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HBSO to rock as no-one imagined possible

 How well can a symphony orchestra mimic a rock band? The answer will be clear on January 9 when HBSO mount their New Year Gala “Rock Symphony” concert.

How well can a symphony orchestra mimic a rock band? The answer will be clear on January 9 when HBSO mount their New Year Gala “Rock Symphony” concert.


Conductor Le Phi Phi - PHOTO: COURTESY OF HBSO

The range of items could hardly be wider. Queen open proceedings with Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are the Champions, each with soloist, choir and orchestra, plus Crazy Little Thing Called Love and We Will Rock You with choir and orchestra.

Then comes a Disco Hits Medley, followed by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Don’t Cry for me Argentina.

Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water follows, then Sting’s English Man in New York, both with orchestra only.

This may seem strange material for a classical orchestra, but more extraordinary things are to follow.

There’s Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (choir and orchestra) and the Bee Gees’ How Deep is Your Love (orchestra only). Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie’s We Are the World (choir and orchestra) follows.

Finally the Beatles make their inevitable appearance. But how extraordinary is the choice! It’s Twist and Shout, a very early song, performed by the HBSO orchestra and choir. Whatever in the world will that sound like?

But balance is restored with a Beatles Concerto, played by the orchestra only. Some of their more lyrical later numbers will presumably feature prominently here.

The whole compilation will be completed by Abba’s Waterloo and a Boney M Medley.

People have often talked about the desirability of cross-over events, linking classical music (sometimes perceived as elitist) and popular music. This HBSO event is a cross-over one in no uncertain measure.

All the items that will feature have their own particular histories. Pink Floyd’s Just Another Brick in the Wall, for instance, was originally sung by a collection of school children from London’s deprived East End. Their teachers were flattered by what was perceived as an honor, but little did they know the song their charges would be trained to sing started with the lines “We don’t need no education, We don’t need no thought control, No dark sarcasm in the classroom, Teachers leave them kids alone…” and so on, grammatical inaccuracies included. By the time they realized, it was too late.

The Beatles’ Twist and Shout wasn’t written by the Beatles at all. It was first recorded by The Top Notes, and is a rare example of the Beatles recording a “cover version” (a recording of a song written by someone else). It appeared on their first album, Please Please Me, in 1963, sung by John Lennon, who had such a bad sore throat at the time that they could only record one take.

The entire evening is to be conducted by Le Phi Phi, last seen in the HBSO events conducting the Bach alla Bach concert on August 9. What a difference there will be between these two occasions!

Tickets for the Rock Symphony concert are from VND650,000 to VND200,000, with a special concessionary rate of VND80,000 for students on production of a student card.

The concert is in the Saigon Opera House and begins at 8 p.m.



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