The New York Pops conducted by master maestro Steven Reineke always puts on a great show with top-notch talent to perform with them! This next concert, entitled Sophisticated Ladies, is no exception! Joining The Pops' are Tony Award nominee Montego Glover (whom I throughly enjoyed seeing several times in the Tony Award winning musical Memphis), Broadway's Capathia Jenkins (whom I've seen in Godspell and the film One Night Stand), and singer/actress Sy Smith, whom I enjoyed on Ally McBeal (both as an actress and singer)!
To bring these three talents together for one night, alongside The New York Pops and Steven Reineke is going to be an evening to remember! Sophisticated Ladies, which is taking place on Friday, November 13 at 8pm at Carnegie Hall (57th Street & 7th Avenue), commemorates the centennial year of the birth of Billie Holiday and also celebrates other groundbreaking icons of American popular song, from Ella Fitzgerald to Sarah Vaughan to Dinah Washington. Click here for tickets!
1. This November, you are performing together with Steven Reineke and The New York Pops for their Sophisticated Ladies concert which commemorates the centennial year of the birth of Billie Holiday. If Billie Holiday were still alive today, what song would you want to duet with her on?
Montego Glover: "Them There Eyes." It's so whimsical and flirty. I think Billie and I would have fun with the playfulness.
Sy Smith: That's easy. I would LOVE to perform "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" with Billie Holiday! I wrote a tune of the same title (it's on my album Conflict) and I think a mash-up of the two would be awesome. I love the sentiment of this song, because when it really comes down to it, as adults, the choices that we make in our lives are OURS to make. Her version of it speaks more to her relationships with men, whereas my version ("Ain't Nobody's Bizness") talks about my relationship to my music, but it's all the same. People will always have opinions, but many of those opinions are best left unspoken. If she were still around, I think we'd really cut up singing a duet of this song!
2. This concert also celebrates other groundbreaking icons of American popular song, from Ella Fitzgerald to Sarah Vaughan to Dinah Washington. If you could portray one of these three icons in a film about them, who would you want to portray and why?
Montego Glover: I would choose Ella. She's my idol. I love the flexibility of her voice. And there's something so easy about listening to her. That, and even when I hear recordings I've heard a billion times I always catch a different phrasing or turn I hadn't heard before. She's wonderful.
Sy Smith: This is a really tough question. But I think if I had an opportunity to play one of these icons in a film, I'd love to play Ella Fitzgerald. She just seemed so dedicated to music because it was the only thing that was really true to her. Her life was so unstable during her teens—she went from orphanages to group homes and reformatory schools that she finally had to escape from altogether. Music was the one thing that seemed to stabilize her life and I can really appreciate that. So yeah...I'd love to play Ella!
3. What excites you about performing this music with Steven Reineke and The New York Pops?
Montego Glover: Steven is a masterful musician and leader. He brings such joy and fun to the Pops and its repertoire. That kind of energy is irresistible.
Sy Smith: Oh my goodness! What DOESN'T excite me about performing this music with Steven and The New York Pops! The opportunity to perform classical American music, also known as jazz, by iconic women...this is something I've always dreamed of doing! It really brings tears to my eyes when I think about how much this concert means to me. It's the performance of a lifetime. It's certainly the performance of MY lifetime.
Montego Glover: First, putting together a great group of artists. I'm such a fan of Capathia Jenkins and am so excited to work with Sy Smith. Second, choosing an array of songs that are well known and some that are lesser known brings a kind of newness and variety to an evening. And finally, crafting arrangements that are really interesting and exciting for the Pops to play and for myself, Capathia and Sy to sing using our particular gifts of song. It's a party!
Sy Smith: Steven Reineke is a rockstar conductor! He knows how to make the music "move" in a space and throughout the room. His connection with music and then his deftness at transferring that energy throughout the orchestra...I've never seen another conductor rock like he does. What Steven does with music and The New York Pops is kinda like what Neil deGrasse Tyson does for quantum physics...LOL! Steven makes seemingly foreign and untouchable concepts in music COOL and tangible for anyone who's remotely interested but might be shy about where to begin listening. That might seem like a strange comparison, but remember that you asked me, Sy Smith, and I'm not always gonna say things in the most conventional way. Haha!
Montego Glover: It means everything. It's a piece of history that as an artist, a woman and a member of the African American community I get to experience. I consider my being there part of a creative process these amazing women began long before I was born. I feel privileged.
