Kool Kat of the Week: High and Loud: Tenor Rob Evan Helps Put the Classic into Classic Rock with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Posted on: May 8th, 2014 By:

Rob Evan. Photo courtesy of Ron Evan and ASO.

This week’s Kool Kat is Rob Evan, a Georgia native who’s teamed up with vocalists Micah Wilshire and Shem von Shroeck as The Rock Tenors. Hear them mash up the worlds of rock, country, Broadway and opera with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Fri. May 9 and Sat. May 10.  

As a vocalist and recording artist, Mr. Evan is a member of the platinum selling rock band, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He’s also rocked Broadway in the original Broadway cast of JEKYLL AND HYDE, playing the title roles for three years and over 600 performances. His credits also include one of our favorite leading roles, Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLESon Broadway and the critically acclaimed National Touring Company.

ATLRetro caught up with Rob to find out more about the Rock Tenors shows, TSO and more!

What’s the secret origin story behind the Rock Tenors?

The three of us were actually separated at birth and raised by different parents. We three were fed daily doses of Classic Rock and inspired by such greats as Freddie Mercury, Paul McCartney, Robert Plant and so on. The ultimate goal was to reunite us as grown men and form the super group, which is now known as THE ROCK TENORS! OK, most of that is NOT true and actually we were brought together by Maestro Michael Krajewski in Calgary about a year and a half ago. This monster was his brain-child.

You meld quite a diverse selection of music for the show. How did you decide on what musical acts and songs to include? Is there a specific criteria for a Rock Tenors song?

The three of us are very different in our vocal styles. Maestro chose material that he thought would highlight and feature what we excel in as vocalists. The criteria for our material, to me, is best described as HIGH and LOUD. All kidding aside, there is really something for everyone in this concert. I promise it’s not a scary “Rock” show. People are loving it both young and old(er).

Do the Rock Tenors always perform with a symphony? What will the ASO contribute?

Yes, this particular show is built for symphonies. To me – and I have performed with most of the major symphonies around the US as well as several internationally – the ASO is one of the best in the biz. They will add a great deal to our performance. It’s a blast to hear 60 pieces jam on your favorite Rock songs.

What’s your personal favorite part of the Rock Tenor performance?

Probably the Rock Tenor Medley we do at the end of the first act. Again, we are very different, BUT when we first sang together in harmony, we realized that it was going to be a great project to work on. The Rock Tenor Medley highlights tunes from The Beatles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Yes, Kansas and Journey. 

Has anything ever surprised you about what resonates with audiences?

I can’t say that much surprises me anymore because I’ve seen so many different reactions having performed for over 20 years. I am convinced though that the Classic Rock genre is slowly making it’s way into not only the symphony world but our everyday lives no matter what age you are. Remember that Mick Jagger is 70! And so are a lot of the Stones fans. 

You’ve been in so many exciting Broadway shows and tours. When you were growing up, what was one Broadway show or role that inspired you? And have you had a chance to perform it?

I have to say that the reason I am doing this for a living is because of LES MISERABLES. I actually saw it at The Fox the first time it came through Atlanta. I was taking my girlfriend out for what I thought was a romantic French dinner and then a French musical. I was blown away and became obsessed. And my full circle is that I played Jean Valjean on Broadway as well as at The Fox.

You did HELLO DOLLY with Madeline Kahn. What role did you play and what was it like to work with her?

Before I got cast in LES MIS and during the time I was still in Atlanta, I auditioned for work at Theater of the Stars. I was in the chorus. Madeline was so lovely and generous to the cast. She would actually do her classic lines for you if you asked, i.e. “I’m So Tired…” from BLAZING SADDLES. She is sorely missed. As well as Theater of the Stars. 

Do you have any exciting Trans-Siberian Orchestra news to share right now?

TSO has been my chance to be a real “rock star.” I have performed in front of millions over the past 10 years that I have been in the band. I also have gold and platinum records on my wall thanks to the band. We are gearing up for both a new album, which I have already laid down my vocals as well as a brand new Winter Tour that begins in November. 

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Photo credit: Jeff Rothman.

What else are you up to right now? What’s next?

