(BLACKAMERICAWEB) Condoleezza Rice is no stranger to the whims of royalty. So when the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin, decided the two should get together to play a song or two for charity, it was decreed.
The former U.S. secretary of state and Franklin took the stage Tuesday evening at Philadelphia’s Mann Music Center in a rare duet for Rice, the classically trained pianist, and Franklin, the divalicious voice of a generation. Their aim was to raise money for urban children and awareness for music and the arts.
“It is a joint effort for the inner-city youth of Philadelphia and Detroit,” Franklin told The Associated Press the night before their concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
“We decided to give it a try,” Franklin said. “So here we are, in the city of Brotherly — and Sisterly — Love.”
Their appearance in the three-hour concert before an estimated crowd of 8,000 overflowed with Franklin’s catalog of hits and arias from the world of opera and classical music.
Rice, better known as a diplomat and national security adviser, played piano while Franklin sang her hit “I Say A Little Prayer” as well as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Earlier in the program, Rice performed a selection from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor with the orchestra, a piece she said she practiced furiously.
Franklin even tickled the ivories a few times Tuesday night, including for a song off her new album “A Woman Falling Out of Love,” to be released later this year. She also sang a duet — “The Way We Were” — with surprise guest Ronald Isley.
Rice’s given name is derived from the Italian opera stage instruction con dolcezza, meaning “with sweetness.” Long a musician of note, she played from elementary school through college and beyond, in quartets and performing chamber music.
She has even played with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. But, she said this was “the first time I’ve played with an orchestra since I was 18.”
When she learned that Rice played classical music, Franklin sent for one of her recordings “to hear what she sounded like.”
Previously, she said, “All I had seen of Dr. Rice was in a political atmosphere. It just seemed foreign that she would be a classical pianist.”
Franklin was surprised.
“She really does play,” Franklin said. “She’s formidable.”
The two met at a White House function, Rice recalled. “We were just talking and chatting and she said ‘You play, don’t you?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And she said we should do something together.”
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