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Symphony of soul

Jan 4, 2015

Capathia Jenkins grew up on old school soul.
On Jan. 9-10, Jenkins and fellow vocalist Darius de Haas will salute the genre with the Charlotte Symphony at Knight Theatre. Concert times are 8-10 p.m. both nights and tickets are $25-79 and available by calling (704) 972-2000. The performance is part of the symphony's Pops Series.

"It really is classic soul," said Jenkins. "You'll hear some Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway and Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. It's really the soundtrack to your life."

Jenkins and de Haas picked the songs tunes they love or really wanted to sing with the symphony, conducted by Albert-George Schram. From the Motown sound of Gaye to the Memphis-infused vocals of Al Green, de Haas and Jenkins will pay homage to tunes like Wonder's "Signed Sealed and Delivered (I'm Yours)" and Knight's "You're The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me."

"It's a love letter to those soul artists who we think are heroes to us," Jenkins said. "Gladys Knight is my favorite singer of all time. Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul. It's huge, and to be able to do this music with a full orchestra is extraordinary."

Jenkins, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and still lives there, is looking forward to the Charlotte performance, which includes a trio of Johnson C. Smith University students as background vocalists.

"I am this little black girl from Brooklyn and to stand on stage with a full orchestra where you have strings and you have horns, it's amazing," she said. "It's these lush arrangements and we'll have three backup singers sharing the stage with us. It's just a party, it's fun."

Symphonic accompaniment isn't new to soul. The "Godfather of Soul," James Brown, employed an orchestra for his haunting ballad, "It's A Man's World" and Ray Charles regularly recorded with one. In the 1970s, MFSB, Philadelphia International Records' house orchestra, played a string of hits, including "The Sound of Philadelphia," better known as the "Soul Train" theme. Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra backed the "Maestro of Love" on hits like "Love's Theme" and "Your Sweetness Is My Weakness." It adds a more robust melody than a rhythm section or synthesizer, which replaced live musicians.

"You'll have that core rhythm section drums, piano, guitar but then you have another layer," Jenkins said. "When you're able to do live strings and live horns, you have a timpani drum and all this stuff that enhances what you already know from a studio recording, it's lush and it's exciting because it's live."

Jenkins, who earned rave reviews last year for her "Broadway Rocks" performance in Charlotte, is eager to sing with the symphony before an appreciative audience.  The richness and message of the music, she contends, transcends generations.

"Even though you say symphony and you think it's sort of high brow, it really is a party," she said. "It's so accessible. This is music that everybody loves."

Article at Charlotte Post