As a proud native of Motown (Detroit), and one who grew up among the likes of legends like Marvin Gaye, Ronald White (the Miracles), Kim Weston, Berry Gordy, the Four Tops family and Gladys Knight, the musical genius of icons like Aretha Franklin have long-been stamped into the fibers of my DNA.

And in celebration of both her 75th birthday and her contributions to the world, the American Pops Orchestra (APO) presented “RESPECT: The Music of Aretha Franklin,” at the Arena Stage in Southwest on Saturday, Sept. 16.

The Orchestra, under the leadership of Music Director Luke S. Frazier (Kelly Crandall d’Amboise serves as the APO’s resident director), was joined by four stellar vocalists, Moya Angela, Ariana DeBose, Nova Payton, and Michelle Williams, formerly of Destiny’s Child, as well as trumpeter/vocalist “extraordinaire” Bria Skonberg.

The vocalists have already cut their teeth on the likes of shows that include: “Dreamgirls,” “Hamilton,” “A Bronx Tale,” and “America’s Got Talent,” and have been featured at such venues as Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center. And with the signers belting out tunes like “A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “Spanish Harlem” and “Since You’ve Been Gone,” the show was one that will leave those lucky enough to snag a ticket talking for years to come.

Franklin has amassed 18 Grammys, sold 75 million records worldwide and proven herself the kind of entertainer that can do it all — from her roots in gospel or pop to classical and R&B.

APO has quickly emerged as the District’s innovative, topnotch hometown orchestra with “RESPECT” as part of their 2017-2018 season lineup. Unless otherwise noted, all shows of the Orchestra will take place at their new home, Arena Stage at The Mead Center for American Theater.

“This will prove to be our best season yet, with musical selections and styles for everyone,” Frazier said.

Adrienne Arsht, 2017-2018 Signature Season Sponsor for APO had this to say: “I like to support the best of the best and that’s Luke and his Orchestra. The show was brilliant in its conception, execution and quality of the performers. And with a theater in-the-round, everyone had a good seat. I know all of the performers and it makes me proud to see it all come together. Luke both imagined and arranged it too. What a job well-done.”

Media Sponsor, the Washington Informer’s Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes, shared the following: “The words to her songs come back naturally to an audience of fans who are invited to sing along with a quartet of the finest female voices, each of whom do a phenomenal job of imitating but never duplicating Aretha’s unique voice and sound. ‘RESPECT’ will make you clap your hands while your heart sings.”

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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