I am the busiest I have been in a while. I do a great deal of symphony work in both the Broadway and Rock genres. I am also producing and creating concert projects. Some I am in, some I direct. My “baby” if you will is a show called ROCKTOPIA which should air next spring on PBS. I also have a progressive rock band called Menrva Realm and hope to tour that in Europe soon

Since you’re a Georgia native, is there something special when you get to perform in Atlanta and do you have a favorite thing that you plan to do while you’re here?

I LOVE Atlanta. I actually moved my family from NY to Alpharetta in 2008 hoping to stay. Unfortunately, the nature of my business brought us back to NY only a year and half later. All of my family is based in and around Atlanta and Georgia, so I will get to spend some time with them. They are all coming to see The Rock Tenors. And, I might hit The Varsity. Just sayin’…

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From Greenwich Village to Classic Chastain: Jonathan Beedle and AJ Swearingen Recreate the Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Posted on: Jun 2nd, 2013 By:

AJ Swearingen and Jonathan Beedle. Photo credit: David Leavett.

Musicians AJ Swearingen and Jonathan Beedle are bringing their unique tribute, Sounds of Simon & Garfunkel to Chastain Park Amphitheatre on Wed. June 5. The two musicians have earned a huge fan following on their own for their performances, often appearing alone on stage with an acoustic guitar recapturing the duo’s early years in Greenwich Village. However, this performance, part of the Classic Chastain series, will offer the extra special treat of hearing AJ’s warm baritone and Jonathan’s soaring tenor backed for part of the night by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, conducted by ASO Principal Pops Conductor Michael Krajewski.

ATLRetro caught up with Jonathan recently to find out more about how a chance meeting led to the creation of a memorable partnership that recaptures the magic of one of folk/acoustic rock’s most iconic partnerships.

ATLRetro: So it all started at a local club in Bethlehem, PA in 1991. What drew you both together and why Simon and Garfunkel personally?

Jonathan Beedle: I met AJ at a local club in Bethlehem, PA in 1991. He was doing a lot of tunes from the 70s and a few Paul Simon songs.  We started talking during a break and discovered we had a mutual interest in Simon and Garfunkel.  He invited me up to do a song with him, a Simon and Garfunkel song, and the blend was very nice right out of the gate… just effortless.  That’s how it all started.  Over the next few months we started to learn more of the songs, and before we knew it, we knew most of the S&G catalog.  We never planned on learning almost all of the material, but we enjoyed the music so much, it just happened.`

Did you grow up with Simon and Garfunkel? How did you first discover their music?

Yes, I grew up with their music. My older brother and sister had their records and the music was alway playing through the house… along with The Beatles and The Beach Boys. I loved the harmony parts – those parts I learned first. I don’t really know why, but that’s what interested me and that’s what I gravitated to.

You both concentrate on Simon and Garfunkel’s early years in Greenwich Village. Can you talk a little bit about what was special about that time and place and the duo’s early partnership/music? 

In our show without the symphony we try and deliver the music the way they did back in their Greenwich Village years – just one guitar and two voices. We love the sound striped down to it’s bare elements. The songs stand on their own. The words and the melodies are so powerful.

Jonathan Beedle and AJ Swearingen. Photo credit: David Leavitt.

Simon and Garfunkel are an acoustic duo, but you’ll be backed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. How does they change/enhance the performance?

It is a different presentation of the music. The records they recorded were fully produced. It’s a thrill for us! It adds such a wonderful dimension to the music, the arrangements are beautiful, and the musicianship is remarkable.  It’s an honor to be standing on stage performing this music with such amazing talent.  When Michael Krajewski approached us with this idea both AJ and I thought it was a wonderful idea.  And to be able to do it, it’s really quite incredible. I feel very fortunate to be part of it.

What is your favorite Simon & Garfunkel hit and also a song that’s less well-known but which you personally like? Why these songs?

My favorites are constantly changing.  It depends on the audience, how you feel; so many things happen while performing the song, it’s hard to have a true favorite. Both AJ and I love the… I don’t want to call them obscure because once you hear the song it’s something you recall.  AJ likes to call them songs you forgot you remembered!

But there are a few that we love to perform:  “Flower’s Never Bend with the Rainfall,” “Bleeker Street,” “Blues Run the Game,” the list goes on and on. Now, the set list for the Symphony is more of the hits, but there are so many!  “Homeward Bound,” “Dangling Conversation,” “Mrs Robinson,” “Sounds of Silence,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – it’s endless.

Do audiences have certain expectations and how do you change things up to keep performances fresh?

The shows always feel a little different each time we perform because the audiences are different. We do the hits, of course, but it’s the lesser remembered songs audience members seem to talk about. Many times people will tell us they remembered a song and could sing all the words. Yet it was a song that had been forgotten in their memory. It’s amazing how powerful and timeless the music of Simon and Garfunkel is.

Jonathan Beedle and AJ Swearingen. Photo credit: David Leavitt.

Do you have any special plans for this tour/your Atlanta performance?

We are here for such a short time, it will be difficult to venture out and see the sites. I am bringing my two daughters, Hannah and Chelsea, with me to see the show.  They haven’t seen the show with an orchestra so I’m really looking forward to getting their reaction.

To purchase tickets or for more information, click here.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Everything He Touches Turns To Excitement! Conductor Michael Krajewski on ASO’s BOND AND BEYOND Concert

Posted on: Mar 14th, 2012 By:

By Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

This Friday and Saturday the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra enters the shadowy world of spies and secret agents with the BOND AND BEYOND concert, celebrating the music of composer John Barry and the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond film, DR. NO. Principal Pops Conductor Michael Krajewski will lead the Orchestra in a variety of James Bond movie themes, including “From Russia with Love,” “You Only Live Twice,” and “Goldfinger.” The program will also include other spy and action movie favorites, such as “Sooner or Later” from DICK TRACY, the “Inspector Clouseau Theme” from THE PINK PANTHER, and “Soul Bossa Nova” from the AUSTIN POWERS films. Broadway vocalist and Tony Award-winner Debbie Gravitte will join the Orchestra for many of the evening’s musical selections.

A cultural icon of the 20th century, superspy James Bond is a plucky survivor that remains a favorite with today’s film audiences – the 23rd Bond film, SKYFALL, is currently in production at Pinewood Studios with Daniel Craig returning to the role, and is due for release in November.

The music from the films is no less iconic. Setting the tone with DR. NO in 1962, composer John Barry would go on to score twelve of the films as well as create the unforgettable James Bond theme. Though credited to Monty Norman, the arrangement by Barry is what has become synonymous with the character and musical shorthand for suave, retro cool. Later films feature music by David Arnold, Marvin Hamlisch, Sir Paul McCartney and even Sir George Martin, the “fifth Beatle.”

Micheal, Debbie and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will be giving all for Queen and country to thrill spies and femme fatales in attendance. ATLRetro recently interrogated Michael about the program and his connections to Bond… James Bond.

ATLRetro: The music of Bond is essentially the music of John Barry; what is Barry’s (who passed away in January 2011) ultimate impact on the landscape of film music, and how did his work influence you personally?

MK: John Barry seemed to have a knack for writing music that captured the grandeur and overall atmosphere of the film. The best examples are his work on DANCES WITH WOLVES, BORN FREE and OUT OF AFRICA. The Bond films are set in exotic locations and feature beautiful women and a suave, handsome hero. Barry’s sweeping descriptive music effectively supports the glamorous settings and characters.

Bond and Beyond features themes from other adventure films as well. Why not an all Bond program, and how did you decide what other pieces to include?

For the sake of an entertaining concert I chose to add some variety by including some well-known music influenced by the Bond movies, such as “Secret Agent Man,” “Soul Bossa Nova (the Austin Powers theme song) and the theme from MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.

Also, are there any Marvin Hamlisch pieces from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, or any of Sir George Martin’s work from LIVE AND LET DIE included?

The concert will include Marvin Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does It Better” and Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.”

“Goldfinger” is arguably the most well-known movie theme song of all time, and an enormous hit for Dame Shirley Bassey. What makes Debbie Gravitte the right vocalist to interpret it and the other theme songs included in BOND AND BEYOND?

Debbie Gravitte has a strong and compelling stage presence as well as a bold and commanding vocal style. She has a lot of dramatic experience due to her many years on Broadway, plus she has experience performing in concert with symphony orchestras. This made her the perfect choice for this program.

David Arnold composed the music for the last five Bond films, and was recommended for the job by John Barry. How do you feel his music compares to Barry’s work, and what differences do you find in performing it?

Just as the action and chase sequences seemed to intensify in the later films, so too did the music, courtesy of David Arnold.

