One of God's trombones; Charles Canada dies at 61

He had not been in the Tri-Cities long, but Charles Canada made a difference while he was here.

A professional actor, devoted family man and foundingmember of The Group Theatre in Seattle, he staged two productions of God's Trombones,by James Weldon Johnson,last year at Kennewick'sFirst United MethodistChurch.

The performances were benefits for relief efforts in Haiti and Chile.

Because of failing health, he retired from the regular stage early and moved to the Tri-Cities for family reasons in December 2009. One of his sons, James, is a Kennewick police officer.

James joined his father and mother, Gayle Adams-Canada, in the presentation.

"God's Trombones changed my life," Canada told the Herald before the performances. He said he discovered Johnson in high school and has incorporated his own interpretation of Johnson's works in his career on the stage.

And in his daily life.

He was extremely active in church work and generous with his time and talent.

God's Trombones is a celebrated work by Johnson, a great civil rights leader of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The book is a collection of seven sermons in verse,as they would have beendelivered by black pastorslong ago.

As he said in the brilliant introduction, Johnson chose the trombone as the metaphor for these old-time pastors because he felt the trombone was the closest instrument to the human voice.

Johnson also composed what many call the black national anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing.

A celebration of Charles' life will be held at KennewickFirst Methodist Church at 1 p.m. Friday. The church is at 2 S. Dayton St. in Kennewick.

More than 25 years ago, Canada performed one ofthose seven sermons inverse, Go Down Death, at the Paul Robeson Theatre in New York.

He told us he had performed it countless other times at the request of friends at funeral services.

It's a moving poem.

We have no doubt it will be heard again Friday.