Blues Queen of New Orleans brings big voice to Baltimore

Marva Wright and others put on benefits to aid the region devastated by Katrina

September 22, 2005|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,SUN REPORTER

"My house is gone," says Marva Wright, the big-voiced singer who's called "The Blues Queen of New Orleans."

"We lost everything," she says. "Everything. All the pictures, the photos, the computers, the mink coats, the diamond rings, you name it, I had it and it's gone. Everything is gone."

She's on her phone on the Baltimore Beltway. Her husband's trying to find his son's Randallstown home, where they're staying.

Wright will sing tomorrow night at the 8x10 Club near Cross Street Market, at one of the many benefits in the area for victims of Hurricane Katrina. She'll be backed by Greg Hatza's band.

"I was born and raised and everything happened to me in New Orleans," she says. The last place she sang in New Orleans was at Storyville.

"The storm hit Sunday night [Aug. 28] and I was supposed to play there Tuesday," she says. "I just came home from Norway the week before."

"It was hard," she says. There's a catch in her voice.

She escaped with 10 members of her family to Panama City, Fla., before the storm hit. They're scattered now. Her son, James, a New Orleans policeman, stayed behind on duty in the flooded city.

"My son went to check on the house maybe four days ago," says Wright. "He told me Katrina put my furniture where she wanted it to be. He said the water went all the way up to the roof of the house. It's just a mess. He said, `Momma, you have nothing to go back to.'"

She doesn't know if she will go back. "I'll have to put it in the hands of the Lord. Maryland might have another blues singer."

She's been singing nearly all her life, mostly gospel music in church until about 20 years ago. Her mother was the contralto lead singer and pianist with the Jackson Gospel Singers, one of the first female gospel quartets. Wright was 38 when she decided to try a full-time singing career.

"I went and tried it and I never went back," she says. She's 57 now and she's sung blues all over New Orleans at storied spots like the House of Blues and Tipitina's. And she's sung around the world from Brazil to Australia and across Europe.

Among the other arts activities to aid Katrina victims are:

Receipts from the National Players' Pay-What-You-Can Previews of Dracula will go to the Red Cross. 6:30 tonight at Olney Theatre Company. 301-924-3400.

Susan Cowsill, a New Orleans-based rocker who grew up with the family pop band the Cowsills, plays for a New Orleans Relief Concert for Displaced Musicians at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the 8x10.

Leon Fleisher, Daniel Heifetz and musicians from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Peabody Institute and Loyola College play in concert for the Red Cross and the Gulf Coast Orchestra Relief Fund, at 7 p.m. Monday at Central Presbyterian Church, 7400 York Road. 410-947-4796.

David Roe, a New Orleans street musician, and a host of others get together in a Benefit for the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, at 8 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave. 410-276-1651.

Clarinetist Edward Palanker and pianist Clinton Adams, both of the Baltimore Symphony and Peabody Institute, present a recital to benefit the Red Cross at 3 p.m. Oct. 9 at An Die Musik, 409 N. Charles St. 410-385-2638.

O'Malley's March, the Bobwhites, the Paul Reed Smith Band and others perform in a Hurricane Relief Fundraiser at 6 p.m. Oct. 13 at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place. 410-244-1131.

Chefs Nancy Longo of Pierpoint Restaurant and Ed Bloom of Ethel and Ramone's cook gumbo for the relief of employees of New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme's K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen on Sunday at the Mount Washington Festival and on Oct. 1 and 2 at the Fells Point Festival. 443-392-8379.

Thirty-three Baltimore restaurants are participating in the Dine for America benefit for Hurricane Katrina Relief. 866-895-3784 or go to

If you go Marva Wright, the Blues Queen of New Orleans, will perform a benefit concert at 9 p.m. tomorrow at 8x10 Club, 8-10 E. Cross St. 410-625-2000

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