James Bennett II is a staff writer for WQXR.
Watch: Bobby McFerrin Conducts — and Sings — Vivaldi's Double Cello Concerto
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 - 11:56 AM
Bobby McFerrin possesses a malleable, fluid talent that’s allowed him to make a statement in a number of diverse musical stylings. You might be familiar with his sprawling studio discography — which includes fan favorite “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” — or recall hearing his vocal contributions to Knick Knack, one of Pixar’s earliest films. Maybe your McFerrin connection is through his vocalizations of jazz standards like “Take the A-Train” or “‘Round Midnight.” The guy’s been all over the musical globe, including classical country. And his visits there can be characterized as more than a “dabble.”
In 1995 — which also happened to be his second year as Creative Director for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra — McFerrin released Paper Music, an album that included his interpretation of music from Bach, Faure and Vivaldi, among others. The following year saw The Mozart Sessions, a collaboration in which Chick Corea joined the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for a Mozart-exclusive set.
McFerrin’s versatility and connection to the classical world is made even deeper once you realize that his father, Robert McFerrin Sr., was the first the black man to sing at the Met and went on to have a successful musical career.
Now, check out Bobby conduct cellist Veronika Wilhelm and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in a performance of Vivaldi’s Double Cello Concerto — while vocalizing one of the cello parts.