RPO rings in 2024 with soul 

click to enlarge RPO Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik presents the Rochester premiere of "Let's Groove Tonight" on January 5 and 6. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • RPO Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik presents the Rochester premiere of "Let's Groove Tonight" on January 5 and 6.
The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra kicks off the new year with a pops series concert on January 5 featuring hits from Motown and the Philly soul genre.

The RPO’s Principal Pops Conductor, Jeff Tyzik, leads the ensemble in his latest Motown-themed show, "Let’s Groove Tonight,” following a successful October premiere in Detroit.

“People are really attracted to rhythm," he said, "and both Motown and the Philly sound, it’s just all based on what we call ‘the groove,’ which is why the concert’s called ‘Let’s Groove.’”

The program features hits such as Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and The Temptations’ “My Girl” as well as the Diana Ross hit “I’m Coming Out” and “Love Train,” made popular by The O’Jays.


“The melodies of the tunes are just really wonderful," said Tyzik. "They stick with you, people really relate to them, and the lyrics of the songs. And it's all generally about love and beauty, except there are pieces which are really also about society. ”

Jeff Tyzik is no stranger to presenting the music of Motown to RPO audiences. But for his fourth such concert program, he’s pairing the iconic Detroit style with Philly soul, which also captivated the pop music scene in the 1960s and ‘70s.

While Tyzik loves all the songs on the program, he has a special place in his heart for the song “Hurt So Bad.” He listened to the hit from Little Anthony and the Imperials as a kid, later performing it with the group at a Rochester concert while attending the Eastman School of Music.

While the importance of the groove is essential to both styles of music, Tyzik said Philly soul is more refined than Motown in certain ways.

“Motown, I think a lot of the rhythms and nature of the production of the songs (have) a little bit more of a raw feel to it, where the Philly sound (is) a little more sophisticated," Tyzik explained.


Both the Philly soul and Motown eras relied on authentic orchestral sounds and vocals that weren't digitally manipulated, something Tyzik said is missing from today’s pop music.

“Motown and Philly, these were great singers," Tyzik said. "And maybe a little bit of the time, they weren't perfectly in tune. But the magic in their voices, it was so human. And it was so endearing. And it really touched the soul.”

The RPO performs "Let’s Groove Tonight” on January 5 with an encore featuring vocalists Chester Gregory, Ashley Jayy, and Brik Liam on January 6. For more info, visit rpo.org.

Daniel J. Kushner is an arts writer at CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].
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