By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
In the early 1960s, a team of African-American women supplied critical calculations that launched astronaut John Glenn into orbit and brought him home safely. The movie “Hidden Figures,” starring Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer, tells their story in the film nominated for the 2017 Oscar for Best Picture.
Its soundtrack, which evokes the 1960s R&B sounds Stevie Wonder and Smoky Robinson, includes Lalah Hathaway singing an up-tempo duet, “Surrender,” with the film’s soundtrack producer, Pharrell Williams.
Three-time Grammy Award winner Lalah Hathaway, nominated for two more Grammys this year, is the special guest for the Grand Rapids Symphony’s “Symphony with Soul” Saturday, Feb. 18.
Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt leads the Grand Rapids Symphony in the 16th annual evening of gospel, spirituals, jazz, blues, and R&B, celebrating diversity and inclusion in West Michigan, featuring community musicians performing on behalf of the wider community.
The Grand Rapids Symphony Community Chorus an ensemble of singers who sing in the gospel tradition, directed by Duane Shields Davis, will perform.
Lalah Hathaway, daughter of soul singer Donny Hathaway, often called the “first daughter of soul,” will showcase her incredibly powerful voice in DeVos Performance Hall.
Hathaway made her solo debut in 1990 and gained a Top 10 single with “Heaven Knows,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard R&B charts. In 2013, she collaborated with R&B/Soul group Snarky Puppy on the song “Something,” which led to her first Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance in 2014.
The Chicago native released her sixth and most recent album in 2015, recorded live at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. “Lalah Hathaway LIVE!” proved to be a turning point for the soul singer. The album is raw and unedited, giving an authentic look into Hathaway’s style, voice and life. Nominated for the 59th Annual Grammy Award for Best R&B Album, her new single, “Angel,” also was nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance in the awards ceremony that will be presented on Feb. 12.
Each year, the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Symphony with Soul is preceded by the Celebration of Soul, a gala dinner honoring the accomplishments of individuals and organizations in the community that emphasize and celebrate the importance of cultural awareness and inclusion in West Michigan.
This year’s recipients of the Dr. Malinda P. Sapp Legacy Award are Elias Lumpkins, Grand Rapids City Commissioner; Christina Arnold, director of The Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion at GRCC; and Cherry Street Health Services. Each are leaders in successfully advancing multiculturalism and multicultural awareness in their profession or industry and are role models of consistent, creative encouragement in the community to become more culturally competent.
Gala tickets for Celebration of Soul are $150 per person, which includes the reception, dinner and awards at the International Ballroom of the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids plus a ticket to the Symphony with Soul concert and admission to the after party at 10 p.m. Call 616-454-9451 ext. 124 for tickets.
Performers for Symphony with Soul include young musicians from the Mosaic Scholarship Program. Made possible through a gift from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Mosaic Scholarships provide talented African-American and Latino students with musical instrument rental, private, one-on-one lessons with a professional musician from the Grand Rapids Symphony, and tickets to Grand Rapids Symphony concerts.
At Symphony with Soul these young instrumentalists will perform on stage as part of the Creative Connections program started by Jill Collier Warne.
Tickets start at $18 and are available at the GRS ticket office, weekdays 9 am-5 pm at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.)
Tickets are available at the DeVos Place box office, weekdays 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets also may be purchased online at GRSymphony.org.