Soul Sirens Join APO In Aretha Franklin Celebration

The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) brings together three of the country’s most powerful female vocalists, Boh Runga, Bella Kalolo, Vanessa Stacey for a special performance on 21 May to celebrate the music of the unforgettable Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

Vanessa Stacey, Bella Kalolo and Boh Runga

Boh Runga, Bella Kalolo, Vanessa Stacey and the APO will deliver a searing line-up from the legendary singer’s stellar catalogue of hits, including ‘Think’, ‘Spanish Harlem’, ‘Natural Woman’, ‘Say A Little Prayer’ and the fiercest feminist anthem of all time, ‘Respect’. The vibe will be lifted further by Auckland’s superb a capella gospel choir, Jubilation.

In a musical career that spanned over five decades, Aretha Franklin had more than 100 chart-topping singles. Perhaps more importantly, though, was what music critic for The New York Times, Jon Pareles, said, “she freed other singers to let their voices fly.”

“This is so much more than a tribute concert. It’s founded on epic orchestral arrangements of Aretha’s songs, with the full orchestra, the soulful voices of an ensemble of extraordinary choristers and led by three powerful female vocalists. It will be a real celebration of the Queen of Soul and her legacy and we aim to lift the roof off the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre,” says conductor David Kay.

Wellington-based Bella Kalolo has worked with numerous performers both locally and internationally. With two acclaimed releases under her belt, Without the Paper (2011) and Time and Space Ep (2013), she was awarded Best Pacific Female artist in the Vodafone Pacific Music Awards in 2012 and 2014. Her gospel music roots began at church as a youngster. Today she is a frequent director of gospel music and she’s performed an array of songs from Aretha’s catalogue in jazz and arts festivals in recent years.

After carving a pop career fronting her multi award-winning band Stellar, Boh Runga released her solo debut album Right Here in 2009. She then embarked on a successful career as a jewellery designer and returned to the studio in 2012 writing new music and collaborating with the likes of Anika Moa and Hollie Smith.

Praised for her rich soulful tones and smoky vocals, musical dynamo Vanessa Stacey has built a reputation for her poignant delivery of originals and rearrangements of classics, at festivals and events around New Zealand.

Jubilation is an acapella gospel choir with a rock and roll heart. For two decades, Jubilation has wowed crowds of all sizes, from 10,000 on the main stage at WOMAD to an intimate 65 at the Old Cheese Factory near Arrowtown. The choir has performed at Wellington Jazz Festival, Nelson’s Opera in The Park, New Plymouth’s Festival of Lights and Wanaka’s Festival of Colour, as well as across Auckland.

Aretha Franklin’s songs, delivered by three formidable wāhine with powerhouse “pipes”, and accompanied by a band, gospel choir and the mighty APO has the makings to be Auckland’s biggest night of funk, soul and R&B since 1965.

8pm, Thursday 21 May 2020
Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre

Tickets and more info:

Conductor: David Kay
Performers: Boh Runga, Bella Kalolo, Vanessa Stacey, and Jubilation with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra