A well-known singer, school counselor and entrepreneur, former East Bay resident Lorice Stevens-French died May 21 in Arizona. She was 76.
She gained a reputation and a following for her performances in concert halls and on television and radio, appearing in “Best of Broadway,” New York Central Park’s “Porgy and Bess” and as a soloist at The Church for Today in Berkeley for many years.
She had a clear, beautiful soprano voice that resounded in the hearts of those who heard her sing. Her home church was Down’s Memorial in Oakland, and she was a member of Friends of the Negro Spiritual and National Association of Negro Musicians.
Stevens-French was born on Oct. 29, 1935 in Bivens, Texas to Essie and Gilbert Stevens. Her initial debut as a teenager was held at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland, with her sister Deloris Casanares as accompanist.
She toured with Clyde Turner’s “Best of Broadway” and was featured as Bess in New York Central Park’s production of Porgy and Bess opposite William Warfield.
Her mentor Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams presented her in Today’s Artists’ inaugural production of The Art of the Spiritual at Carnegie Hall in New York City and again in 1989 in The Caroling Dusk concert.
Williams featured her in 1992 at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, at the American Church in France and in many concerts locally.
Stevens-French was Artist-in-Residence for 15 years at Today’s Artists/Four Seasons Concert’s Yachats Music Festival in Oregon. She performed with symphony orchestras and in major oratorios.
She performed in San Francisco and in Oakland with jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd, and appeared with him on a CD release, “City Called Heaven,” singing the title song.
She served as a counselor in the Oakland Public Schools and was an entrepreneur who sold trips, real estate, jewelry, vitamins and herbs.
Stevens-French moved in 2007 to Arizona. She was an avid world traveler, taking multiple trips across the country and at least one cruise yearly.
In Arizona she participated in weekly Bible studies with the Bible Study Fellowship International and was a member of Community Interdenominational Church in San Tan Valley.
She leaves her spouse, Thomas French; daughter Kimani Dismond; sister Deloris Casanares; Nieces: Tanya Casanares Clay, Patricia Ann Robinson, Yvonne French and Cheryl Champ; Nephews: Andre French, Reginald French and Gregory French; Grandnieces: Jasmine Theibeaux and Candace Cofield; Grand Nephew Damany Brown; Great-Grandnephew Keiland Daniel Cofield.
A Life Celebration will be held 1 p.m., July 7 at Down’s Memorial United Methodist Church, 6026 Idaho St. in Oakland.