by Zach Manzi
Nu Deco is back at the Adrienne Arsht Center on December 15 for a soul music-infused program featuring superstar Macy Gray, R&B singer/songwriter BJ The Chicago Kid, music of Aretha Franklin and Leonard Bernstein with the Miami Mass Choir.
In preparation for all the exciting things to come on this performance, we have a list of 5 Things to Know before you attend the performance…
Who: Known as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin was a soul and R&B legend active from the 1960s until her passing in August of this year, aged 76.
To know: Her cover of the song Respect, released in 1967, became the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights Movements in the 1960s.
Listen: This video at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors shows the Queen’s larger-than-life presence in a celebration to honor the music of Carole King, who can be seen teary eyed and in sheer awe at Aretha’s performance.
Who: The unabashed Macy Gray has recorded 10 albums and sold over 25 million records worldwide.
To know: Her real name isn’t actually Macy, it’s Natalie McIntyre. One day, eight-year-old Natalie McIntyre was riding her bike, fell over, and upon getting up, saw a mailbox that said “Macy Gray.” Since then, the name stuck.
Listen: She recently released a new album called Ruby, and this video of I Try put her on the map as a 21st century icon.
BJ The Chicago Kid
Who: BJ the Chicago Kid, né Bryan J. Sledge, a singer and songwriter who frequently collaborates with artists like Pulitzer Prize-winning Kendrick Lamar, came from a background in R&B and gospel music.
To know: Born to two choir directors in Chicago, Bryan grew up singing in church, but was inspired to pursue a career in music when he saw Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation World Tour in 1990.
Listen: Turnin’ Me Up is a tribute to American singer Marvin Gaye.
Who: Leonard Bernstein, one of the most famous American composers and conductors, worked across genres of all kinds––musicals, symphonies, opera, chamber music, jazz, Latin American music, to name a few.
To know: Bernstein has received all kinds of mentions in film and TV, including on the Flintstones, when Betty and Wilma go to the Hollyrock Bowl to hear Leonard Bernstone conduct.
Listen: An ensemble of young Venezuelan musicians called the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Gustavo Dudamel, has made the Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” suite very popular with its wild performances of the Mambo, complete with twirling trumpets.
Miami Mass Choir
Who: The Miami Mass Choir is an ensemble whose genre-bending artistry reflects the Nu Deco way. Started in 1995 by Pastor Marc Cooper, the Choir sought to bring together South Florida’s top gospel singers and songwriters to collaborate on bringing new gospel works to life.
To know: This ensemble has been performing in Miami since its inception over twenty years ago and is in residence at the Arsht Center as part of the Free Gospel Sunday series.
Listen: They have released several albums, which can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. Listen to one of their most popular songs, Lord of Everything, which they recorded live at the Arsht Center in 2016.