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Concert Reviews:
Deaf and Loud concert brings beautiful music at Orchestra Hall
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- On stage Sunday night, Dec. 16, at Orchestra Hall, Royal Oak rapper Sean Forbes acknowledged that the idea for the Deaf and Loud Symphonic Experience "was really far-fetched."

"But we did it," Forbes added with a massive smile.

The concert -- an ambitious collaboration between the Deaf Professional Arts Network (D-Pan) that Forbes co-founded and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and featured a cadre of guest performers, both deaf and hearing -- was the first of its kind, ever, and nothing less than a flat-out success. Over the course of just over two hours and 21 songs, ranging from originals to classics from the Detroit contemporary canon, it was, as world-class deaf percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie noted, "a classic example of true inclusiveness" and a model for how music can be made accessible to the hearing impaired without condescension and also be relevant, and resonant, to an audience that can hear it.

Deaf and Loud certainly came loaded for bear. The artist lineup in addition to Forbes, Glennie and the 60-piece orchestra included "America's Got Talent" finalist Mandy Harvey, who lost her hearing at 18, Motown great Martha Reeves for a surprise guest turn on "Dancing in the Street" and Funk Brothers guitarist Dennis Coffey played on several songs. Luis Resto, the Was (Not Was) keyboardist who co-wrote Eminem's "Lose Yourself," appeared, as did early Eminem producer Jeff Bass, whose son Jake Bass arranged Deaf and Loud's material for orchestra, with help on some of the Motown covers from the label's Paul Riser.

The result was celebratory and smooth. With American Sign Language performers conveying both the lyrics and the feel of the songs and lyrics appearing on video screens above the stage, Deaf and Loud gave some portal of entry to any hearing status at Orchestra Hall. It also featured exceptional performances, ranging from Motown classics such as "Get Ready," "Fingertips Pt. 2" (with Forbes on drums), "My Girl" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (the husband-wife team of Condido Lomax and Cherri Black doing heavy lifting on the vocals), to an instrumental romp through Funkadelic's "Hit It and Quit It" and a jazzy take on the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" sung by Mama Yaya.

Forbes and the ukulele-playing Harvey also performed a selection of their originals, hitting emotional peaks with the latter's "Try," written for her "America's Got Talent Run," and Forbes' rendition of the Forbes Brothers' "You," written by his father Scott and late uncle Dennis Forbes for their children. "Lose Yourself," fittingly, brought the show to a fiery close, with Forbes channeling his inner Eminem and Jeff Bass shredding a guitar solo towards the end of the song.

Afterwards Forbes explained that "the goal is to bring this all over the world," which Deaf and Loud certainly merits. But hopefully that will include another stop at home in Detroit -- and in the not too distant future.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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