Monday, 16 March 2020 18:31

Musicians pay tribute to Ray Charles at Cole Auditorium

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Grammy-winning group Take 6 performs during "Georgia on My Mind" at Cole Auditorium on March 11. See the gallery below for more photos. Grammy-winning group Take 6 performs during "Georgia on My Mind" at Cole Auditorium on March 11. See the gallery below for more photos. Betty Gallo McIntyre - Richmond Observer

HAMLET — Doors opened at the Cole Auditorium last Wednesday as attendees eagerly awaited the combined talent of multiple Grammy-Award winning, world-renowned performers. 

Take 6, Clint Homes, Kirk Whalum, and Nneena Freelon entertained hundreds of ticket holders as they performed “Georgia on My Mind: A Celebration of Ray Charles and his Music.”

The show was hosted by two-time Grammy nominee Clint Homes, who was also the lead singer. 

Homes’ father was a jazz musician and his mother an opera singer. 

“My mom taught me to sing correctly and my dad taught me how to enjoy it,he said. “It was the best of two musical worlds. 

“Growing up we never had any money, but we had music as my entire family sings,” Homes continued, later describing how his parents met. 

“My dad was in the military; my mom wanted to do something for the troops, so she sang opera to entertain the troops. That’s how they met, through music.”

Homes is a seasoned performer as well as a writer and was inducted into the Buffalo Musical Hall of Fame as well as the Casino Legends Hall of Fame. He started the Clint Homes Foundation for the Performing Arts to benefit children in the Clark county school district. 

Take 6 is a group who come together to make magic with their harmony. The 10-time Grammy-winning group — Claude McKnight, Mark Kibble, Joel Kibble, Dave Thomas, Alvin Chea, and Khristian Dentley — have been singing together for 30 years. 

They spoke of the song “My Friend” and how they wrote it for Ray Charles. They also said Charles took the song and recorded it by himself. The audience gave them full attention as they performed it a capella.

Grammy-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum began stepping out on his own in nightclubs in the ‘80s where he was discovered and signed with Columbia Records. From that point on he excelled and became high in demand for artists such as Barbara Streisand, Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, Larry Carlton, Quincy Jones and Whitney Houston. 

Whalum toured with Houston for seven years, and is the sax player in her cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” He has won two Stellar Awards and has a Master of Arts in religion. He also has a daily podcast called “Bible in Your Ear” as he reads through the bible in a year.  

Six-time Grammy nominee Nneena Freelon toured with Ray Charles and is a writer, composer and producer. Her singing roots began with her parents as well as church. She reminisced as she shared a special story of the first time she traveled out of the country as an opening act for Charles. After her opening, she sat in awe and watched him perform in unbelief. 

As the lights went down at the Cole and the spotlight landed on Freelon, she sang the jazzy tune “Balm in Gilead” as the crowd listened in awe. She also dedicates her time to the education of young people and toured the U.S. for four years as the national spokesperson for Partners in Education. 

She began fundraising with her anthem, “One Child at a Time,” to bring attention to the needs of children in education through mentoring and the arts.

Their perfectly blended performance gave the crowd a spectacular show to remember. The show ended in a tribute to the military with the song “America the Beautiful.”

Musician Ray Charles Robinson was considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time and is known as the “Father of Soul.” Through his unique blend of jazz, gospel, and rhythm and blues, soul was birthed which landed him as the pioneer of soul music. He was born on Sept. 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia, to Bailey and Aretha Robinson. Not to be confused with the boxing champion Ray Robinson, he dropped his last name and became known as Ray Charles.

Charles’ younger years were traumatic as he witnessed the drowning of his younger brother at the age of 5 — despite his efforts to try to save him — went blind at the age of six, and lost both his parents as a teenager. Right after going blind, he began attending the Saint Augustine School for the Blind in Florida where he developed his love for musical instruments. All the suffering he went through at such an early age seemed to give his music a deeper feel. As a teenager he began touring with the band “Chitlin’ Circuit” and began using heroin — an addiction he overcame in time.

Throughout his early years, he was influenced by musical artists such as Guitar Slim, Percy Mayfield, Lloyd Glenn, Nat “King” Cole, and numerous others. He incorporated storytelling in his style which attracted the audience’s attention and caused him to stand out above other artists. Charles’ first hit was in 1951 with “Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand” and in 1959 he recorded the famous “Georgia on My Mind,” which later became the official song of the state of Georgia. He won 10 Grammy awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. In 1962, he topped the charts with his country and western hit “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Charles was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Ray Charles was a true legendary American artist who performed until the year of his death in 2004, when he died of liver disease at his home in Beverly Hills, California.

Charles donated millions to fund music scholarships in order to help others fulfill their dreams.

“Georgia on My Mind” is part of the DeWitt Performing Arts Series. 

“On the list of the dozens of superstars that have graced the stage of the Cole, it was a great pleasure to add legends like Kirk Whalum and Clint Holmes with this great show,” said Auditorium Director Joey Bennett. “We were so excited to expose our audience to the incredible talent of Nnenna Freelon and Take 6. It was a first-class tribute and history lesson of the great Ray Charles. We were very excited to see several new faces at the event and to bring an energetic audience to a fabulous show.”


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