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Singer helps DSO channel Sinatra in Pops concerts
Steve Lippia sings a lot more than Frank Sinatra.
In fact, the Connecticut native is well versed in the entire Great American Songbook and capably handles the catalogs of Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald, too.
But Sinatra has been a special calling ever since Lippia was plucked from the Woody Herman Orchestra by talent agents looking to fill a void as Sinatra himself retired from public performance. And the 59-year-old crooner is happy to sing the music, if not exactly play the role.
"I'm really not a Sinatraphile," Lippia says from Las Vegas before heading to Detroit to open this season's Detroit Symphony Orchestra Pops Series with a centennial salute to the late Sinatra. "I can't tell you about his biography. I do sing other stuff; I jsut happen to have a lot of respect for Frank Sinatra and his music. My voice is very similar, naturally. I'm an Italian kid from the northeast and I sound like him, so it works.
"But I'm not trying to look like him, walk like him, talk like him. There's no wife named Barbara, no pinky ring, no Fedora. I leave that to the cheesy people out there. I know guys who put in blue contact lenses; that's creepy. I'm just trying to in a very authentic, sincere and genuine way do my best to share his music with an audience."
Lippia has done that in a variety of configurations, from piano accompaniment to his own 10-piece group to big bands. But when he gets in front of an orchestra he says the music takes on a different kind of shape.
"Texturally it's another thing altogether," explains Lippia, whose repertoire with the DSO this weekend will span Sinatra's entire career. "The comparison I make is that with my own band, it's like speed boat; you can turn on a dime and accelerate and be sassy and sing hard. With a full orchestra, trying to move 60 or 70 musicians at the same time it's more like a cruise ship. You have to telegraph everything -- 'OK, everybody lean to the left...'
"But the orchestra has amenities -- a full string section, woodwinds, French horns, percussion. It's a lush, wonderful palette of instruments to choose from. I absolutely love it when I get to sing with an orchestra, and it really serves the music well."
"Centennial Sinatra" with the Detroit Symphony Pops Orchestra conducted by Jeff Tyzik, featuring Steve Lippia
10:45 a.m and 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9; 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10; 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11.
Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit.
Tickets are $19-$105
Call 313-576-5111 or visit dso.org.
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