If you have ever desired to time travel just to witness a historic musician like Ray Charles jam out on stage, you should have attended the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra's Saturday night performance of “A Tribute to Ray Charles,” featuring Mr. Ellis Hall.
The POPS! series concert included renowned conductor Steven Reineke, the orchestra of 60-plus musicians playing 20-plus instruments and featured a quintessential performer and multi-instrumentalist named Ellis Hall, a protégé and friend of the late Ray Charles.
Together, they accomplished an exceptional evening full of soulful music from the past, along with the excitement of the Long Beach Arena location where tables of 10 adorn the arena floor and ticket holders can bring their own food and drinks to create an indoor picnic-style setting.
I saw wine, cheese, crackers and dips. Homemade salads, veggie and fruit platters. Frosted Cupcakes, fruit pies, and chocolate bunt cakes, all enjoyed while listening to the loveliest live music I personally, have ever had the pleasure of hearing.
The first half featured a dedication to the soul of the 60’s and 70’s with a groovy medley featuring hits from singers like Barry White, The Miracles and The Temptations.
Conductor Reineke was a pleasure to watch on stage, as he appeared to enjoy the soulful tunes as much as his audience. He even asked us during the rendition of “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” to join in by clapping to the soothing beat.
Also covered was the song “Unchained Melody,” the famous tune often associated with the ceramics/love scene in the Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze movie “Ghost.” The strings section perfected the song and sounded simply beautiful.
After an intermission and more food shared, the second half was topped by an unforgettable dedication to the amazing music created by Ray Charles.
Accompanying the orchestra with his own set of instruments was the only other musician to get signed to Charles’ music label Crossover Records, Ellis Hall.
Hall is a five-octave vocalist, multi-instrumentalist talent and ironically enough, shares some major similarities with Charles. Both were born in Georgia and like Charles, Hall began to lose his eyesight as a child, with it completely diminishing in his teens.
That fact only makes the skills Hall showed on Saturday even more amazing. He moved from a grand piano, to the B3 organ to an electric keyboard with a huge smile and demonstrated an excitement and exuberance that had me just beaming at his presence.
Hall sang Charles’ hits with spunk and right on key and during “Georgia On My Mind,” I felt like I was delivered that time machine I always dreamed of.
It was amazing how much Hall resembled and sounded like the soulful genius, yet he proudly centered the stage like the individual he is musically known for. And after meeting him following the concert, it is easy to understand why his smile is so big. He is blessed, aside from his condition, with a beautiful soul and phenomenal talent.
The Long Beach Symphony and Ellis Hall traveled back to the glorious days of soulful jazz and witnessing so many strings and fingers moving simultaneously to produce such a sensational sound will be a music memory I will never forget. The wine, cheese and pleasurable social atmosphere sure didn’t hurt the memory either.
Check the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra website to find out about the next POPS! Series concert and take my suggestion and attend.