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Classical View: Allentown Symphony Pops in “Ella & Frank” tribute concert

The Allentown Symphony Orchestra Pops directed by Ronald Demkee features guest vocalists Capathia Jenkins and Tony DeSare as they present standard classics of the legendary Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra in “Ella & Frank,” 7:30 p.m. May 11, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

The concert may include popular selections such as Fitzgerald’s 1938 hit “A Tisket-A Tasket” and “Goody, Goody” and “Get Happy,” along with Frank Sinatra’s 1953 hit “I’ve Got the World on a String” and “Luck Be a Lady” and “Come Fly With Me.”

Francis Albert Sinatra was born in 1915 in Hoboken, N.J. As a teenager he was inspired by recordings of Bing Crosby and decided to pursue a career in singing.

Sinatra joined the Hoboken Four, won a talent competition and started touring. The group eventually disbanded, but Sinatra kept singing with local dance bands and on radio broadcasts.

Sinatra’s break came in 1939 when trumpeter Harry James discovered him and enlisted Sinatra into his newly-formed big band. That collaboration resulted in 10 commercial recordings.

Within six months, Sinatra joined the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, resulting in a further 83 commercial recordings from 1940-1942. Not only were the recordings of benefit for Sinatra, but he was heavily influenced by Dorsey’s trombone playing, primarily Dorsey’s keen use of breath control which Sinatra adopted.

As Sinatra’s fame grew, he ventured on to a solo vocal career and appeared in a number of hit films such as “Anchors Aweigh” (1945) and “On the Town” (1949). He received an Oscar Award for best supporting actor in “From Here to Eternity” (1953).

While Sinatra’s star was rising, Ella Fitzgerald was making headlines as a premiere jazz vocalist.

Born in 1917, Ella Fitzgerald began singing and performing on the streets of Harlem, New York City, to make ends meet. At 17, she debuted in her first “Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater” and won first place. She went on to competitions across New York City, including her performance with the Tiny Bradshaw Band at the Harlem Opera House where she met bandleader Chick Webb.

Webb was in need of a female singer and offered Fitzgerald the opportunity to test with the band during their upcoming performance at Yale University. The performance was so successful he hired her to sing with the band at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom.

When Webb passed away, Fitzgerald led the band and renamed it Ella and Her Famous Orchestra. From 1935-1942 they recorded more than 150 songs.

In the mid-1940s, Fitzgerald began singing for the popular concert series, “Jazz at the Philharmonic.” As her fame grew, she started appearing on television shows such as “The Bing Crosby Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Fitzgerald and Sinatra first met in the 1940s and became good friends. In 1954, she appeared for two weeks on “The Frank Sinatra Show” and in 1958 they recorded a duets album, “Ella and Frank.”

For Allentown Pops guest vocalist Capathia Jenkins, acting and music are her two passions. She looks for nuances, the secrets hidden within the notes or text. She seeks the melody, harmony and rhythm and asks herself: What am I trying to say? What do I want my audience to experience with me? She wants to take her audience on a journey.

Jenkins has appeared on television and starred in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions in addition to appearances with orchestras around the world, including the Cleveland Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony (with Marvin Hamlisch), Toronto Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic and the Hong Kong Philharmonic. She performed in the “Broadway Ambassadors to Cuba” as part of the Festival De Teatro De La Habana.

Tony DeSare has received critical and popular acclaim for his concert performances throughout North America and abroad: from jazz clubs to Carnegie Hall to Las Vegas headlining with Don Rickles and major symphony orchestras. DeSare’s sound is said to be romantic, swinging and sensual.

DeSare has had four Top 10 Billboard jazz albums and been on CBS’s “Early Show,” NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and NBC’s “Today Show.”

DeSare won first place in the USA Songwriting Contest and has written theme songs and soundtracks for movies.

Says Demkee, “Both artists are real pros. I have worked with Capathia Jenkins on two previous Pops concerts and she is an absolute joy, a wonderful singer and entertainer who connects with both the orchestra and the audience.”

“Ella and Frank,” Allentown Symphony Orchestra Pops, 7:30 p.m. May 11, Miller Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown. Tickets: box office; 610-432-6715; https:///www.millersymphonyhall.org

“Classical View” is a column about classical music, concerts, conductors and performers. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnon-line.com

Capathia Jenkins
Tony DeSare