By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk-
The music of Motown is something special.
It’s sweet, it’s soulful, and it’s the sound of summer. It’s music for dancing, and whenever you hear it, you hear a symphony.
The sounds of the 60s returned to the Grand Rapids Symphony stage on Thursday, July 25, at Cannonsburg Ski Area with “Dancing in the Streets – Music of Motown,” a salute to the music of Stevie Wonder , Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, the Four Tops and more.
The third concert of the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops repeats at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 26. Gates open at 5:45 for picnicking and preconcert entertainment. Tickets, available at the door, start at $25 adults and $10 students.
Three fabulous singers, Shayna Steele, Michael Lynche and Chester Gregory, all stars of stage and TV, joined Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhard and the Grand Rapids Pops for the very best of Motown.
As the sun set on a beautiful summer evening, the concert started hot with the dynamic Shayna Steele standing in for Martha Reeves to belt out “Dancing in the Streets.”
By the end of the evening, the floor in front of the stage was packed with people dancing to Jackie Wilson’s “You’re Love Keeps Lifting Me” and Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.”
“Man, do I love my job,” Bernhard told the audience after a soulful version of Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You” delivered by Lynche.
Three voices were more than enough for a great version of the Four Tops’ “Reach Out, I’ll Be There.” But individually, the cast also channeled the Temptations, Ashford & Simpson, and many more.
Lynche, a finalist in Season 9 of “American Idol,” stood in for James Brown, belting out a driving version of “I Feel Good.”
Chester Gregory, whose interpretation of Smokey Robinson is uncannily close to the real thing, crooned a mellow performance of “You Really Got a Hold on Me.”
The show has plenty of clever bits. Steele sang a sassy version of Mary Well’s “My Guy,” and Gregory immediately followed with a smooth performance of the Temptations’ “My Girl.”
The show also moved forward in time to the later careers of Motown artists such as Diana Ross and Lionel Richie with songs such as “Endless Love,” which was sweetly sung by Steele and Lynche.
The concert really cooked in the last half with songs that slipped right into the groove such as “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love?” featuring the entire cast.
It could have gone on all night long, but all good things do come to an end, and the end was top notch with Gregory taking the lead with Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.”
Between the lovely weather, the sheer star power of the singers, and the superlative sound of the Grand Rapids Symphony, it doesn’t get any better than this.