Local 4 speaks with vocal coach who's worked closely with Aretha Franklin for 20 years

Mary Callaghan Lynch is Queen of Soul's voice coach


DETROIT – Music fans all over the world are sending their prayers to Detroit for the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

Franklin's family told Local 4 the legendary singer is "gravely ill." Right now, family members aren't publicly revealing the cause of the health crisis, but they said Franklin is surrounded by friends and family.

Franklin grew up in Detroit. Her ties to the community run deep, and that love is now being returned.

Franklin's long-time vocal coach is one of the people praying for her dear friend. They've worked together for 20 years and were planning to meet up recently, until Franklin said she couldn't make it.

Behind the voice of the Queen of Soul is a fan of opera. The road to "Nessun Dorma" went through the expertise of Mary Callaghan Lynch, who met Franklin when she was looking for someone to coach her in the art of arias.

"She was singing it at a private event for Pavarotti," Lynch said.

A 20-year friendship began between the woman whose voice behaved like an elite athlete and her opera voice coach.

"I think (she has) chords of steel, really," Lynch said. "It brought a whole different dimension to opera, and brought other people to the world of opera."

Lynch said Franklin was simply fearless.

"She wasn't nervous at all," Lynch said. "She could not wait to get up there, and she loved Puccini."

Up until three weeks ago, the two were planning a new aria.

"She called, she says, 'Mary, what aria is this?'" Lynch said. "I go, 'Oh, that's "Marietta's Lied."' She was very excited to be able to kind of get it in her teeth and sing it. I was out the door and she texted me and said, 'Mary, I'm so sorry. I have to cancel, but we'll work again.'"

In those 20 years of coaching and traveling, Lynch said she never saw Franklin actually read music. She never asked if she could, instead just watching and reveling.

Lynch is the founder of Motor City Lyric Opera, a nonprofit that takes opera into public schools.

Franklin was a consistent part of that effort, as a founding board member and financial supporter to make sure that children loved the music she loved.

Click here to view ClickOnDetroit's full coverage of Aretha Franklin.

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