Month: May 2016

21: Rock on Strings

I always liked songs with special arrangements. For example, rock versions of classical pieces, like Bouree by Jethro Tull:

Or, how about this (Hall of The Mountain King by Apocalyptica)?:

But today I’m in a more romantic mood and this takes me to songs with a (predominantly) string arrangement – songs that use only or mainly string instruments as their accompaniment. These songs have a beautiful, melodious sound and give a bit of a sense of classical romantic music. So here are some examples:

We start with the great Beatles. Here are three of their greatest hits, all with a beautiful string arrangement. You surely (should) know these songs. You have heard them a million times. If you haven’t, you must be very, very, very young and shame on you. But did you pay attention to the accompaniment? Here is your chance. Try to focus on the arrangement, rather than the lyrics:

First, Yesterday:

Next, Eleanor Rigby:

And finally, She’s Leaving Home:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYuNuzgGoYk

The eternal Beatles taught us everything in pop/rock. Even how to use string arrangements.

Now, we take this concept to the next level in scale. Not just a string quartet but a whole orchestra string section. The Israeli pop/rock singer Yehudit Ravitz with a powerful performance of End of the Story (סוף לסיפור). Again, pay attention to the accompaniment:

Wow.

There are many covers to Queen’s super song and super hit – Bohemian Rhapsody. I would never have believed it’s possible to render a good cover of this song using a string quartet, but I was proven wrong:

And last, we go to something minimalist and unique. A very unusual artist and unusual accompaniment. Joanna Newsom singing Leaving the City, accompanying herself with a harp:

Hmmm. So special. She reminds me a lot of Kate Bush.

So here we are. Rock/Pop songs with string arrangements. I’m sure there are many more beautiful examples. Can you share?

20: High School Musicals

No, this is not about the TV series. It’s about real musicals. On stage. With real performers. Young. High school kids.

I am not usually a big fan of musicals. Not sure why. I sometimes like a certain song from a musical, like Memory from Cats:

(and I cannot avoid but also include Barbra Streisand’s amazing version:)

Or Don’t cry for me Argentina from Evita:

But I never felt interest in musicals in general.

Well, when you have children, you get exposed, sometimes reluctantly, to things you didn’t have much interest in. When my daughter joined her high school drama class, Daddy had to go to the performances. Reluctantly. For me it was a double whammy. Not only I had to go watch a musical, but one performed by kids? That was going to be one of those sacrifices that parents do for their kids. OK, I’ll sacrifice a couple of hours of my precious time and make daughter happy.

So I sat down with the family to watch (Ahm… Nap…) Hairspray

Two hours later I sort of woke up from a lovely dream, pleasantly surprised and amazed. And it was not a nap. I had been wide awake. As far as could judge (not being a great expert in musicals), the show was actually really good! Those kids were as good as pros. And the entire production was very impressive. There where dozens of high school kid actors, a high school kid band, great costumes, impressive stage props, built and operated by, yes, high school kids. A real theater, with professional lighting, sound system – the works. These people take this stuff seriously! I could not see any difference in performance and production between the high school production and a commercial one. In fact, I think a high school accomplishment is that much more impressive: The cast is so young, inexperienced and not career actors (at least yet). All work is done by volunteers, who do it on their spare time because they have to spend most of their time being students. Money is usually very scarce. The production must be relatively big, to give all the students in the drama class an fair opportunity.

The following year, we went to see Urinetown

And then, Nice Work If You Can Get It:

These experiences made me realize the great potential, hidden in people so young of age. At high school age they already show us – the “old” people – what they can do and how far along they are on their way to adulthood. In many ways, they are already there. I called them high school kids. They are really high school adults.