Sy Smith: To perform these songs, at Carnegie Hall, here in the city where I was born (I was born right here in Manhattan!), means the world to me. It is, by far, the most important "homecoming" performance that I will probably ever take part in. I'll be sharing the stage with two incredible performers (Montego Glover and Capathia Jenkins) whose work I admire so much and we'll be singing the songs of some of the greatest artists to ever do it. We'll be joined by a critically-acclaimed orchestra that relishes taking chances with contemporary and classic repertoire alike: The New York Pops! We'll be conducted by rockstar conductor Steven Reineke! And I can't help but remember that during their heyday(s), Billie, Ella, Sarah, Dinah...many times they had to perform in venues where people who looked like them, like us and like me, might not have been allowed in, or if so, not allowed to sit in certain areas. I can't help but think about this because my whole family (it seems!) will be at Carnegie Hall, and they'll be sitting in every section. This makes me smile. It makes me smile in my sleep.
Montego Glover: Recognition of artistry and talent are walls that were already broken down. These women are legends and icons because no matter who they were or what group they belonged to their gifts were undeniable and fully recognized. Continuing to introduce audiences (particularly younger audiences) to their music is a wall we can and should continue to break down. There's so much history, grace and relevance to be gleaned from these women and their works. That's where I'd like to put my energy.
Sy Smith: These women, these heroes, Billie, Ella, Sarah, Dinah...and more that I haven't named, they've kicked down doors that we don't even think about anymore. From huge and obvious injustices like playing venues that didn't originally allow performers of color, to smaller micro-agressions, like challenging the role of female singers as bandleaders. I'm thankful for those acts of pioneering! I think that when artists like Billie Holiday have very public struggles with addiction, that that also helps frame some of our national conversations about drug policies too, especially some of our very recent conversations concerning the rise of heroin overdoses. That shouldn't be overlooked either. There will always be work to do on this road to equality though, because power is not something that people who have it just hand over like a paperback they've finished reading. So I'm always challenging things like unequal pay for singers, making sure vocalists are properly credited when we're in the studio producing/arranging all of our own vocals, and encouraging a change in the language we use when we discuss vocalists as musicians, including supporting vocalists (I have an aversion to the term "back-up singers"). It's the little things sometimes.
Montego Glover: I most look forward to making music with Steven, the New York Pops, Capathia and Sy. I'm such a fan of all of them! And I'm probably most looking forward to singing our duets and trios. I'll definitely enjoy the times we can be onstage together at Carnegie Hall celebrating one another and the music.
Sy Smith: I have a "thing" about talking about specifics before a show. Please forgive me, and perhaps call me superstitious, but I can't tell you which songs I'll be doing. Don't kill me! But I will say that I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there will be a trio featuring all three of us! If you know me, you should know that singing harmonies is my THING! I love doing that almost more than anything else. From my days touring with Whitney Houston to singing with the Rickey Minor Band on American Idol, I can sing harmonies all day long! I am really looking forward to singing with Montego and Capathia!
Montego Glover: I would love to somehow combine a concert format with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre. I'm a huge fan of Mr. Ailey's works and the company.
Sy Smith: This question is tough because I've worked with so many people already. And I would love to work with almost all of them again. And again! But, as far as people I haven't had the pleasure of working with yet...I would love to work with Roberta Flack. I've really been into a singer/songwriter kind of thing lately and I think it would be really nice to create songs with her. She does that SO beautifully. I'd also love to work with Prince, but on a jazz album. And I would love to work with Basement Jaxx, they use so many jazz elements in their brand of electronic dance music. Oh my goodness, this list could go on and on! I'll stop there.
Montego Glover: I wouldn't trade anything! I love what we're doing individually!
Sy Smith: Uh oh. This question would require me to reveal information about the songs we'll be performing. Please see the answer to #7 regarding my bit of superstition! ((Apologies!))
10. If Billie Holiday were to attend this show, do you think she would be proud of this celebration of her 100th birthday? Besides from this concert, what would you give her for a gift on her 100th birthday?
Montego Glover: I think she would definitely be proud. Her music lives on and on and on and we delight in sharing it. For her 100th Birthday I would give Billie Holiday a Standing Ovation that lasted forever and ever and ever.
