Channeling the Queen of Soul with symphonic swagger


A Tribute to Aretha / 10.26.19 / Thalia Mara Hall / 7:30 pm

Aretha Franklin’s stellar, soul-stirring singing has long been percolating in Capathia Jenkins’ life. Growing up in Brooklyn, a middle child in a seven-sibling household, Jenkins knew much of the era’s music before she could even talk.

“As I began to grow up and start to sing myself, I just listened and tried to emulate her — ‘What you want? Baby, I got it!’ — in front of the mirror with the hairbrush,” she says, channeling her singing hero like she did as a girl.

Now, she brings the full force of womanhood to the task, as well as classical training plus church gospel. The singer-actress, whose credits include Broadway, Off-Broadway, symphony concerts, TV and film, joins the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and three-time Grammy-nominated R&B artist Ryan Shaw to perform the Oct. 26 concert “Aretha: A Tribute”!

The show premiered this past summer, and Jenkins says she and Shaw are thrilled to get it out in the world. The evening focuses on Aretha, and also wraps in her colleagues, inspirations and her Detroit community. “It really gives the audience a full breadth of her, how she moves through the music industry and, really, was such a star for so long,” Jenkins says.

She and Shaw divvy up the duties, with about half a dozen solos each and several duets. “Respect” was written by and originally released by Otis Redding, before becoming Aretha’s signature song. So, audiences will also hear some Otis Redding, and probably some Etta James, Shaw says. “There will be surprises, but everything connects back to Aretha. She is the soul of this show.”

A music idol for so many, “She literally was the Queen of Soul and she could sing anything,” Jenkins says, from the American songbook to stepping in for Pavarotti.

“No matter what she was singing — and she sang everything — you could always hear her roots. Her roots were in gospel music. She grew up singing in her father’s church. You always heard that — that soul and that honesty,” she says. “She had such power onstage, where you were just drawn in from the first note.

“Whether that’s just her honest, soulful self, or if she consciously was telling a story and living the story that she was telling — she was just so powerful. And, not just her voice … but the soul and the meaning and the heart behind the notes.

“I know how incredibly moved I am whenever I hear her, and had the great privilege of seeing her live. I hope that there’s an ounce of that when people come to the show and hear me.”

Jenkins describes her co-star and dear friend Shaw as “one of the best soul singers you’ll ever hear. Ever. … A brilliant, brilliant singer.”

They’re having a blast in their first show together. “Ask him how much we laugh when we’re on this show together,” she says. A spontaneous belly laugh is his response. “That’s all we do!” Shaw says. “It’s almost unprofessional how much fun we have with each other onstage!”

Shaw, a child of the ‘80s who grew up Southern Pentecostal, likely first heard Aretha’s music in the grocery store aisles — one of his “favorite voices on the planet.”

His singing is steeped in traditional R&B; its roots, he notes, trace back to the traditions of the black church in the South. “All the same songs I sang as a kid, Sam Cooke sang as a kid … It’s just different words. They just took out ‘Jesus’ and replaced it with ‘Baby,’” he says, chucking.

Acting is part of his background, too; the Tyler Perry play “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” took him from Atlanta to New York, where he stayed. Shaw’s credits include London and Broadway stages and he’s currently at work on a solo project, “Imagining Marvin,” a tribute album honoring Marvin Gaye that also includes a new EP. “Strong Men Can,” co-written by Shaw with Valerie Simpson (who with her late partner wrote numerous hits for Gaye) will be released in January.

Both Jenkins and Shaw revel in the experience of singing with a symphony orchestra. “It engulfs you, gently but forcefully. All that sound just washes the whole room. … You can just float in it,” Shaw says. “It’s almost therapeutic” and “so awesome” to see a symphony orchestra embrace the music and swing those notes.

Once the intro begins, “My heart melts and I’m just this little girl again, dreaming that I sing on a stage,” Jenkins says. “It is thrilling, amazing, extraordinary!

“It just lights me from the inside.”

Aretha: A Tribute

10.26.19 / Thalia Mara Hall / 7:30 pm / Jackson, MS

Tickets $25 & up: buy here >

students/children (ages 4-18) $5 

  • Aretha Overture

  • Chain of Fools

  • I Say a Little Prayer

  • Birth of the Blues

  • Bridge Over Troubled Water

  • Nobody Does It Better

  • What a Friend We Have in Jesus / Climbing Higher Mountains

  • MacArthur Park

  • America the Beautiful

  • Respect

  • Salute to Ray Charles

  • I Got You (I Feel Good)

  • Unforgettable

  • (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

  • A Change is Gonna Come

  • Isn’t She Lovely

  • At Last

  • Try a Little Tenderness

  • Amazing Grace

Concert sponsored by:

McCarty Architects