Roberta Flack Works On Beatles Tribute Sept 14, 2008 4:39:48 GMT -5
Post by yerblues1968 on Sept 14, 2008 4:39:48 GMT -5
Roberta Flack at Lincoln Center, New York, NY on Wednesday, August 13, 2008.
ROBERTA FLACK WORKS ON BEATLES TRIBUTE
Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Grammy-winning singer and musician Roberta Flack is still touring and recording after 30 years in the business. Last year, Flack recruited Nathan Chan, a 13-year-old cello prodigy from Hillsborough, to perform on Flack's Beatles tribute album, which will be released next year. Flack discovered Chan through a 2006 HBO documentary called "The Music in Me," which profiled young musicians from around the country. She was so moved by the depth of emotion Chan conveyed while playing Camille Saint-Saens' "The Swan" that she called her manager, Suzanne Koga in Oakland, and asked her to track him down.
Nathan Chan, then 11 years old, playing Camille Saint-Saens, "The Swan." (2:50 minutes)
More information on Nathan Chan:
Two years ago, she founded the Roberta Flack School of Music at the Hyde Charter School in Bronx, N.Y.
Flack started out as a child prodigy herself; at age 15, her proficiency as a classical pianist led to a music scholarship at Howard University in Washington, D.C. After graduating from Howard at 19, Flack began teaching music professionally and later, performing at local nightspots.
Q: What inspired you to make a Beatles' tribute album, and what kind of relationship did you have with the Beatles?
A: I have had an extended, peripheral relationship with John Lennon and Yoko Ono because we happen to have lived in the same building.
On every holiday and every special occasion that Yoko could think of, she was always sending me little personal (gifts). She is a lovely person, very misunderstood. I did a lot of their songs when I was starting to make the transition from being a classical pianist to playing pop tunes in a restaurant and a club. I played a lot of Beatles songs for my newfound audience because they were so melodic.
Photo of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway
I'm not a songwriter. I've written a few songs, but I am a great lover of songs that have melody and lyrics that make sense. Once I get into a song, I can take forever to give it up because I just keep coming up with ideas and alternative chord changes. Donny (Hathaway) was famous for that, and I guess I have a little of that too.
Q: How was your experience working with Bay Area cello prodigy Nathan Chan?
A: Oh, that beautiful young musical spirit! Nathan is very special. He is an old musical soul. Throughout the history of music, we're learned that there have been many - Mozart was an old soul. There are some young people who are innately born with the gift of music, and Nathan is certainly one of them.
Q: Oprah invited you to her Legends Ball in 2006. How does it feel to be considered a legend?
A: I love it! To be honored by Oprah Winfrey is one of the most special feelings that you could share with her or anybody else. I was there with a lot of my heroines and heroes, Maya Angelou, Cicely Tyson, Leontyne Price, who shares the same birthday with me, Tina Turner and bless her soul, Coretta Scott King. Sidney Poitier walked up to me and said, "I have you to thank for a lot of beautiful nights I've shared with my wife, and I just want you to know that." He actually said it another way, but I'm being a little more cautious. It was wonderful to hear that over and over again.
Q: What is your secret to staying vibrant and fabulous?
A: Well, you know, I'm very grounded. I take a voice class every week when I'm in New York, with a fabulous teacher.
Somebody said to me, "You know, I'm too grateful to be hateful!" I had never heard that, but once I heard it, I said, OK, that's exactly the way I feel. Especially after all these years, I am still grateful to perform, to have my voice, to have my motivation, to have my interest, to have the uniqueness that I am inspired by people, by Nathan Chan.
Q: Tell us about the Roberta Flack School of Music.
A: It is a part of the Hyde Charter School in the Bronx. The school itself goes from preschool to seventh grade. All of the children in the school study music. We started with 25 students, and now we are up to 150 kids that we teach on a weekly basis. We've received a lot of financial help from other entertainers and people who are trying to help us make this a reality. This year, we did a festival in Alcorn, Miss., as part of a jazz festival, and they had a chance to play with adults, children their own age and older students. Many of them had never been on a plane before. That money was made available to us by Yoko Ono. It's wonderful when you can open your eyes and see the gifts that you've been given. I consider my musicianship a really strong, important gift. Nothing makes me happier than the opportunity to share it and give it back.
E-mail Shelah Moody at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page F - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Earlier hits by Roberta Flack:
Robert Flack sings, "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." (5:24 minutes)
Robert Flack sings, "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" live. (4:05 minutes)
Robert Flack sings, "Killing Me Softly." (4:52 minutes)