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Gladys Knight to perform with ISO

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Fans of classic soul music and good music in general are waiting to experience an unforgettable evening with legendary singer Gladys Knight.

For the first time in several years the seven-time Grammy Award winner will appear in Indianapolis on Saturday, March 15th at 8 p.m. at Hilbert Circle Theatre downtown. Knight will perform along with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, singing several of her hits as well as tribute songs to “The Great Women of Jazz,” including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn and Lena Horne.

“We are absolutely thrilled that she’s coming,” said Tim Northcutt, assistant director of communications for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (ISO). “She is one of the greatest superstars of pop and soul music.”

Northcutt added that the ISO was very fortunate to be able to book Knight for a performance that will occur just a day after she appears with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for a similar program.

“We always look for opportunities to offer something different to a variety of different audiences, and having Gladys Knight come here to join us helps us do that,” Northcutt said.

After five decades in the music business Knight still attracts sold-out crowds with her powerful voice, wide range of material and warm, down-to-earth personality.

The Georgia native has enjoyed a remarkable career that began at age four performing in her church and as a special guest soloist with the Morris Brown College Choir. In 1952 at age 7, she won first place and the $2,000 prize on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour TV show contest (somewhat like the 50s version of today’s American Idol).

Six years later, with the encouragement of parents, Knight formed and began to sing professionally with her backing vocal group The Pips, which included her brother, Merald “Bubba” Knight and cousins William Guest and Edward Patten.

Between 1961 and 1988 Gladys Knight and the Pips became superstars on the strength of R&B and pop classics such as “Every Beat of My Heart” (1961), “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1967), “If I Were Your Woman” (1970), “Midnight Train to Georgia” (1973), “Neither One of Us” (1973), “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” (1974) and “Love Overboard” (1987).

As a solo artist Knight released the popular singles “Men” (1991), “End of the Road” (1994) and in 2006 released a well-received album of jazz standards.

Today she continues to perform for audiences worldwide, and currently directs the Saints Unified Voices Choir, a touring choir she formed for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). Last year the choir’s album “One Voice” won a Grammy Award.

However the ride hasn’t been entirely smooth for “the Empress of Soul,” who has endured three bitter divorces, the death of a son and a gambling addiction.

She has been, however, quick to share what she learned from her experiences with others, and has given back to society by being involved with the American Cancer Society, the Minority AIDS Project, and organizations that assist the homeless, abused children and battered women.

Ranked by Guiness Book of World Records as one of the 18 most successful female performers of all time, Knight takes her performing and songwriting abilities seriously, which has enabled her to release material that will be enjoyed by generations to come.

“When I write I try to paint a picture in my mind rather than come up with words that rhyme,” she explained recently. “Every song has to touch me emotionally and spiritually in some way. I could never do a song that I didn’t believe in or was cold about. I’m aware of the fact that my music touches people’s lives on a personal basis. So I have to be careful what I tell people, how I relate to them.”

For more information about Gladys Knight’s appearance with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, call (317) 262-1100 or log on to www.indianapolissymphony.org. Tickets range from $52 to $85.

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