‘It just gives me chills’: Detroit Symphony Orchestra honors the Queen of Soul

Respect: A Tribute to Aretha Franklin kicked off Friday morning

DETROIT – The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) is spending Memorial Day weekend commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Queen of Soul’s first and only performance with the orchestra.

Respect: A Tribute to Aretha Franklin kicked off Friday (May 26) morning.

It’s no secret how beautifully the Orchestra Hall carries music, but this weekend was different even for Erik Rönmark, president and CEO of the DSO.

“It just gives me chills, just having that music back on the stage,” said Rönmark. “That partnership that we had with her was amazing because she was so Detroit and coming here to one of the best halls in the world, performing with our orchestra. It was just something special, and it’s just an honor to pay tribute to that.”

For guests, the experience starts before musicians step on stage with a 1956 pink Cadillac on display and an exhibit of photos from her friend and photographer Linda Soloman.

“Including photos that have never been seen before, from that performance 25 years ago, right here on the orchestra hall stage,” Rönmark said.

Then, when the orchestra begins to play, and the singers grab their mics, it all comes together, not just for the audience.

“Being in a space where Aretha sang in our hometown feels really special,” said vocalist Tamika Lawrence. “I feel really honored, and it feels like sacred earth. It really does.”

With every tune, more memories come rushing back.

“The ‘Blues Brothers’ was one of my favorite movies, and I love her part in it, and I’ve always been enamored with her spirit of performance and who she was as a woman,” Lawrence said.

There’s also a storytelling component to the program. The Orchestra Hall is also selling pink Cadillac margaritas.

If you’re lucky enough to snag a ticket, just know, each note plays a part in the story these musicians are tasked with telling.

“I think what I and my fellow singers are trying to give the audience is a well-rounded look at Aretha, not only who she was as an incredible singer, but also who she is as an artist and who she is as an activist,” Lawrence said.

Friday night’s show was sold out, but there are tickets available for Saturday and Sunday shows. Click here for information.

About the Authors:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.