Long live the Queen of Soul
When the melodic strains of "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" ring out, Aretha Franklin’s powerful voice can’t be ignored.
But this weekend, changing the lyric to "R-E-S-P- R-C-T" might be more fitting, since a local tribute show to the Queen of Soul is coming to the Rochester Civic Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 2.
Tragically, we lost the iconic singer this past August. This spurred local singers Mary Lieser, LaSonya Natividad, and Dianna Parks, along with the brassy sounds of Incognito, to perform some of her greatest hits.
The 15 musicians cover everything from backup vocals to saxophone. The performers will include Adam Evjen, Adrienne Fisk (backing vocals), Dave Kies (drums), Kevin Reid (percussion), Carl Stephenson (guitar), Michael Carlucci (bass), Eric Straubmuller (piano), Warren Bandel, Micah Johnson (trumpets), Nancette Stucky (trombone), Dick Rohrbaugh (saxophone), and Kevin McGarry (tenor sax). Incognito will open the show with a variety of Motown classics, then the Queen will reign.
"When I saw the news that Aretha Franklin had taken ill, I immediately wanted to create a tribute to honor her and reached out to Dianna Parks with whom I’ve done tributes for Heart and ABBA," says Lieser. She considers Aretha to be "one of the best singers ever to grace the stage" and actually portrayed the star in "Beehive" at RCT in the ’90s.
Lieser joined the band Incognito 27 years ago. During most of her time with the band, it’s used Aretha’s song "Respect" as a closer.
Beside enjoying everyone spelling along, Lieser says she loves the feeling of empowerment she gets when she sings it.
"On the day that Aretha died, I was playing the Civic patio and Mary and I sang ‘Natural Woman,’ backed by my friends Fred the Bear," says Parks, who performs regularly with the Parks and Kleist Band. "It was magical how it all came together."
Parks, who also loves singing Aretha’s "Chain of Fools," says that though she feels the loss of the brilliant singer, that her "big, slammin’ vocals" will always be an inspiration. She’s also excited to perform in the bright lights and with the great acoustics provided by the RCT’s hospitable three-hundred seat theatre.
Natividad, a singer with local band KnuFunK, was invited to be part of the project by Parks. "I can identify with many of her tunes," explains Natividad. "Much of her music and sounds have the gospel roots that I grew up listening to and singing in the Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Tallulah, Louisiana."
"How I Got Over" is one of Natividad’s favorite Aretha songs to perform. "I come alive every time I sing this song; it’s a song of struggle and triumph all in one," she says. "I love lyrically sound music, and I am reminded of a hope that my time in this life is not my final destination." She says she was first introduced to Aretha’s version of the song by a woman in her hometown church, and it always reminds her of her mom.
While you can certainly hear recordings of Aretha’s music, Lieser, Natividad, and Parks are all passionate about the power of a live performance. "Live music is always best," says Natividad. "It brings an opportunity to not only show tribute to the artist but to also show artistry in your presentation."
If you hanker for a healthy portion of soul served up the right way – live, local and featuring three divas – this tribute will surely satisfy your appetite. The only problem might be if tickets sell out. If that’s the case, you can travel to the encore performance at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault on April 27. Get your dancin’ shoes on, your vocal chords warmed up, and your hands ready to clap.
Aretha – Honoring the Queen of Soul
Saturday, Feb. 2, doors at 6:30 p.m.
Rochester Civic Theatre, 20 Civic Center Dr. SE, Rochester