The funky, syncopated scratch of an E9 guitar chord can make a guy do things, you know?
When Bobby Nicholas heard this particular chord Thursday afternoon on the stage of The Metropolitan Theatre, he did three equally funky, syncopated things in response.
The Morgantown entertainer grinned, froze himself in the stage lights – and sent forth a James Brown-inspired wail.
Then, he sang:
“ … There’s all kinds of music, everywhere you go
Some folks like it fast, and some like it slow
Some like it hot, some like it blue
Uh, some like it old, some like it new …”
His sister, Belinda Nicholas, who has been singing with her brother for as long as she can remember, added harmony.
And his son, Trevor Dion Nicholas, who regularly projects to the last row from Broadway to London’s West End, hit the chorus:
“ … I like soul, with a capital S
Soul, with a capital S
Sweet soul music, that’s the best …”
Said tune – a musical signature of the horn-driven juggernaut Tower of Power – is one of 20 the trio is performing on the stage of the Met tonight.
It’s all part of the “Generations 2021” concert Nicholas is staging in memory of his wife of 43 years, Doris, who died in January after a lengthy illness. The curtain goes up at 8 p.m. Visit www.generationsconcert.com for all the details.
The event is a fundraiser for the scholarship in her name for minority students in the WVU School of Social Work, where she took two degrees and served as a mentor for generations of undergraduates passing through.
Doris Nicholas also worked extensively in her field, making regular trips to her native Bermuda while earning a doctorate in education.
As her husband said, “She never stopped fighting for the little guy.”
Trevor Nicholas, who has gained international renown on Broadway and London’s West End for his roles as the Genie in “Aladdin” and George Washington in “Hamilton,” was a little guy when the idea of performing hit him like a Tower of Power bass line.
“My mom and dad loved the theater,” he said.
“We went to Pittsburgh all the time for the national touring shows. We’d go to Broadway, too.”
By the time he was in teens, Trevor who is now 38 and in the middle of another run of “Hamilton,” was a veteran, having trod the boards in several community theater productions here.
“I’m back in London in six days,” he said. That’s where he lives with his wife and two young children.
At first, his father tried to gently persuade him into pursuing something outside of the arts.
“He wasn’t being mean. He just knew how hard it was,” Trevor said.
While both parents stressed the importance of a college degree, it was Doris Nicholas who encouraged her son, he remembered.
“She said if I was that passionate about it, I should work hard and take the risk, so I’d know, one way or the other. That’s been my career path ever since.”
After his graduation from WVU, Trevor got a job singing and acting in productions at Walt Disney World. It didn’t long for success and top billings.
Like his dad, he said he was moved and amazed by his mother’s empathy and her capacity for social justice.
“She wanted people to succeed,” he said.
“She wanted to give them opportunities to succeed. That’s what her scholarship does. We get to build on something that’s going to outlast all of us.”
In the Nicholas family, music is the lasting thing.
“It’s a thrill being on the stage with my amazing brother and my amazing nephew,” Belinda said.
“And if we don’t get this right,” she added, with a laugh and a look up at the lights, “Doris is gonna let us know about it.”
Bobby Nicholas, meanwhile, kept laughing and looking over at Trevor.
While the father and son have performed together, tonight is their first full-on concert.
“Is my kid talented, or what?”
It’s in the genes, a visitor with a notebook ventured.
“Not my jeans,” the dad said. “My jeans have holes in ’em. And they’re saggy.”