Usually, it’s John Legend giving the performances. But this weekend, the Grammy Award winning singer and pianist was serenaded by a street performer in Boston before his concert at the Orpheum.
Legend visited Faneuil Hall with his family ahead of his Sunday night show at the Orpheum Theatre, stopping to listen to a local musician — who happened to in the midst of performing Legend’s hit “All of Me” for a small crowd.
What are the odds?
The performance was put on by local musician Radha Rao — her artist name is Radha — who was playing piano and singing as Legend walked up to listen. Once the song was over, members of the audience clapped and Radha said, “give it up for Mr. Legend… that’s a surprise.” Legend quickly went up to Radha to hug her and give her a tip.
Radha also wrote about the encounter on Instagram and said, “street performing @faneuilhall has given me some of the most spontaneous life experiences — grateful to have gotten the opportunity to sing for the incredible @johnlegend and his family today 🙏🏽”
“All of Me,” Radha said in a phone interview, is a typical part of her two-hour sets, and she is a longtime Legend fan.
“I really respect his art and his dedication, and, you know, the way he’s been able to move and impact others,” the 22-year-old said. “[I’ve] always loved ‘All of Me.’ Of course it’s not that recent of the song anymore, but I feel like it’s a timeless classic at this point.”
Radha, a recent Boston University alum, has performed a mix of covers and original songs at Faneuil Hall on the weekends regularly since August. Though she works at iZotope, a music technology company — she aspires someday to make performing her full-time job. The Globe spoke with Radha about the surprise celebrity meeting.
Q: Was anything about yesterday’s gig different?
A: Not at all. It was very much a typical Sunday gig. I was looking forward to the spontaneous and colorful experiences of the day, but had zero expectations, as usual. You never know what to expect at Faneuil Hall. There are so many different types of people that come up and interact with you, and it’s always such a fun experience. But I actually had no idea why [Legend] was in Boston.
Q: And you were playing “All of Me” when he approached you?
A: Yes. A lot of people tend to ask, “Did you play it because he was there?” And the answer is no. I was playing it, and then he happened to appear after I started the song, so it was quite a shocking experience. I didn’t really recognize that it was him at first. It looked quite like him, but he had a mask on. And then he took his mask off and his kids were there, and [Christy Teigen, his wife] was there.
Q: Did you need to collect yourself?
A: I was definitely stunned. But you know the artist in me has always made it a priority to continue the performance until completion and be present and enjoy the moment. So I just pushed through and I tried to enjoy it and have a beautiful moment. I was definitely nervous internally, but I didn’t want to stop or or lose confidence in any kind of way.
Q: What was it like seeing his reactions as you kept performing?
A: That was definitely very gratifying. He’s such a humble artist and it was nice to see him support local talent, so it meant a lot.
Q: Tell me about the post-song interaction.
A: He did come over and talk to me and tipped me and then gave me a hug and just expressed his sentiments about my voice and the performance and how grateful he was that I sang his song.
Q: How did you feel after that?
A: Definitely shocked. What are the odds that John Legend is in town, in the area you’re performing, as you’re singing his song? Beyond believable.
Allana J. Barefield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dana Gerber can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @danagerber6.