Charles performs to sold out crowd

R&B legend Ray Charles transcended musical generations Saturday night in the Smith Center, performing for a packed house of GW students and parents as part of Family Weekend activities.

The 71-year-old Charles crooned old favorites such as “Georgia on My Mind” and “Your Cheating Heart,” ending the show with “America the Beautiful,” while the audience sang along.

“It is a perfect show that students can bring their parents to,” sophomore Blake Gasca said at the concert.

Parent Services Director Rodney Johnson said GW chose Charles for the Family Weekend concert because of his “crossover value,” appealing to musical tastes of parents and students. Parent Services previously hosted the Four Tops and the Beach Boys during Family Weekend.

“(Charles) is a musician and an entertainer, and I think anyone who got a chance to see him would,” Johnson said.

With a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame and 12 Grammy Awards, including one for best R&B vocals by a male performer for “A Song for You” in 1994, Charles contributed to the popularity of rhythm and blues since the ’30s.

Junior Tyler Powell, who attended the show with his parents, said he thought the whole audience moved by “America the Beautiful.”

Some said they enjoyed an unusually relaxed atmosphere for the Smith Center.

“It was a really amazing show,” GW parent Deborah Miller said. “There was a very soothing feeling to it.”

Forty GW students and faculty selected from the music department accompanied Charles, after one rehearsal with conductor Victor Vanacore Saturday afternoon.

Vanacore said he enjoyed working with students full of “youth and exuberance.”

“The lights, the band and Ray Charles all together made it a really relaxing and exciting Jazz show,” junior Pam Martin said.

-Josh Riezman contributed to this report

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