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Will Downing, "the Prince of Sophisticated Soul," shared his incredible vocal talents -- from falsetto to his signature baritone/bass -- during an Aug. 3 concert at Little Rock's Wildwood Park for the Arts that wrapped up Art Porter Music Education's ninth annual A Work of Art week.

Formed in honor of the late jazz pianist Art Porter Sr. and the late saxophonist Art Porter Jr., APME aims to provide scholarships for Arkansas music students as well as promote community service and volunteerism, enhance academic skills and develop leadership skills for young people.

The fundraising week began with the customary City Hall kickoff July 29. It continued with a performance July 30 in the River Market by members of APME's Minors in Music program; a July 31 concert featuring jazz violinist Jerald Daemyon in the River Market's Ron Robinson Theater; an Aug. 1 concert with saxophonist Jazmin Ghent at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center; and a Porter Players Jam in the Hotel Frederica.

The Aug. 3 concert, for which Pamela Smith continued her role as mistress of ceremonies, began with a film promoting APME and starring members of its Young Emcees (public speaking) program, then moved to the presentation of the organization's scholarship winners: Gabriel Wade, a student at Parkview Arts/Sciences Magnet High School who plays trumpet and piano; and Julian Lilley, a student at Dardanelle High School, who plays tuba. Wade put forth a solo performance during the evening's opening act: G-Music, a group that features former members of Minors in Music. Lexington Porter, grandson of the late Art Porter Sr., exhibited his skills with the violin. (Porter had a chance to duet with Daemyon on July 31.) G-Music also served as accompaniment for a vocal duet by professional singer Nicky Parrish and Minors in Music student Tania Kelley, a junior at Central High School.

Along with a liberal amount of humorous banter -- and elaborate introductions of his band members -- Downing gave the large crowd what it hoped for, delivering such familiar numbers as "Sorry I," "If She Knew," and "A Million Ways" (an audience singalong) as well as "I Go Crazy" and "Stop, Look, Listen to Your Heart." He teamed up with his backup singer to deliver the venerable 1992 hit, "Nothing Has Ever Felt Like This," which he'd originally recorded with Rachelle Ferrell.

Gallery: Will Downing concert

High Profile on 08/11/2019

Print Headline: Tuneful exercises

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