Black History Month – Natalie Cole at Robinson Center

natalie-coleOn April 3, 2005, Natalie Cole performed at Robinson Center with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  She also performed a retro-duet with her late-father, Nat King Cole.  As noted previously on this blog, he had graced the Robinson stage himself in the 1940s and 1950s.  Helaine Freeman from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette noted that “Cole took her listeners through music genres that included a bit of jazz, a dash of blues and a fistful of R&B/pop.”

Cole was born in 1950 the daughter of the crooner and of singer Maria Hawkins Cole.  At age 6 she sang on her father’s Christmas album and started performing publicly at age 11.  After attending private schools, she attended both the University of Massachusetts and University of Southern California.  After college, she was signed with Capitol Records, her father’s label.  Her first album was released in 1975, which garnered her a Grammy Award for Female R&B Vocal Performance.

Throughout the 1970s, she had a series of successful albums. She became the first female singer to have two platinum albums in one year.  In the 1980s, her recording career slowed down, but by the late part of the decade, she had a resurgence.

In 1991, she recorded the album Unforgettable…with Love in which she sang songs her father had made famous.  The best known track was the title song, “Unforgettable” in which she dueted with him.  It won Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Traditional Pop Vocal Performance of the Year at the Grammy Awards.

In the 2000s, she continued to sing and record switching between R&B and jazz genres.  She also started performing with symphony orchestras.

She cancelled several concerts in December 2015 and died on December 31, 2015.

Robinson Redux – April

RCMH AprilWhile Robinson Center Music Hall is closed for renovations, the Culture Vulture is taking a monthly look at past performances. Today’s entry looks at Aprils from 1940 to 2010 in years that end in a “0” or “5.”

Edward Everett Horton kicked off April 1940 at Robinson Auditorium on the 1st with the comedy Springtime for Henry. The performance was marred by the sound of the new building’s air conditioning system, which was being used for the first time during a performance.  Five years later, on April 1, 1945, the auditorium was home to An Evening of Sigmund Romberg which featured the composer in person with performers singing some of his songs.  April 1945 also saw a performance of Earl Carroll Vanities (the 3rd) and Carmen featuring the Metropolitan Opera singers (the 16th.)

Tenor James Melton performed on April 25, 1950.  In April 1955, the lineup included William Bendix in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial on the 23rd. The next night the Spring Music Festival took place. It featured school children performing.

On April 25 1960, The Coasters, Bo Diddley, LaVerne Baker and others. The month ended with a youth concert aimed at children. April 1970 included a production of Arthur Miller’s The Price (the 6th), the Southwest Regional Ballet Festival (April 11) and drummer Buddy Rich (April 18).  In April 1975 (the 6th) Hair returned to Robinson for one performance. This time there was no controversy such as had met the first visit a few years earlier.

April 1985 was very busy. On the 13th, there was a Ballet Festival Gala. April 20 & 21 featured an Arkansas Symphony Orchestra classical concert.  A touring production of the musical Gigi performed on the 22nd.  It starred Louis Jourdan (who had appeared in the Oscar winning film, albeit in a different part), Betsey Palmer and Taina Elg. The ASO was back on April 28 with a children’s music concert.

Cathy Rigby flew into Robinson Center with a tour of Peter Pan from April 10 to 12.  On April 4, 1995, the Community Concert Association brought the Russian Seasons Dance Company for a performance.  The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performed Verdi’s Requiem Mass in Memory of Manzoni on April 8 & 9, 1995. Singer Millie Jackson wrote and appeared in the play Young Man, Older Woman, which played on April 30 of that year.

Several Contemporary Christian music acts performed on April 3. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra closed their 1999-2000 season on April 8 & 9 with a concert featuring Carolyn Brown on flute. On April 27, 2000, President Clinton headlined a memorial service for civil rights activist Daisy Bates.

April 2005 was full of a variety of performances. Natalie Cole was in concert on April 3 with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  On William Shatner narrated David Itkin’s Exodus with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra on April 9 & 10, 2005. Arkansan Kyle Dean Massey starred in the tour of 42nd Street which started its performances at Robinson Center on April 18, 2005. In conjunction with an exhibit at the Old State House Museum, a gospel concert featuring the Racy Brothers and the Hunter Brothers closed out April 2005 on the 30th.

David Itkin bid farewell to conducting the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in April 10 & 11, 2010, with a performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.  On April 15, the Electrify Your Strings! concert took place. Comedian Gabriel Iglasias and his Fluffy Shop Tour stopped at Robinson on April 24.