Dave Koz / Publicity photo

In Time for the Holidays: Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour and Lesbian-themed ‘Marie and Rosetta’

As the holidays approach, theater companies are getting back into (semi) normal routines and special events appealing to the LGBTQ community are returning.

This year marks the 24th annual Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour. Last year, the gay saxophonist was forced to skip touring because of COVID-19 and pivoted to live stream entertainment.

“It was a challenge for anyone who was a musician,” Koz told Georgia Voice. “We were all sidelined. In true fashion, we found ways to connect through live streams and Facebook Live and Instagram Live and stay connected to our fans. That was one of the nice things about the pandemic for me.”

This season’s guests include South African guitarist/singer Jonathan Butler, trumpeter Rick Braun, saxophonist Richard Elliot and vocalist Rebecca Jade.

“This one captures the mood of our country,” Koz said. “It feels like inviting concertgoers into a living room party with close friends. We’ve all been through a lot, and we are here together and celebrating all the great things in life, making memories and adding meaning to our life. That is the way we are approaching it.”

He never anticipated that his tour would still be going strong after two decades.

“As a nice Jewish boy from Southern California, the last thing I ever thought I’d be doing would be a Christmas tour and seven Christmas albums,” he said. “I love the music. These are some of the greatest songs of all time They lend themselves to new creative directions. You have to really try hard to screw these songs up; they are that good.”

Koz’s influence on the industry as a gay artist has been huge. “I have heard from other gay jazz artists that it meant a lot to them,” he said. “For me, it was about becoming a whole person. I was expecting the worst and every time I have pushed myself to be more authentic it has been rewarded. The greatest gift I could have ever given myself was to come out.”

Koz has received nine Grammy nominations over his career. He released two albums during the pandemic, including “A New Day” in October 2020, 30 years to the week after his debut album, and then “The Golden Hour” this summer.

The performer said he loves the warmth of Atlanta audiences and acoustic excellence of Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. The Atlanta gig kicks off the holiday tour, which wraps up just before Christmas in San Jose.

“Marie and Rosetta” is a new play opening at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company next week. Like Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour, it was postponed from an earlier engagement because of COVID-19. It’s directed by Andrea Frye, who has been a force in Atlanta theater all over town for decades, including work at True Colors before.

Written by George Brant, the play follows Sister Rosetta Tharpe — recognized as the Godmother of Rock ‘n Roll — as she broke the barriers she faced in the music world in the ‘40s. She is credited for inspiring the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, and Ray Charles. The drama also focuses on her relationship with Marie Knight, a young singer she recruited from gospel vocalist Mahalia Jackson.

Frye knew very little about the central couple before she came aboard. “That was the delight of it,” she says. “Here was this woman who for a while really ruled the community in African American music and church music all rolled into one. She was a spiritualist who sang with her mother and did religious music and became obsessed with another beat, another passion. She jazzed up these religious songs and they became irresistible.”

Tharpe and Knight became a celebrated musical duo. The two became lovers when they met and had a “long lovely relationship before they broke up,” says the director. The pair had to face a lot during the time, such as Jim Crow laws, but Frye is not aware of any particular stigmas they faced in being together. “But one can assume because they had a love for each other and were out there in the world, there may have been.”

This production features an entire cast and team of Black women, which the director says is a rarity. Amitria Fanae stars as Rosetta Tharpe and Jasmine Renee Ellis portrays Marie Knight.

Dave Koz & Friends 

Christmas Tour 2021

November 26

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre



“Marie and Rosetta”

November 30–December 30

Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company