Posted by: facetothewind | April 6, 2013

Singing Queen at the Fox

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Singing backup in a rock band isn’t really something I ever imagined I would be doing but hey, I’ll try almost anything once. Last night at the historic Fox Theater in downtown Tucson, I sang with a very small part of the Tucson Symphony Chorus as backup for a rock performance of the music of Queen with a traveling band called Jeans ‘n Classics. (Is that the most aging baby boomer band name you’ve ever heard?) People in their 50’s and 60’s were clapping along and dancing in their seats to rock and roll music presented by a symphony orchestra. Soon retirement homes will be having Freddie Mercury look alike contests and Pink Floyd music night in wheelchairs at the rec hall. Lawrence Welk’s days are numbered.

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Super cute conductor Keitaro Harada during rehearsal.

Singing rock is, to say the least, a very different experience than classical. Classical music is highly, highly controlled and refined. We will work on a classical piece for months and months. Here we had 2 rehearsals. Classical is all about blending and the painfully precise sculpting of subtleties in a score. A classical conductor would never assemble a chorus that was as out of balance as ours was yesterday. We had a chorus of 13 with only 4 male singers. We had no real tenor. A bass was re-purposed to be our only tenor and so his voice was strained to reach high notes. I don’t have perfect pitch but am quite good at matching pitch on the fly, which is why I’m a decent ensemble singer but not a good acapella soloist. Last night my “pitch pipe” the guy you hear most clearly in the bass section was re-purposed to be a barritone. So I was kind of on my own to get pitches from the lead singer who I could not hear because all the amplification system was pointed at the audience and we’re in the back with a full orchestra and rock band between us. So, OK some parts of it were a train wreck that most people didn’t notice.

Here’s a little video from the rehearsal that gives you some idea of what it’s like rehearsing and of course, the beautiful Fox Theater interior…

And here’s a sound sample from my slightly bootlegged recording of the actual live performance. Hopefully no one in the musicians union will object because the quality is so amateur. Now if you listen to this, you’ll hear us singing Bohemian Rhapsody. You’ll hear the crowd go wild at the end which is always fun. During the song, audience members were waving their illuminated cell phones in the air which put a modern spin on the old days when you would strike your lighter and hold it over your head in a rock concert. Anyway, you’ll hear the standing ovation and then we start Fat Bottom Girls which starts out all wrong. We sang for 5 hours that day, this was the last song of the night and we couldn’t hear each other or the lead very well, our ears were pretty trashed from the wall of sound. So forgive that misfire. We got back on track in the 2nd start.

For me it was a special treat in spite of feeling understaffed and not fully prepared for this. The music of Queen is incomparable and enormously fun to sing and listen to. The conductor Keitaro Harada was delightfully cute and competent. Here’s a little documentary piece about this bright young conductor.

With classical music after a concert you feel great because you sang perfectly and by God you earned that applause. You feel triumphant and relieved that you didn’t sing a wrong note and you won’t catch hell from your conductor who doesn’t miss anything. You’re relieved to be done with those grueling rehearsals every night of the week with that conductor beating perfection into you. With rock, you feel good afterward because, well, because the music is designed to make you feel good. Whether or not you sang well, you sang (and so did everyone else in the audience). And if someone’s hearing aid went off or someone dropped their cane on the floor in the middle of the show, you surely didn’t hear it over the wailing guitars. When the standing ovation arrives, you may not exactly feel like you earned it but you know that it’s genuine…and you’re kind of sorry the rehearsals are over.

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Responses

  1. Fox Theatre may be another reason to fly to Tucson. I did not see a link to the video of the rehearsal, only a video of the conductor… I love Queen and would love to hear it being played! Thanks, Dianna

  2. Thank you so much for singing 🙂

    The situation and condition was not ideal, however I hope you enjoyed the experience! The crowd sure loved having you guys on stage. So thank you.

    Here is my recap of the TSO rocks series 🙂
    Enjoy
    http://kharada.com/tso-rocks-the-fox-season1/


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