“A Night of Symphonic Rock”.
There seems to be something oxymoronic about that phrase. After all, didn’t Chuck Berry, in that 1956 iconic anthem of Rock and Roll, issue the order, “Roll over Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news”? Parsing the lyrics (am I really parsing the lyrics of a 1950s rock song?), one doesn’t find any specific put-downs of classical music (for which I am grateful), but an infectious belief in the irresistible power of “these rhythm and blues.” Presumably, stodgy old Beethoven would roll over in his grave upon hearing the young lovers “reel and rock it”. From what I know about old Ludwig, I think he was probably right.
Certainly, generations of kids begged their parents to be released from forced servitude studying violin, clarinet and piano in favor of electric guitars and drums (I was one of them: my parents refused). But, as the Italian saying goes, La gira rota — the wheel turns. In Chuck Berry’s time, “long hair music” meant classical music. Those temperamental and dramatic violinists, pianists and conductors shook their long manes as they emoted and swayed on stage. Fast forward twenty years and it’s the rock musicians who are sporting the long hair (the same thing happened with the people known as red necks). Inevitably, some artists started looking beyond the electric guitar for sonic design, creating distinctive sounds like Motown, Philadelphia Soul, Disco, Psychedelic, Art Rock, Progressive Rock, and many others. My own personal, unscientific observation comes from watching up and coming new bands on late night TV shows: it’s not unusual to see bands backed up by string sections or even small orchestras.
To quote another rock song, this one by Danny and the Juniors, “Rock and roll is here to stay / It will never die / It was meant to be that way”. The song’s writer, David White, will turn 77 this year. Paul McCartney is 74, Mick Jagger is 73 (oh, by the way, that’s Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Mick Jagger — are you feeling old yet?). I won’t reveal the ages of our guest artists, John Elefante and Mickey Thomas (although Wikipedia will), but will point out that John’s band, Kansas, was formed in 1970 and Mickey joined Jefferson Starship in 1979. There is no doubt: Rock and roll — and rock and rollers — are ageing. With age comes maturity and mellowness, and an increased appreciation for “The Finer Things in Life”. Speaking as one to whom advancing age has conferred (ahem) both of those virtues, among others, I would most enthusiastically nominate Symphony Music for that distinction.
So why not “A Night of Symphonic Rock”? Symphonic music has a few centuries of experience under its belt. Maybe we can teach the new guys a thing or two!