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W. Kamau Bell never expected to be sitting in with a symphony orchestra. Yet Friday night at the Paramount Theatre, he’ll be center stage with the Oakland Symphony, joining music director Michael Morgan and the orchestra in “W. Kamau Bell’s Playlist.” The event kicks off the Symphony’s new series, which will invite prominent writers and thinkers to host and curate orchestra concert playlists that ignite their passions. The concept is simple. Bell will introduce songs that have played a significant role in his life, then turn them over to Morgan, the orchestra and special guests to play. It’s an eclectic list, one that includes works by Nina Simone and Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix and John Coltrane, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tears for Fears. Guest artists include Oakland’s own T Sisters, Zakiya Harris, and Adam Theis’ Jazz Mafia.
Bell acknowledges that he felt some trepidation when Morgan invited him to inaugurate the series, “I’m not a musician,” says the acclaimed comedian, activist and Emmy award-winning host of CNN’s “United Shades of America,” sansha pre pointe shoes “and I wasn’t quite sure what this was, My first thought was, it’s January 19, and you have to learn to play the cello.”, In a laugh-filled conversation at Morgan’s Oakland studio, Bell and Morgan explained how the program developed — and why it expands boundaries for all concerned..
“This was on my list of ideas I’ve always wanted to try,” said Morgan. “The idea was to find someone who would be interesting and have a wide world view. Part of the reason for the series is to show the next generation that people you wouldn’t normally associate with a symphony orchestra actually have interest in and knowledge of a symphony orchestra. It’s for everybody.”. Morgan has always pushed the boundaries of what an orchestra can do — in past Oakland Symphony programs, he presented soul icon Isaac Hayes and legendary rock guitarist Carlos Santana. His annual “Let us Break Bread” concerts are a fabulous mix — just last month, the choral concert featured Prince and Leonard Cohen songs alongside traditional holiday favorites.
Once he was clear on the playlist concept, Bell says he quickly got on board, “I’m a huge fan of music — it’s part of my creative process,” he said, “I put together playlists all the time, These are the songs I like right now, or these are the songs that make me feel excited before a show, When I do tours, I put together a playlist for when the audience walks in, to give them a sense of ‘here’s where we are tonight.’”, He sansha pre pointe shoes traces his love of music to his Chicago childhood, Although he was “a comedy nerd,” one of his best friends was a guitarist steeped in music of many genres, “That’s always informed how I listen to music,” he says, “I came into it from a place of ‘what do you like,’ not ‘whom should I like?’.”..
Music, he adds, also “gives your kids a sense of who you are.” Bell, who lives in Berkeley with his wife and daughters, aged 3 and 6, peppered his playlist with music he plays at home. “I’m really proud of the fact that when I go out of town, my daughters can sort of invoke my spirit with Bob Marley music — ‘cuz that’s what Dad plays when he’s around.’” The T Sisters will join Morgan and the orchestra in one of their favorites, Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”. “There’s something about that song that’s sort of reassuring,” says Bell, noting that the list also includes songs at the other end of the political spectrum, such as “Mississippi Goddam” by Simone, “which is in no way reassuring.”.
“I sansha pre pointe shoes tried to pick songs that have resonance in the moment,” he said, “I think every live event that’s not talking about the state of the world, referencing it in some way right now, is not doing its job.”, Morgan intends to make the Playlist an annual event, Advance sales have boomed, he said: “People are saying things like ‘this can’t possibly work — let’s get tickets.”, For Bell, putting the program together has been a blast, “It’s really been a dream,” he says, “Forget the fact that it’s a concert, It’s two things I like — talking and listening, I told Michael I would do this even if it were not open to the public.”..
Details: “W. Kamau Bell’s Playlist,” 8 p.m. Jan. 19, Paramount Theatre, Oakland; $25-$90; 510-444-0801; www.oaklandsymphony.org. Contact Georgia Rowe at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are the songs W. Kamau Bell selected for the Oakland Symphony “Playlist” concert Jan. 19. “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” James Weldon Johnson. “I Love My Life,” Todd Rundgren. “Feeling Good,” Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, performed by Nina Simone. “Flight of the Bumblebee,” Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
“Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” sansha pre pointe shoes Traditional negro spiritual, adapted and arranged by Moses Hogan, Medley, “Take Me With You/Let’s Go Crazy,” Prince, “Sabre Dance,” from ballet “Gayane,” Aram Khachaturian, “Mississippi Goddam,” written and performed by Nina Simone, “Power of Soul,” Jimi Hendrix, “Three Little Birds,” Bob Marley, “Pride,” by William Calhoun, performed by Living Colour, “A Love Supreme, Part 1,” John Coltrane..