Berklee's Reverence Gospel Choir Performs with Zac Brown Band at Fenway Park
Despite having lived in Boston for more than 30 years, Dennis Montgomery III hadn’t been to Fenway Park until the Zac Brown Band invited him and the students in his Reverence Gospel Choir to perform for more than 100,000 people at a sold-out set of shows in August.
Montgomery, an associate professor in Berklee’s Ensemble Department who directs the gospel choir, led the group in “Remedy” and “I’ll Be Your Man,” both by the Zac Brown Band, and in the Beatles’ “Let It Be.” For the last night of the concert, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler joined the band on stage to perform “Sweet Emotion.”
“I had tons of fun and we had rehearsals with the band so we had time to bond with them before the three concerts,” said Marisol Fonseca, a member of the 12-person choir.
The band’s two Berklee alumni, guitarist Clay Cook ‘98 and bassist Matt Mangano ‘00, had both sung in Montgomery’s choirs when they were at Berklee. Cook said that when they knew they were coming to Boston, he didn’t hesitate to contact Montgomery. Another Berklee graduate, Maureen Murphy ‘99, who is now a successful solo artist in Nashville, also performed at the concert.
“They were so nice to us and asked us about our experience as students at Berklee,” Fonseca said. “They also told us to be very grateful and enjoy our time at Berklee because if they could go back they would.”
While the band was in town, Mangano made his way back to Berklee for an afternoon and held a clinic for students. He recounted for them how he left his gig as a guitarist in John Mayer’s touring band to head to Nashville to pursue a career as a bassist.
One thing Mayer, Mangano, Murphy, and Cook all have in common is time spent working with Montgomery, who was their teacher when they were at Berklee. In addition to directing the Reverence Gospel Choir, Montgomery teaches an R&B class and directs the Overjoyed Ensemble. The full gospel choir, which began in the late ‘70s, includes up to 60 students during the academic year but pares down in the summer. It has backed up LL Cool J, opened for Puff Daddy (a.k.a. Sean Combs or P. Diddy), and accompanied Earth, Wind & Fire.
“A lot of artists have been in this choir, so I'm pretty excited to be part of this. And I’m really glad that Berklee is connecting this opportunity for us,” Fonseca said.