Heading to Red Deer on April 4th, ‘Motown Soul’ celebrates some of the biggest names in music such as Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Temptations, Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye.
Tributes are also paid to soulful favourites such as Aretha Franklin and James Brown in the energetic show which kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Centre. The show also features a 10-piece band.
An outstanding cast of performers (The Tonettes and Grady Harrell) delivers a show that takes audiences back in time to a special era from the 60s when ‘music and soul came together’.
Highlights run the gamut from renditions of Higher and Higher, My Girl and You Can’t Hurry Love to Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and Natural Woman.
Producer Pete Paquette, who is a gifted performer in his own right, was at the helm of bringing this production to fruition from selecting the tunes to lining up the band.
“Diving into this Motown world has been like none other,” he explained during a recent interview. “And the music I was hearing was basically all from the Motown label, and I had no issues with listening to hours and hours of material,” he recalled.
Legends from the time of course run the gamut from artists like Diana Ross to Marvin Gaye to Smokey Robinson.
As to this show’s performers, Paquette explained that he had worked with the Tonettes for several years.
“They were backing up a lot of artists in Toronto, and they’ve been back-up singers in my shows from Elvis shows to rock and roll shows. I also found that they have a really great following – they are really, really good at what they do as far as harmonizing and stage presence.
“I said, ‘Ladies, have you ever really had a chance to do your own show?’ They were just waiting for a day to come where someone would understand and acknowledge their talents.
“So I created a show with them in mind,” he said. “They contributed to these songs as well in terms of what they liked, and what was meaningful to them. The Tonettes are very specific in terms of what they sing and they really have to ‘feel’ the numbers before committing to them.
“Grady Harrell is also our guest performer.
“He’s from Las Vegas even though the show is from Toronto, and he was recommended to me by another performer I had worked with in Vegas. The fact is Grady is so good! We just hit it off from the get-go and I think he really complements the Tonettes.
Both of them are a true team onstage.”
Paquette said the show will also include a ‘soul factor’ so that artists like Aretha Franklin and James Brown will be represented as well.
According to the Motown Museum, “As an irresistible force of social and cultural change, Berry Gordy’s legendary Motown made its mark not just on the music industry, but society at large, with a sound that has become one of the most significant musical accomplishments and stunning success stories of the 20th century.
“No other record company in history has exerted such an enormous influence on both the style and substance of popular music and culture. With more than 180 No. 1 hit songs worldwide and counting, that influence is still being felt today, from pop to hip-hop.”
As to the show, Paquette said the show starts on a softer note as audiences are transported back via a compelling Diana Ross medley. The Tonettes continue with iconic tunes that audiences world-wide have grown to know and love, he added.
“Either from Gladys Knight and the Pips to Etta James – there are all of these names. They also have a nice dialogue going, and the idea is that Grady is a special guest.
“They introduce him, and then they all really get the crowd wound up with the fact that Grady is coming out onstage. So it’s a really fun dynamic there between the Tonettes and Grady. They just love him as much as he loves them!”
From there, Harrell and the Tonettes essentially take some turns belting out the hits and they also come together for several numbers, too.
“There are all of these strong moments, such as with A Change is Gonna Come which is a big number for the show. Other songs like Signed, Sealed and Delivered and Shout are also in there.
Ultimately, I think that (the Tonettes and Harrell) just really complement each other.
“So that’s what people are talking about.”
Meanwhile, in an age where loads of music seems to have a fleeting lifespan many of the Motown era hits live on.
As he pointed out, folks back then couldn’t have known the enduring nature of what they were coming up with, but as the decades have passed many of these songs have emerged as classics.
“I think that longevity stems from quality,” said Paquette. “And quality stems from passion.”
For tickets, call 403-343-6666 or check out www.blackknightinn.ca.