A Night of Symphonic Hip Hop featuring Nelly Story in the Columbus Dispatch

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Columbus, Ohio • Jul 07, 2016 • 71° Overcast
The Columbus Dispatch
Hip-hop will meet classical as Nelly joins with Columbus Symphony
“A Night of Symphonic Hip Hop Featuring Nelly”
Who: Nelly with the Columbus Symphony
Where: Columbus Commons, East Rich and South High streets
Contact: 614-469-0939; 1-800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Showtime: 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $25, or $10 for ages 3 to 14, free for ages 2 or yo JOSHUA SOBELRapper-singer Nelly, who will perform a pops concert with the Columbus Symphony on Saturday
By Peter Tonguette For The Columbus Dispatch • Thursday July 7, 2016 6:16 AM
Fans of Nelly know many of his hits by heart. But even the hip-hop artist’s most ardent admirers will not have heard the singer-rapper perform live with an orchestra behind him.
On Saturday, in his first orchestral collaboration, Nelly will team with the Columbus Symphony. Conductor Albert-George Schram will lead the Picnic With the Pops concert at Columbus Commons.
The performance represents the inaugural installment of “A Night of Symphonic Hip Hop,” a new series produced by Stephen Cook of TCG Entertainment in Dallas.
The program pairs hip-hop artists with orchestras; Nelly is the first performer to be featured. Additional concerts with the singer are planned, including an appearance with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on July 14.
“You look, when you’re taking something out, to go to a place that you have a trust factor with,” said Cook of the decision to launch the series with the Columbus Symphony, which is managed by the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts. “I think that’s what we have with CAPA.”
Vice President of Programming Rich Corsi did not hesitate in booking the concert.
“I jumped on it from the get-go,” Corsi said. “To have ... a performer like Nelly come in and perform with a symphony for the first time is just an incredible opportunity.”
After Nelly's first album, “Country Grammar,” in 2000, the 41-year-old native of Austin, Texas — born Cornell Haynes Jr. — has released a number of edgy hits, including “Air Force Ones,” “Just a Dream” and “Hot in Herre,” the last of which netted him a Grammy.
Schram had not been too familiar with Nelly’s music before preparing for the concert, which he calls “a wonderful experiment.”
“I had not heard much of his music, but I sat down and listened to it,” Schram said. “I’m impressed with the man — he’s got a lovely voice.”
Corsi is anticipating an audience comprised of both regular attendees of Picnic With the Pops and fans of Nelly.
“We’ll have a ton of folks buying (tickets) just to come to see him, which will also benefit the symphony,” Corsi said. “Those folks ... may not have ever seen the symphony.”
After a first half in which the orchestra alone will perform such pieces as “Saint Louis Blues,” “La Suerte de los Tontos” and “Minnie the Moocher,” Nelly will be featured in a 60- to 75-minute set that will include many of his most-popular songs.
“If you go on iTunes and pull his hits up,” Cook said, “you’re going to hear it with an orchestra.”
The arrangements promise to highlight the orchestra, which will perform alongside a small, acoustic-based band.
“He’s got a mix of good ballads that really use strings well, as well as his more hip-hop stuff with rhythm,” Cook said. “It’s got a lot of percussion.”
At Nelly’s request, the typical rehearsal format for Picnic With the Pops concerts has been modified. In addition to one rehearsal on its own, the orchestra will rehearse twice with Nelly; most guest artists participate in a single rehearsal.
“He’s actually called us,” Corsi said. “He wants to do an extra rehearsal because he wants to make sure that it’s going to be perfect.”
Schram says the extra time will be beneficial to both the artist and the orchestra: “Just like it is for us — maybe even more so for Nelly — it’s really a reaching-out and surrounding himself with something that he just has ... not done before.”
Although hip hop will be a new genre for the orchestra, Corsi is not concerned about the musicians’ ability to adapt.
“When I’m talking to folks ... if you have something new that you’re going to put together and produce, I’ve got the orchestra that can do anything,” he said. “They’re that good that they can make anything happen and make it incredible.”

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