Saturday October 15, 2011
Rubber Soul and Revolver: Pointing the Past Toward the Future
by Brian Hay
The orchestra and the members of the Jeans 'n Classics ensemble were all in top form for this show. But then, this is some of the most pivotal music from the twentieth century. How could anyone serious about music have it any other way?
The string players of Orchestra London opened the 'Rubber Soul' set with a few tasty bars from 'I've Just Seen a Face' before the Jeans 'n Classics band kicked in and reminded the audience that this was a rock show. Once lead vocalists Neil Donell and David Blamires joined in the evening became a series of musical highlights that reminded everyone how special this material is. Conductor Jeff Christmas kept the two ensembles working hand in hand impeccably. The rhythm section of Mitch Tyler on bass, Todd Lafraniere on drums and D'Arcy Gray from Orchestra London on timpani laid down a rock solid platform for everything else to ride on. Gray and Lafraniere collaborated so smoothly it was often difficult to realize that both were playing. Tyler's work captured the feel of McCartney's classic bass lines flawlessly.
Peter Brennan's arrangements placed much of the onus on the orchestra. His arrangement for 'Eleanor Rigby' gave the string players from Orchestra London something to sink their teeth into. The one that he gave to 'Here, There and Everywhere' expanded greatly on the original and and allowed them to shine even more brightly. Oboists Jennifer Short and Martha Nickoli shone during their part of 'In My Life'. The brass players lit up the stage with their work on 'Got to Get You Into My Life. 'I'm Looking Through You' and on several other numbers. The trombones had a particularly and delightfully throaty growl throughout the evening. Ron George delivered deeply playing on the solo passages Brennan created for the French Horn in the arrangement of 'For No One'.
Incidentally, if I get any details wrong here it's because I was blown away and things are blurring. Just wanted to clarify that.
The guitar work by Peter Brennan and Nicholas Pattison was restrained and tasteful. With keyboardists John Regan and Don Paulton they underscored everything that was going on around them beautifully. Brennan's acoustic playing and Regan's piano contributions opened some of the numbers beautifully. Nicolas Pattison filled in the few solo bits he had impeccably. Don Paulton covered much of the sonic palette that George Harrison brought to the group's music when he began exploring eastern music. His work with the string players from the orchestra on the window that Brennan opened to 'Within You, Without You' during the performance of 'Yellow Submarine' was fabulous. The performance of that song stands as one of the high points in an evening of high points.
Not enough can be said about the singing in this show. Kathryn Rose, who's an exceptional artist in her own right, showed once again that she's a fine and incredibly disciplined backing singer. She delivered a ghost vocal to 'Here, There and Everywhere' that lent an ethereal effect to the work of the lead vocalists. Leah Salomaa, also a fabulous artist on her own, brought an additional layer of depth to the backup vocal when the ensemble entered the final verse of the piece. These two ladies did things like this several times throughout the show. Lead vocalists Neil Donell and David Blamires shared the stage more as collaborators than soloists. Many numbers were sung as duets. When a song was performed predominately by one the harmony work of the other was always in evidence. Saying they complimented each other beautifully is an understatement. These two men worked together worked together with a bond that could only be formed by the closest of musical soul-mates. Their solo work was impressive enough. Their harmony singing was some of the best I've ever heard, live or on record.
Peter Brennan and the musicians of Jeans 'n Classics are doing something that's likely to have enormous historic significance. (Of course, most of us won't be around to see it but what's a minor detail here and there?) The Jeans 'n Classics ensemble does tribute shows but they are not a tribute band that emulates the original performances. Their arrangements, mostly by Peter Brennan and often by Jeff Christmas, always pay homage to the original material but they often vary widely from it as well. Substituting the harpsichord with oboes for 'In My Life' is just one example of that. The best parts of the pop/rock catalogue, certainly the music played last night, will be part of the Classical repertoire some day. With the exceptional (and extremely versatile) musicians of Orchestra London and the stellar members of his own ensemble Brennan is paving the way for how it'll endure and providing a glimpse of how it may be presented at the same time. It's a hell of a gift for everyone.
All we have to do is look.
This show was performed at Centennial Hall in london Ontario on Friday October 15, 2011. It's being repeated on Saturday October 16, 2011. This article was written to convey a sense of what it was like to be there listening. As said earlier, it was so good the lines got blurred. And no, I wasn't smoking or drinking anything.
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Photo Courtesy of Jeans ' Classics