audiences at venues throughout the country, including theaters, performing arts centers, elegant cruise lines, colleges and clubs. Previously, all five had deferred their dreams while they dealt with life’s responsibilities, and suddenly their fantastic voyage began. After a couple of years, Banks, the elder statesman, left the group. He was replaced by a dynamic young singer, Jason Powell from the San Francisco Bay area, a school teacher with a Master of Fine Arts in Theater, who developed his doo wop chops singing on the street corners and subway platforms of New York City.
“We felt honored to have been invited to participate in UCLA’s week-long Festival of African American Music Symposium, right out of the gate,” said Kitchen, referring to an early engagement in the group’s infancy stage. He went on to explain that the festival was a comprehensive event hosted and produced by world-renowned guitarist Kenny Burrell, where RENAISSANCE shared the stage with accomplished performers such as Nancy Wilson, George Duke, Patty Austin, Freda Payne, Linda Hopkins, Lalah Hathaway, Dianne Reeves, Gerald Wilson and Patrice Rushen, just to name a few. Following that debut RENAISSANCE opened for the a cappella group, Take Six, at Debbie Allen’s “Smile Festival”, performed on-stage with the legendary Stevie Wonder and the renowned poet, Nikki Giovanni.
“To have started out performing with such a stellar lineup was all the encouragement we needed. We took it as a resounding endorsement that the music we’re committed to has a valid place in the broader cultural and musical landscape,” remarked principal bass singer, Torre Brannon Reese.
If the group wasn’t convinced by the reception they received at the festival, then the overwhelming response they garnered for “Meet Me on The Corner”, their maiden recording venture, should have removed all doubt. In an unprecedented move, Promoter Roland Betts invited RENAISSANCE to perform at the prestigious “Jazz at Drew Festival” where they wowed the audience and made festival history as the first a cappella group to be booked at the perennial event. In a bold show of support for their talent and their mission, Betts hired them to open on consecutive nights for the venerable Impressions and popular funk band Lakeside. Other acts on the bill included Hubert Laws, Jerry Butler, Sheila E., David T. Walker, The Mighty Clouds of Joy and other cross-genre luminaries.
Opening for The legendary Chuck Berry in Utah, Kool and the Gang in Texas and the top selling Male R&B singing group of all time, Boyz II Men, in San Bernadino California, are among the experiences Kitchen lists as “highlights” in Renaissance’s short but potent existence.
These cats can flat out sing and their infectious energy is highly entertaining as they transport their audiences to another space and time. Not just another singing group, RENAISSANCE transcends categorization by intertwining social and cultural awareness themes into their music, offering “food for the spirit as well as the soul”. Whether it’s a soul-stirring tribute to the legendary Sam Cooke, love songs for the ladies, Black History themed conscious music or a rousing Gospel celebration, their superb vocal skills shine through.
“We’ve closed the generation gap for vibrant Baby Boomers who dare to dream the impossible dream once again. And now our collective professional life fulfills that dream,” says Maurice Kitchen.
We are an all A Capella group that require only the human voice to perform.
Maurice Kitchen, Torre Brannon Reese, Kwame Alexander, Anthony (tony) Snead and Charlie (Sonny) Banks.
We have 3 interchangeable bass singers, 5 leads and everyone can sing all of the other parts
Photos by Bobby Holland