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Bobby McFerrin bringing spirited performance to Akron

4/18/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Musician Bobby McFerrin will perform songs from his soon-to-be released album spirityouall when he makes a stop at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron April 23.
Photo courtesy of Original Artists
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Ten-time Grammy Award winner Bobby McFerrin is bringing his latest project to the stage in Akron April 23 at 8 p.m.

McFerrin and a five-piece band will appear at The University of Akron’s (UA) E.J. Thomas Hall to present songs from spirityouall, his latest recording that comes out in May.

The album features McFerrin’s covers of seven classic spirituals and Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” as well as five original tunes. McFerrin  said his latest work honors the legacy of his father, opera singer Robert McFerrin Sr., who was the first African-American to sign a contract with the Metropolitan Opera Company and a renowned interpreter of the American Negro spiritual. His father’s 1957 recording, Deep River and Other Classic Negro Spirituals, inspired McFerrin to record his own set of devotional songs. He sat on the idea for some 20 years before deciding that the time was right.

“I was always awed by his seriousness and discipline,” McFerrin said of his father in an email interview with the West Side Leader. “He held himself to an incredibly high standard. But it wasn’t until after I’d discovered I was a singer myself, in my late 20s, that I really appreciated the sheer beauty of his voice. Really the best baritone voice I’ve ever heard. So when I thought about these songs, I had to find my own perspective. I could never do what he did. He already did that better than I ever could.”

McFerrin said he and his band have been getting a warm welcome on the tour from his audiences.

“I feel like they are willing to come with me on this new leg of the journey,” he said. “And because these are songs lots of people know and maybe would like their children to know, we’re getting whole families coming out together, little kids and grandmas and mom and dad and the hipster teens. Love that.”

He added that initially he had planned to have the new album released before the tour. Even though that didn’t work out, people are responding to the concert set.

“Maybe that’s been easier because they haven’t heard the album yet,” he said. “I haven’t toured the U.S. for a long time, and it’s been truly a joy. People are very warm and responsive.

“We use the album tune list as a starting point,” he added. “We’ll play many of the songs from the album — some originals, classic tunes like ‘Glory, Glory’ or ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ or ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.’ But we go wherever the spirit moves us. And we hope they will come and sing along.”

The Akron concert is presented with support from UA’s School of Music’s Kulas Concert Series. Tickets are $35 to $45, and $20 for UA students and are available at the Thomas Hall Ticket Office, 198 Hill St., by calling 330-972-7570, at all TicketMaster locations or by calling 800-745-3000. For more information, go to ua events.com.

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