The Philly POPS pays R-E-S-P-E-C-T to one of music’s greatest icons—The Queen of Soul—February 14–16, 2020 at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. ARETHA: RESPECT covers Aretha Franklin’s incredible career with a 70-piece Philly POPS orchestra.
This performance will feature returning fan-favorite Capathia Jenkins from 2015’s Classic Soul concert series, along with the POPS debut of GRAMMY-nominated R&B artist Ryan Shaw. This performance will be conducted by guest conductor Byron Stripling, the recently appointed Principal Pops Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to having performed with Aretha herself, Byron previously performed with the POPS in 2019’s Uptown Nights, a shining tribute to the swing music of Harlem’s heyday, and 2017’s Ella, Louis & All That Jazz, which honored two of the greatest jazz icons of all time. Byron’s power and enthusiasm make him both a renowned jazz trumpeter and in-demand conductor. When last in Philadelphia, Byron also visited schools as part of POPS in Schools. Byron gave masterclasses to School District of Philadelphia students and sat in on All-City Jazz rehearsals—helping give his perspective and experience to students. For this concert series, Byron will take part in other POPS in Schools programming.
Also performing in this concert is The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir—which performs annually with the POPS for A Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season. With Aretha’s gospel background and success as a gospel singer, particularly her landmark Amazing Grace album, the STGC will enrich the performance with their signature energy and soul, accompanying Capathia, Ryan, and the 70-piece orchestra.
As a child, Aretha Franklin learned to play piano by ear, and she started singing at her local church in Detroit, MI. Her father, a traveling minister and preacher, took her on the road with him, bringing her to sing at various churches. As she made her way through the gospel circuit, her career took off and notoriety grew—with Dinah Washington reportedly telling Quincy Jones that “Aretha was the ‘next one.’” Her career grew to include genre-defining hits like “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
Philly POPS Artistic Director for Jazz Terell Stafford was fortunate enough to meet Aretha and to perform with her several times. His first time playing with her, he played alongside Byron Stripling on the Rosie O’Donnell Show.
“Her voice was so special. I don’t think I’ve heard a voice like it – the resonance, the power, her vibrato, her delivery, everything, she was the perfect package,” said Terell. “She set the bar very high and left a legacy for everyone to follow. She taught the next generation of musicians to keep music in your heart and not in your head – keep it all in your heart and in your soul.”
ARETHA: RESPECT runs February 14–16 at The Kimmel Center for The Performing Arts.