Dayton Philharmonic highlights New York’s favorite sons
By Leo DeLuca
Photo: [l to r] Jonathan Beedle and A.J. Swearingen present the music of Simon & Garfunkel with the DPO on Oct. 11 and 12; photo credit: Chelsea Beedle
The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance (DPAA) and Schuster Center present “The Sounds of Simon & Garfunkel” Friday, Oct. 11 and Saturday, Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. downtown. Accompanied by the Dayton Philharmonic, A.J. Swearingen (vocals, guitar) and Jonathan Beedle (vocals) will perform the songs of the widely celebrated New York duo, Simon & Garfunkel. The show is part of the philharmonic’s SuperPops series.
Simon & Garfunkel’s repertoire seems to fit nicely with the vision of the SuperPops series. In speaking with Dayton Philharmonic Conductor Neal Gittleman he noted, “Our working definition of the SuperPops series is ‘the orchestra playing music that the audience listened to when they were growing up.’ At one time, that meant Broadway, standards, and so on … it still means that for some of our listeners, but there’s a whole bunch of Baby Boomers who, like me, grew up with the Beatles, the (Rolling) Stones, (Frank) Zappa, and Simon & Garfunkel. Some of those (e.g – the Stones and Zappa) don’t quite work for the SuperPops (a little too loud, a little too out there), but S&G’s music certainly does work. Swearingen and Beedle do a really nice job of recreating the Paul and Artie era.”
Each season, the SuperPops series is carefully crafted, yielding an eclectic and exciting sequence of performances. “(The event) is part of an overall balanced set of SuperPops offerings. If you look at the whole series, we’ve got the ’60s this month and in April, a holiday celebration in December, an evening of music from Disney shows in January, salsa/jazz with Arturo Sandoval in February and Broadway with Human Race Theatre resident artists in May. That’s what I call a really nice SuperPops – it hits a lot of musical styles that people really like. That’s what pops is all about!”
Both A.J. Swearingen and Jonathan Beedle are very excited to perform in the Gem City. They took time to speak with Dayton City Paper about their first encounter, the material they will perform, and more.
How did you first meet?
Jonathan and I met in a small club in Bethlehem, Penn. A musician friend introduced us. In talking about music and influences, we discovered that we both loved Simon & Garfunkel. By the end of the night we were singing together. We discovered that we had a vocal blend of our own that was very reminiscent of the original. Over time, we accidentally learned all the material. We never intended on putting together an entire Simon & Garfunkel set. We just loved the music. – A.J. Swearingen
My friend Mike Stengel and I saw A.J. at a local club in Bethlehem. Mike and I played music together and he liked what A.J. was doing and wanted me to hear him. When I heard him sing, I knew many of the songs he was doing. As I was listening, I would softly sing harmony over what he was doing. I could tell our voices would blend pretty well together before we even officially met. – Jonathan Beedle
Have you ever received any feedback on your performances from Simon or Garfunkel themselves? Have you ever met the musicians?
No, we have never met either of them. We would hope they would see that it’s the love of their music and their talent we find most inspiring and we are doing our best to present their music in the most positive light. We don’t try to be them. We have a vocal blend that is similar, but it isn’t about us. Our goal is to honor the music they created. – JB
You are playing with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra on two nights. Will you perform different material each night?
We know almost all of their songs, and for our non-orchestra shows we do mix up the order, just a little. However, it’s pretty set doing the show with a symphony. So, to answer your question, we will not be doing different material each night. – JB
Anything else you would like to add about your show or the forthcoming performance?
We have been performing this show since the mid-’90s. Our success has slowly built from that point, but has really taken off in the last six years. We have been very fortunate to take this show all across the United States performing in opera houses and theaters. It’s an amazing feeling to stand on stage and perform these wonderful compositions with a symphony behind you. – AJS
It’s a thrill to be able to perform this incredible music with a symphony orchestra. It’s an amazing feeling every time we walk on stage and hear the beautiful sounds fill the theater and watch the expressions on peoples’ faces as they drink in the music. – JB
The Dayton Philharmonic SuperPops series presents “The Sounds of Simon & Garfunkel” Friday, Oct. 11 and Saturday, Oct. 12 at the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, 1 W. Second St. Concert begins at 8 p.m. For more information, including tickets, please visit daytonperformingarts.org.