(Black Press file photo)

Symphony shows versatility with rock odyssey

Musicians play Otis Rush in the morning, Bryan Adams in the afternoon, Natalie Cole in the evening

Versatility was the catchword this weekend as the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra presented Orchestral Rock Odyssey, a collaboration with Gary Cable featuring the Gary Cable Project band and the Spectrum Singers choir.

It is no wonder that all three concerts were sold out from Penticton to Vernon: the evening was unforgettable, high-energy, and highly entertaining — well worth the ticket price.

The genesis of this concert illustrates Maestra Rosemary Thomson’s passion about reaching out to the community.

Eighteen months ago, Thomson approached local musical genius Gary Cable with a view to putting together a concert of “Rock’s greatest hits that would be, should be and could be performed with a symphony orchestra.”

READ ALSO: Okanagan Symphony Orchestra review: Madmen come to the Okanagan

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Cable, a versatile orchestrator and arranger, arranged a total of 21 classic songs with a careful and sensitive touch.

Versatile describes the musicians in the Gary Cable Project, a pop/rock band comprised of A-list session musicians.

Altogether, these exceptional players (several of whom live in the Okanagan) have a combined total of 340 years of experience playing in recording and live sessions.

These are musicians who must be able to transition from playing with Otis Rush in the morning, Bryan Adams in the afternoon and Natalie Cole in the evening.

The calibre of musicianship and in-depth understanding of the music was exceptional.

Their performance was tight, their vocals even tighter with the amazing ability to craft their voices to sound like the original artists.

Ever versatile herself, Thomson took the mic for a delightful rendition of With a Little Help from My Friends, which she sang while gesturing affectionately to the orchestra.

Also worth noting was Audrey Patterson’s sparkling trumpet solo in Procol Harum’s Conquistador as well as the tight ensemble of Katie Rife on xylophone and Christine Moore on flute in Toto’s Africa.

With a six-piece rock band, a 33-piece orchestra and a 36-voice choir, Thomson had her hands full.

And yet, Thomson proved her versatility by effortlessly conducting clean entries, accurate cues and managing to keep the music flowing seamlessly.

Kudos to sound technician Adam Smith who mixed 36 live microphones to produce a balanced and clean sound.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the evening was the jaw-dropping performance of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

This is a song that even Queen didn’t perform live because of its technical difficulty, and yet the Gary Cable Project musicians sang it in exquisite a capella harmony.

A devilishly challenging piece with wildly changing speeds, keys and styles, the performance was brilliant and brought the audience surging to its feet.

Ever gracious, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and the Gary Cable Project provided not one, but two encores.

The first was a pounding, gutsy rendition of We Will Rock You/We are the Champions.

The second, was All you Need is Love, in which the versatile OSO audience participated.

There is something quite wonderful about singing “love is all you really need” at the top of your lungs with 500 people, a live orchestra and a top-notch band.

All faces were wreathed in smiles as the audience filed out into the chill winter night.

A heads up that the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra’s next presentation will be their special 60th anniversary celebration taking place on Feb. 7, 8 and 9.

This gala concert will feature the world premiere of Penticton composer Ernst Schneider’s Second Piano Concerto, as well as a rousing performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

Get your tickets now!

Anita Perry is a music teacher from Summerland.

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