The Music of Queen returns to the Schuster

By Allyson B. Crawford

Photo: Rachel Wooding performs The Music of Queen in 2012, back to the Schuster Center by popular demand April 29
For conductor Richard Sidwell, Queen wasn’t a favorite band or even one that was on his radar. Sure, he knew “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but he wasn’t actively researching the back catalog of Freddie Mercury and the guys. During his youth, Sidwell preferred Earth, Wind, & Fire and The Jacksons. Still, when the opportunity arose to arrange the music of Queen, he jumped at the chance.

“There’s so much going on with Queen’s music. It lends itself incredibly well to putting an orchestra on top,” Sidwell says. The conductor will travel from his native Britain to conduct The Music of Queen: A Rock & Symphonic Spectacular with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra at the Schuster Center on Saturday, April 29. This is the second time the show has come to Dayton—back by popular demand.

The Dayton Philharmonic last presented The Music of Queen to a sold-out audience in 2012 with Sidwell in the role of conductor. In addition to conducting both the 2012 and 2017 performances, Sidwell also completed all the arrangements. While he trained as a trumpet player and is an avid student of jazz and lover of funk, Sidwell says arranging came naturally to him.

“I did arrangements during college, and learning jazz, you get quite good harmonic knowledge. So really from there, it’s lovely sitting around, messing around with chords, and it’s something I feel quite comfortable with. I love doing it and it is very satisfying, writing and arranging and hearing it back, especially when it works,” he laughs.

Sidwell was first asked to arrange Queen’s music for the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England.

“When Bournemouth approached me originally, they sent me what someone else had done with Queen’s music. It was kind of a ‘classicalization’—making it classical and a lightweight version of Queen. It was not what I envisioned,” Sidwell explains. “My thought is it should be what Queen would play and put the orchestra on top. So it’s a rock band playing and an entire orchestra and lots of singers. It’s complex.”

Indeed, arranging music for a symphony to play over top of a rock band is complex, but Sidwell was up for the challenge. And Queen’s music is complex in the way most rock songs are not; the tracks are layered to the hilt and technically advanced, with a lot of opportunity for improvisation and building new songs out of the smallest ideas and movements.

While the Schuster stage will be filled with instrumentalists, it will also be packed with singers from the London musical We Will Rock You, a show based entirely on the music of Queen. Working with singers presents an entirely different set of challenges for an arranger and conductor like Sidwell.

“There are some parts of a show that you have to check with your performer that they are happy to do these things. The song ‘Innuendo’ has a flamenco guitar solo in the middle…Well, I had to check with our guitarist to make sure he was okay to perform it. It’s a very demanding section. With ‘The Show Must Go On,’ it’s a song for the singer you have to make sure they can do it. The end is very high.”

Over the past few years, Sidwell has toured the world, presenting rock fans with a new Queen experience. He encourages those who may not feel comfortable attending an orchestra performance to check out the show. There are new songs this time, and by the end he promises, “People will be up and dancing!”

“I wasn’t a Queen fan before I did this project, but I am now,” admits Sidwell, a little sheepishly. “I’m so appreciative of the depth of their songs. When you really start listening and digging inside, there’s a lot of stuff going on that’s not apparent. There are so many little brilliant lines you can pick out and run with and develop those ideas.”

 

The Music of Queen: A Rock & Symphonic Spectacular takes the stage Saturday, April 29 at the Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St. in downtown Dayton. Show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets range from $29-81. For tickets and more information, please visit DaytonPerformingArts.org or call Ticket Center Stage at 937.228.3630.

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About Allyson B. Crawford

View all posts by Allyson B. Crawford
Allyson B. Crawford
Allyson B. Crawford lives in Kettering and writes about ’80s metal bands on her daily blog bringbackglam.com. You can usually find her at all sorts of metal shows around Ohio and across the country. Allyson can be reached at AllysonCrawford@DaytonCityPaper.com

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