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Canton sisters’ singing, serenity are charming audiences

Oladunni (left) and Olayeni Oladipo, at home in Canton. Oladunni (left) and Olayeni Oladipo, at home in Canton. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
By Meg Murphy
Globe Correspondent / November 17, 2011

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CANTON - Two modest schoolgirls living on a quiet cul-de-sac in this suburb are earning a reputation in the music world as gifted vocalists and kind of a big deal - even though they’d be the last to admit it.

On a recent afternoon, the pair known in musical circles around Boston as the Oladipo sisters - Oladunni, 12, and Olayeni, 10 - sat in shy silence at the dining room table in their family home. The girls displayed not a hint of excitement about their growing success - even as a key figure for the Boston Pops Orchestra has described them as “big talent.’’

“We both love music,’’ said Oladunni in a soft voice. “It is just a way to express yourself. I guess maybe it is a hiding place whenever you feel sad or happy. You can express that in a song.’’

Olayeni spoke in the same quiet manner. “I like that with music you can sing anytime and you can make something up about how you are feeling that day; instead of saying it out loud, you can sing it. That’s more powerful,’’ she said.

The sisters will sing at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston on Saturday as part of the Whittier Street Health Center’s annual international benefit concert hosted by Grammy award-winning gospel singer Bobby Jones. The girls will perform “Now I’m Free’’ and “Amen,’’ two original songs from their independent debut album, “The Mighty One,’’ released in May.

Although the musical sister act is a relatively new phenomenon, Oladunni is no stranger to critical acclaim. About four years ago, she successfully auditioned for a singing role at a Boston Pops concert.

“We loved her so much we kept bringing her back,’’ said Dennis Alves, director of artistic planning for the Boston Pops Orchestra. “She is an amazing talent and she has nerves of steel. She just walks right out on stage - it doesn’t matter if it is a crowd of 500,000 people - and sings her heart out. She is an enormous success every time she comes to Symphony Hall.’’

Alves says he is pleased that Olayeni, who recently performed a duet with her sister at a Pops concert, is following suit. “That family may end up with two big stars,’’ he said.

Since launching with the Pops, Oladunni has sung at Red Sox games at Fenway Park and Celtics matches at the TD Garden. She is also regularly invited to sing on Beacon Hill, said Senate President Therese Murray, who met the family a couple of years ago when Oladunni sang at a Boston Pops holiday concert.

“Everyone there was so impressed by her voice and presence. I was blown away. There she was, standing on stage in Symphony Hall - this tiny little thing with this big, booming voice. She lifts you up with her,’’ Murray said.

At home in Canton, the sisters are both students at the Park School in Brookline. Seventh-grader Oladunni plays soccer, basketball, and track and field. She loves to watch cooking shows and is considering a professional career as a chef. Olayeni, in fifth grade, plays field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse. She loves to sew and wants to be a fashion designer.

The girls prefer to keep quiet about their success - even their classmates are left in the dark. “We don’t really like to brag, so we don’t tell our classmates when we perform,’’ said Oladunni.

“I don’t think any of our school friends have seen us do a duet,’’ said Olayeni.

The girls hail from a family known in the community as generous and devoted to Christian values. Olarewaju Oladipo, a successful orthopedic surgeon, is involved with charitable activities, including work with the Whittier Street Health Center. He and his wife, Yemi, both from West Africa, have five children, all daughters.

“This is a musical family,’’ said Yemi Oladipo, who was executive producer for her daughters’ debut album, selecting tracks from more than 70 songs written by her two older daughters: Lami, 21, a senior at Harvard, and Olaitan, 19, a sophomore at Brown University. Even the youngest, Jubi, 6, played a role on the album; she sang backup vocals for a few songs.

“I’ve known the family for several years. I’ve watched the girls grow,’’ said Frederica Williams, president and CEO of the Whittier Street Health Center. “I admire their talent but also their humility and maturity.’’

The two sisters have been invited to sing in the high-profile benefit concert for a third time, said Williams, describing them as strong role models for youth in the African-American community: two successful young singers balancing a performance career without losing track of important things such as academics and family life.

“They are two respectful, humble, quiet young ladies. None of this success has gone to their heads. They are just sharing their talents with people. They know where their priorities lie,’’ she said.

Michele Adams, assistant artistic director for the Boston Children’s Chorus, agrees. She has worked with the sisters, members of the alto section, for the past couple of years. “There is no attitude with them,’’ said Adams, adding with affection that news of their accomplishments must be “pulled out of them.’’

“You’d never guess these kids sing at Celtics games or at Symphony Hall. They are very shy girls until they grab a microphone and this big voice comes out of them. But as soon as you start to talk to them, they revert back to being meek and modest girls. I think it is part of their being very grounded and religious. They do not act like superstars at all.’’

Meg Murphy can be reached at msmegmurphy@gmail.com.


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