*A crowd of about 8000 crammed into Philadelphia’s Mann Music Center Tuesday night to witness Aretha Franklin and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice team for a rare musical performance.
Rice, a classically trained pianist, backed the Queen of Soul during a three-hour concert filled with Franklin’s catalog of hits as well as arias from the world of opera and classical music. Proceeds from the show will benefit urban children and awareness for music and the arts.
“It is a joint effort for the inner-city youth of Philadelphia and Detroit,” Franklin told The AP the night before their concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
“We decided to give it a try,” Franklin said. “So here we are, in the city of Brotherly — and Sisterly — Love.”
Rice played piano while Franklin sang her hit “I Say A Little Prayer” as well as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Earlier in the program, she performed a selection from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor with the orchestra, a piece she said she practiced furiously.
Franklin even tickled the ivories a few times Tuesday night, including for a song off her new album “A Woman Falling Out of Love,” to be released later this year. She also sang a duet — “The Way We Were” — with surprise guest Ronald Isley.
Rice has played classical music from elementary school through college and beyond, in quartets and performing chamber music. She has even played with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. But, she said this was “the first time I’ve played with an orchestra since I was 18.”
Upon hearing about Rice’s musical talent several years ago, Franklin sent for one of her recordings “to hear what she sounded like.” Previously, she said, “All I had seen of Dr. Rice was in a political atmosphere. It just seemed foreign that she would be a classical pianist.”
Franklin was surprised.
“She really does play,” Franklin said. “She’s formidable.”
The two met at a White House function, Rice recalled. “We were just talking and chatting and she said ‘You play, don’t you?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And she said we should do something together.”