September 30, 2016

Ray Charles protegé Ellis Hall returns to the RPO

Ellis Hall is a rare breed. A soul musician in the truest sense of the word, Hall brims with joy and seemingly limitless positivity. Even just speaking with him becomes somewhat of a musical experience in itself, as he waxes poetic and frequently cracks himself up when recanting his long, storied career.

It’s no small wonder that he’s been dubbed the “ambassador of soul”—a title given to him right here in Rochester by RPO Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik.

 “Jeff was the first person to ever give me the title,” Hall said. “I love him to pieces! The first time we met was when I played trumpet for the Rochester Symphony Orchestra back in the 70s, and immediately we were like brothers joined at the hip.”

This season, Hall and Tyzik are bringing a fiercely unique blend of soul, orchestral, and pop music to the RPO with “Soul Unlimited”. The show takes standards from all sides of the soul and R&B spectrum, from Stevie Wonder to Marvin Gaye and beyond, and injects them with Hall’s soaring vocals and Tyzik with the RPO.

For Hall, performing in any capacity is a pleasure unlike any other, but performing with a whole orchestra feels almost too good to be true.

“I tell folks all the time, I’m in the middle of it but I still don’t believe it!”, Hall laughed. “When I sing and play, the gates of heaven open up and I walk on through. The orchestra just enhances that. It’s a delicious thing, and I get to share my box of crayons. I have so many musical colors, and we’re all painting pictures with sound.”

A protegé and signee of Ray Charles (or “Papa Ray” as Hall calls him), it’s safe to say that Hall studied his craft with the best. Their time together is something Hall holds near and dear to his heart, and the lessons he learned from Charles‘ tutelage are things he hopes to pass on through his music.

“Working with Ray for the last few years of his life was just amazing,” Hall said. “If you were bringing it like you were supposed to be bringing it from the heart, he was in his true glory. We had a lot of things in common, our sight, our love for our Mothers, and living in the great state of Georgia. Even up until the end of his life he was fascinated with helping me get my music out there.”

With “Soul Unlimited”, Hall is continuing to do just that. For Hall, music and the joy it brings is a gift to be shared, and he has no plans to stop sharing it any time soon.

“Jeff and I are getting ready to bring our shows all around the world,” Hall said. “Right now I’m just too blessed to be stressed!”

If you go
Soul Unlimited with Ellis Hall
Friday, October 21 at 8 PM
Saturday, October 22 at 8 PM
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
Tickets start at $23

Written by Alexander Jones, a graduate of RIT's journalism program and recent marketing and communications intern at the RPO.

Learn more about Ellis and his career in this promo reel.

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