I discovered Morgan James several months ago on YouTube while listening to Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox The group has become an internet sensation taking amazing up and coming vocalists and doing covers of current pop hits in different styles. I found a cover of Royals that is just awesome. That led me to trying to find more by this group and I came across Maps by Morgan James. From there I was hooked. I bought her CD and started following her considerable social media presence. She was playing a tiny (and I mean tiny) club in Columbus in December and I saw her there. That’s when I learned a little about her background. The woman who opened for her was on Broadway with her and that woman’s aunt told us about Morgan’s background on Broadway and at Juilliard. She’s more than just a pop singer. This woman can blow and she’s classically trained.
Fast forward a couple of months and I hear she’s coming to Florence along with the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. It’s being billed as Soulbrette- Puccini to Prince. I’d listen to Morgan James sing the phone book, so I got tickets immediately.
It turns out I’m not the only one to have discovered Morgan this way. The conductor of the KYSO was looking for bluegrass on the internet, stumbled across a cover by Postmodern Jukebox and from there found Maps also. He had to know more about Morgan found out about her background and got the idea for this showcase. I’m so glad he did. This has to the most diverse night of music I’ve ever heard or seen- maybe that anyone has performed by a single artist. It was a tour of Morgan’s musical background from some straight up opera by Puccini and Strauss to Broadway classics including songs by Barbara Cook (I had never heard of her) to a song written for Kristen Chenoweth that sounded like there were at least three singers on stage. I had never heard the song. It’s not just a song, it’s a performance. 14G I can’t believe anyone else would even try to pull this off, but Morgan did it perfectly. That took guts.
There was Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and, of course, Call My Name by Prince which has its own story as to how Morgan was permitted to include it on her solo album. She also did a couple of more tracks from her self penned album, Hunter.
As far as I know the few people in that room may be the only ones to ever see this performance or anything quite like it. The conductor of the orchestra saw an amazingly talented, but relatively unknown artist and had the foresight to put together a showcase around her talents and her musical journey. And what a background she has and what a story. A girl from Idaho who had a dream to go to Juilliard, a tiny blonde who has a big booming, soulful voice and the control to do opera, someone who has been told “no” many, many times but keeps pushing forward. And, I hope, is on the verge of a breakthrough. If talent or determination has anything to do with it, she won’t remain unknown for much longer.
I contemplated how our lives turn out. How decisions we make determine where we are and even who we are today. A phone call returned or not returned can change the course of our life. Earlier in the day I was watching a story with Jay Williams, the Duke basketball player who destroyed his leg in a motorcycle accident ending a promising NBA career. But, he doesn’t regret the accident. It put him on a path that led him to where he is today and he feels he’s right where he’s supposed to be.
The older I get the more I think that’s the way life works. Even the things that we think suck, the setbacks, the “no’s” they’re all leading us to where we’re supposed to be. It’s a rough road for all of us at times and it’s rougher for some than others. But, we all bought a round trip ticket and we will all get back to where we’re supposed to be.
I’m so glad that I ran across the fact that Morgan James was playing last night in a Baptist church 45 minutes from my house in what was probably a once in a lifetime show. How lucky was that?