Academy of Music throws a star-studded 157th birthday party

Philadelphia's own Jill Scott told the Academy of Music audience it was a privilege to sing with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Gala proceeds, about $1 million, will pay for capital improvements at the Academy. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
Philadelphia's own Jill Scott told the Academy of Music audience it was a privilege to sing with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Gala proceeds, about $1 million, will pay for capital improvements at the Academy. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer) (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 27, 2014

A snowy afternoon did not stop 1,200 guests from descending on the Academy of Music for its 157th Anniversary Concert and Ball on Saturday night, complete with lots of bubbly and a phenomenal performance by Philadelphia's own Jill Scott.

Scott, the Grammy Award-winning singer who got her start performing with neo-soul acts at the Five Spot in Old City, was practically gushing through her 25-minute set.

"Do you understand the privilege it is for me to be here?" Scott said, her red-bottomed Christian Louboutin peep-toed shoes glistening on the stage. "That's the orchestra behind me."

Scott's voice sounded as if it were made to sing with the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who called himself a major Jill Scott fan.

"Tonight's performance was one of my dreams come true," he said before leading the orchestra into a symphonic performance of variations on the Gershwins' "I Got Rhythm."

A few minutes into the performance, Scott walked on stage, her dress a shimmery black peplum.

She then moved into her version of Stephanie Mills' "Home" from The Wiz, as an homage to her North Philly roots. Audience members' eyes pooled with tears during that performance.

Scott fans got a treat when she launched into her neo-soul classics from "Golden" to "The Way" to "He Loves Me."

She also performed her new single "Call" with Robert Glasper on the piano.

Scott was not the only Philadelphian on stage Saturday. The night was hosted by Kevin Bacon and his brother, Michael.

The witty pair elicited more than a few laughs, as when Kevin joked that the audience members in their white-tie ensembles "looked like seat fillers in a Boardwalk Empire episode."

On the last Saturday night of January, the Academy of Music anniversary brings out the city's political, business, and cultural leadership.

Notable guests included Mayor Nutter and his wife, Lisa, and U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and his wife, broadcaster Renée Chenault.

Joanna McNeil Lewis, the former chair of the board of trustees of the Academy of Music, was radiant in a green Oscar de la Renta gown, while her successor, Adele Schaeffer, was confident on stage in a tuxedo-style shirt with an abundance of ruffles.

This year the Academy sold 1,200 tickets priced from $200 to $2,075, bringing in an estimated $1 million.

Proceeds of the Anniversary Concert ball will support the upgrading of a heating and ventilation system, plaster repair, and other capital work for the Academy.


ewellington@phillynews.com

215-854-2704 @ewellingtonphl

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