R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Find out what it means to Condi

Former US secretary of state hits the stage with Aretha Franklin

She never found harmony with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, nor did she make much music between Israel and the Palestinians, but pair Condoleezza Rice, the former American Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, with the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin and you will be surprised by the melodies they muster.

That was the reasoning behind the seeming madness of inviting the Democrat diva and the Republican diplomat to perform together on a concert stage. It happened on Tuesday night in Philadelphia, the 8,000-strong audience roared and money was made for a cause to which both are attached – exposing disadvantaged urban children to music and the arts.

"We decided to give it a try," Franklin, 68, said before the three-hour concert with the Philadelphia Concert Orchestra. "So here we are, in the city of Brotherly – and Sisterly – Love." Now a professor in California, Ms Rice began learning the piano at the age of three and her parents surely had music before partisan politics in mind when they chose her first name, which is derived from con dolcezza, an Italian instruction to opera singers to proceed "with sweetness".

She and Ms Franklin first met at a reception at the White House when George Bush was still the boss. "We were just talking and chatting," Ms Rice recalled. "She said 'You play, don't you?' And I said, 'Yes'. And she said we should do something together."

Early in the night, Ms Rice rehearsed some of her classical repertoire, notably performing a selection from Mozart's Piano Concerto No.20 in D Minor. But the more memorable moments came later when Ms Rice accompanied Franklin, a 20-time Grammy Award winner, as she belted out I Say a Little Prayer. "You didn't think she could play it, right?" Franklin joked before closing the show with My Country 'Tis of Thee.

Earlier, both women acknowledged that while they share a love of music, their differing politics would have to be set aside. "We do have some things in common, but I am a Democrat forever, let me be very clear about that, alright?" Ms Franklin wanted us to know. "Well, we're all Americans and President Obama is my president as well," Ms Rice offered.

It happens that both had fathers who were church ministers. But it was a shared passion for giving children the chance to learn music that bound them together in Philadelphia.

"Nothing makes me more unhappy than when I hear people talk about music education in the schools as extracurricular," Professor Rice noted.

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