NOTES: “Heart and Soul” with the New York Pops
Tonight, the New York Pops gloriously kicked off Black History month and blew the roof off Carnegie Hall with a joyful concert in tribute to the greatest voices in R&B.
From the Father, Godfather, Queen, and Prom Queen of Soul, to the King of Pop and Queen of Motown, “Heart and Soul”, curated by Music Director and Conductor Steven Reinke, marked the apotheosis of an already-invigorating 35th season for the Pops, “throwing a party” that thrice invited the audience to “shake what your momma gave you”. Billed as “a different kind of orchestra”, part of the fun of seeing the Pops is that you already know the songs—our popular music—so hearing them elevated performance by a full orchestra becomes an epic and thrilling experience.
The New York Pops have never sounded more phenomenal than with this soulful and funky program. While you have not lived until you’ve heard a 75 piece disco-symphonic performance of “Love’s Theme”, “September”, or “Celebration”, orchestral highlights of the evening, the true stars of this concert were guest vocalists Capathia Jenkins (“Newsies”, “Caroline, or Change”) and James Monroe Iglehart (“Aladdin”, “Memphis”), taking the night off from his current gig as Lafayette/Jefferson in “Hamilton” to make his Carnegie Hall debut.
In a trio of ruby red, emerald green, stunning silver shimmering gowns, Ms. Jenkins, who hails from Brooklyn, effortlessly tackled Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia”, Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”, and even Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You”, showcasing her remarkable range, control, and powerhouse chops. For his part, ever the charming genie, Mr. Iglehart crooned through Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”, Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke”, John Legend’s “Ordinary People”, and Ray Charles’ “Unchain My Heart”.
The unmistakable high point of the evening, however, was Ms. Jenkins’ transcendent performance of “I Will Always Love You”—no easy feat given the perfection of Whitney Houston’s iconic rendition. The only low point of the evening were the empty seats I spotted on the parquet level.
“Heart and Soul” was one of the best Pops concerts I have ever attended, punctuated by standing ovations throughout and capped with a rousing encore of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. Their next and final concert of the season is a tribute to the best Hollywood scores on March 9th. Be sure to check out the recently announced 2018-2019 season; tickets start at just $21.