MOORHEAD — From 1961 to 1971, Motown had a string of 110 Top 10 hits.
Post-Traumatic Funk Syndrome and the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra will string up a handful of those tunes for Thursday night’s Symphony Rocks concert at Bluestem Amphitheater.
The annual show pairs the FMSO with the horn-based rock and R&B band for a unique concert based on a certain theme. This year’s focus, “Motown to Memphis,” taps into classic R&B, soul and blues, from the Detroit label to the soulful sound of Memphis, Tenn. The show will cover acts from Stevie Wonder to The Supremes and The Temptations to Tina Turner.
“It combines my two favorite genres, orchestral music and classic rock 'n' roll,” says Russell Peterson, PTFS founder and musical director. “We get to bring symphony members into a rock 'n' roll show. They don’t get to do that stuff. To be able to include them in a rock 'n' roll show with the sound, lights and drums, they love it.”
The show is a fundraiser for the FMSO.
Peterson and a number of other PTFS members also play in the FMSO, bringing an easy cohesion to the concerts. FMSO's concertmaster, violinist Sonja Bosca-Harasim, will be featured on B.B. King’s “Let the Good Times Roll.”
Another guest will be recent Concordia College graduate Ronnie Allen, who will sing Otis Redding’s hit for Stax, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”
“We love to feature young talents that are up-and-comers. He’s dynamite,” Peterson says.
While he grew up after the prime years of Motown, the songs still caught Peterson’s attention on the radio.
“The Motown songs were never very complicated. That’s part of the beauty of them,” he says. “The groups were soulful and great performers.”
One of Motown’s biggest groups was The Supremes, featuring Dianna Ross, which charted 12 No. 1 hits. Peterson says female groups like The Supremes made Motown what it is.
“I think it’s the ladies. I think it was Dianna Ross and songs like ‘Stop in the Name of Love’ and ‘You Keep Me Hanging On,’" he says. "Motown was a great time for female singers. We’re doing a medley because we couldn’t do all of them because there are so many great songs, we had to lump them into a medley.”
To pull off the three-part female harmonies, the group is bringing in a couple of guest artists to join singer Alison Molony. Kelsey Knutson sang with the group during last year’s Christmas show, and Andrina Brogden played Symphony Rocks in 2014 a year after she graduated from West Fargo High School.
“She covers this Motown sound as good as anybody,” Peterson says of Brogden.
Brogden and Knutson will be featured in the medley, which also features tunes by Martha and the Vandellas, and then return for the encore, a cover of Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary.”
“I don’t usually get to sing with other ladies,” Brogden says, adding that she’s always enjoyed sets with PTFS. “They’re so kind and really good players. That in itself makes it fun. It’s always a blast.”
While Motown was definitely before her time, Brogden says the songs have endured because of how strong the material is.
“That whole era is super cool. The music is simplistic as well as catchy and cool,” she says.
PTFS actually shared the stage with The Temptations, backing them up at a Bluestem show.
To fill out the male harmonies on the group’s “Papa was a Rolling Stone,” some PTFS players will take a breather to offer background vocals.
While The Temptations, The Supremes and Tina Turner were all known for well-choreographed shows, Peterson says not to expect too much dancing from PTFS.
“This band does not dance. That’s not our forte,” Peterson says. “Fortunately we have Alison, so she’s doing some dance moves with the girls.”
“They don’t dance, but we’re going to try to get them to dance,” Brogden says.
Peterson may save the dancing for his wife, as Thursday will be their anniversary.
“It’s a good thing. I get to shout out to my wife,” he says when asked if it’s OK that he'll be working on their anniversary. “Motown is the best and she loves all of these tunes. She helped put the setlist together.”
If you go
What: Symphony Rocks — "Motown to Memphis"
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15
Where: Bluestem Amphitheater, 801 50th Ave. S., Moorhead
Info: Tickets range from $10 to $65, and $5 for the pre-party; http://www.fmsymphony.org or 701-478-3676