Sy Smith: I think if Lady Day were to be at this show, she'd see how much she has contributed to not only the world of jazz, but the entire world of music. She'd see how much her legacy has meant to contemporary musicians and singers all over the world, including me! That should make her proud, though I think she'd probably still be very humble about it all. What would I give her? Hmmm...If Freedom came in a pretty little perfume bottle, I'd wrap it in a box and give that to her with a little note that says "dab a little bit of this above your top lip/under your nose and whenever you're feeling like the world is getting too heavy, just take a deep breath...and get FREE."
Tony Award nominee and award-winning actress Montego Glover is currently starring as "Fantine" in Les Misérables at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway. Previous to Les Misérables, she co-starred in the Broadway original musical It Shoulda Been You. Ms. Glover originated the starring role of "Felicia Farrell" on Broadway in Memphis (Tony Award, Best Musical 2010) for which she received a Tony Award nomination for Lead Actress in a Musical, a Drama League nomination, and won both the Outer Critics Circle Award and Drama Desk Award for her performance. Ms. Glover made her Broadway debut in The Color Purple and has been a guest artist at the Old Globe Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, and the Geffen Playhouse among others. Concert work includes The New York Pops, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Lincoln Center Theater, Philadelphia Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Caramoor Music Festival, the Delacorte Theater, and the Smith Center (PBS Special). Television and film roles include FOX’s The Following, ABC’s Black Box, Hostages, Smash, Golden Boy, The Good Wife, White Collar, NYC 22, Law & Order, Made In Jersey and the upcoming feature Alone. Montego has served as a member of the Artists’ Committee for the Kennedy Center Honors and is a New York PopsEd Ambassador. BFA from Florida State University.
Sy Smith was born in New York City and raised in Washington, DC. After graduating from Howard University, she moved to Los Angeles where she got the attention of her musical contemporaries and heroes, earning her coveted tours as a backing vocalist for the likes of Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Meshell Ndegeocello and many more. Ms. Smith continued to work with musical director Rickey Minor as a supporting vocalist on American Idol and later joined his band at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. As an indie-soul recording artist, Ms. Smith has released 4 albums to critical acclaim, pioneering the nu-soul scene in LA and taking her sound all over the world. As an actress, she’s starred in numerous TV, film, and stage productions, including a recurring role on FOX’s Ally McBeal, How I Met Your Mother, and American Dad. She also received two nominations for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical/Comedy from the NAACP Theatre Awards for her roles in If You Don’t Believe and Body Language. As a songwriter, Ms. Smith garnered an Emmy nod for Best Original Music/Lyrics for her original song "Welcome Back (All My Soulmates)" for the HBO film Dancing In September. Ms. Smith was a featured guest on the Grammy-nominated DVD Chris Botti in Boston and currently tours with the jazz trumpeter, dazzling audiences with her multi-octave range, unique style of improvisation and soulful interpretations of jazz standards.
Steven Reineke is the Music Director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, Principal Pops Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Principal Pops Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Principal Pops Conductor Designate for the Houston Symphony, beginning in the 2017-2018 season. Mr. Reineke is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra and has been on the podium with the Boston Pops, The Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia. His extensive North American conducting appearances include San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, Edmonton and Pittsburgh. As the creator of more than one hundred orchestral arrangements for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Mr. Reineke’s work has been performed worldwide, and can be heard on numerous Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recordings on the Telarc label. His symphonic works Celebration Fanfare, Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Casey at the Bat are performed frequently in North America. His numerous wind ensemble compositions are published by the C.L. Barnhouse Company and are performed by concert bands around the world. A native of Ohio, Mr. Reineke is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio, where he earned bachelor of music degrees with honors in both trumpet performance and music composition. He currently resides in New York City with his husband, Eric Gabbard.
THE NEW YORK POPS is the largest independent pops orchestra in the United States, and the only professional symphonic orchestra in New York City specializing in popular music. Under the leadership of dynamic Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke, The New York Pops continues to re-imagine orchestral pops music. The orchestra performs an annual subscription series and birthday gala at Carnegie Hall, as well as a summer concert series at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY. The New York Pops is dedicated to lifelong learning, and collaborates with public schools, community organizations, children’s hospitals and senior centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City. PopsEd allows thousands of New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds to participate in fully customizable music programs that blend traditional education with pure fun. Visit www.newyorkpops.org for more information. Follow The New York Pops on Facebook (facebook.com/newyorkpops), Instagram (@thenewyorkpops), and Twitter (@newyorkpops).