Even with 12 Grammy nominations under her belt, soul music vocal powerhouse Ledisi considers the opportunity to sing with a full orchestra a “graduation” of sorts.
“It’s an enormous sound that comes around you and behind you,” Ledisi said. “It’s amazing to have that, but then you are thinking vocally, ‘I hope I’m projecting correctly and that I’ll remember what parts to stay out of.’”
Singing in the midst of a full orchestra of world-class musicianship from each individual that comprises the group requires a special voice – and Ledisi’s rich and powerful soprano fits the bill.
The amazing experience of singing with the accompaniment of a full orchestra is something she has done before, but not often. In fact, when she takes the stage with the Grammy Award-winning St. Louis Symphony next Friday (June 7) at Powell Hall, it will be her only performance with a symphony in the United States this year.
“The truest part of the art form of being involved in music is to bring all of these musicians together and someone wrote each note out for everyone to play or sing,” said Ledisi. “All the divas did it every day back in the day, but these days, it’s once in a lifetime – if you’re so lucky.”
She’ll repeat the experience of singing with a symphony while honoring a diva when she plays a Nina Simone tribute later this summer in the UK at Royal Albert Hall. St. Louis audiences will get a sneak preview for some of those selections first during her “An Evening With Ledisi.” The show will also feature original selections and music from artists who have inspired her over her nearly quarter-century-long career.
She shared a taste of what’s to come at Powell Hall without delivering any serious spoilers.
“I’m doing ‘Pieces of Me,’ to hear that with the strings and the rhythm section is going to be amazing,” Ledisi said. “I’m going to attempt a Stevie Wonder tune that I’ve never done before, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Blending the St. Louis Symphony’s traditional classical music listening audience with her R&B/soul fanbase will be the icing on the cake for Ledisi. And she’s especially excited to see it happen here in St. Louis – where she says the energy of her audiences are off the chart.
“Y’all dance in the aisles. Y’all sing along and don’t care – and I love it,” Ledisi said. “And I’ve always had that same response whenever I come. I can’t wait to see what kind of audience shows up next week. I want to see if they are going to scream and shout if like they feel like it. I feel like they still will.”
As a classically trained singer, Ledisi has a special respect for the genre. She weaves together different types of sounds with the purpose of being a source of inspiration.
“When I sing, I’m giving you all that I have. I make sure that its sacred. I want people to leave my shows knowing that they are not alone in feelings that they may have and feeling better about themselves,” Ledisi said. “That’s what music is supposed to do, and that’s why it’s so important. And this is why we have to save and keep music alive in all genres – not just my own.”
She’s grateful to the Symphony for its out-of-the-box thinking and open door with respect to brining different types of sounds to their stage – and allowing her the creative freedom to introduce herself to a new audience in her own way.
“That’s why the show says, ‘An Evening with Ledisi.’ It’s basically them saying, ‘Be your whole self. So, I’m going to bring all of the colors that I’ve learned – classical, jazz, R&B and all of the soul and the church – all of that is in my music so I’m going to be singing that.”
She will be bringing her jazz trio and background singers as part of the performance as well.
“I love that all these different people are going to show up and will all be in a melting pot of music,” Ledisi said. “Because that’s what music is – a melting pot of people wanting to be inspired.”
St. Louis Symphony’s presentation of “An Evening With Ledisi” will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 7 at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 N. Grand Blvd. For more information, visit www.slso.org or call (314) 534-1700.