Does BOND AND BEYOND feature deeper cuts from the films – for instance, the Little Nelly theme from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE – or possibly medleys that include a sampling of music from the films?

The concert includes a medley of action sequences from CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE.

The spy film craze ended around 1968. What makes James Bond such an unforgettable character, and how is he (and the music from the classic films) relevant to today’s audiences?

I think the James Bond movies have always provided the audience with a wonderful escape. The characters are larger than life and the settings and music are beautiful and exotic. The desire to escape to the world of James Bond for a few hours has probably gotten stronger as our lives have become noisier and more complicated.

If you could have any gadget from the films, which one would it be and why?

Michael Krajewski. Photo credit: Michael Tammaro.

I’d like the invisible car that Bond had in DIE ANOTHER DAY. I don’t think I need to explain the advantages of an invisible car!

BOND AND BEYOND takes place at Atlanta Symphony Hall, Memorial Arts Building, Woodruff Arts Center Friday, March 16, 2012, 8 p.m. and Saturday, March 17, 2012, 8 p.m.  All single tickets for the 2011–2012 season are available online at www.atlantasymphony.org, by calling (404) 733-5000 or at the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office, at 15th and Peachtree Streets. Black tie and vodka martini (shaken, not stirred) are optional. 

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ATLRetro’s Ultimate Stuck in the 20th Century New Year’s Eve Guide – Our Top Seven Picks for Partying Like It’s 1999

Posted on: Dec 28th, 2011 By:

OK, the New Year is about passing the torch and moving in the future, but at ATLRetro, we think you ought to be able to do that with vintage style. Here are our top seven picks for counting down 2011 and toasting 2012 while partying like it’s 1999 or earlier.

1. Disco ain’t dead. No decade knew how to get down like the 1970s and no DJ knows how to play that funky music than the Funk Godfather himself, Romeo Cologne. Plus since the venue is the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge, for extra points, wear a bit of blue velvet with your silver lame and have a David Lynchian flashback to the ‘80s. All night long; $6 cover 10-11 pm; $10 cover after 11 p.m.

 

 

2. Get back to the roots. The Variety Playhouse serves up a double portion of roots, rhythm & funky blues, rock and country with JJ Grey & Mofro and Honey Island Swamp Band. The former hail from Jacksonville, Fla., and are proudly influenced by classic soul heroes and other native Southern sounds. Founded by New Orleans musicians stuck in San Francisco after Hurricane Katrina, the latter play a Bayou Americana sound that is both their own and yet forged in the spirit of a heady blend of Little Feat, Taj Mahal, Earl King, Jerry Garcia, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and Jimmy Reed. Doors at 8 p.m., Show at 9 p.m.; $35-40.

3. Ring the Holiday Inn. Relive the glamour of a 1930s/1940s New Year’s Eve with Atlanta’s biggest band, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Michael Krajewski conducts an eclectic line-up of music ranging from Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” (Can-Can) to Gershwin, Berlin and Rodgers and Hammerstein.London and Broadway stage stars Joan Hess and Kirby Ward dance to the swing classics in a tribute to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. 8 p.m.; $30-$68.

 

4. Do the Monster Mash. Greet the New Year in ghoulish and goofy style with Professor Morte and the Silver Scream Spookshow gang at the Plaza Theatre. In addition to the antics of their always entertaining stage show, on the big screen is a rare special treat—MAD MONSTER PARTY (1967). This stop-motion puppet story was the only feature made by Rankin-Bass, the same folks that created RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER and so many beloved holiday specials, but features a cast of classic creatures such as Dracula, the Werewolf, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and more. Boris Karloff voices Baron von Frankenstein and Phyllis Diller is his creation’s Bride. Proceeds benefit Atlanta’s longest continuously running vintage art deco (and now nonprofit) cinema, which is currently up for sale. Let’s not let the Plaza become another lost landmark of Atlanta’s past. Evening show starts at 10 pm (tickets are $12), plus if you’ve got glamorous evening plans or don’t want the kids to stay up too late, there’s also an afternoon matinee at 1 pm (kids free; adults just $7).

 

5. Who Knows Where the Time Goes? It’s been three decades since Guadalcanal Diary formed in Marietta, but one of metro Atlanta’s top seminal alt-rock bands regrouped last summer at Athfest and Smith’s Olde Bar and tonight they are “Bringing It on Home to The Strand,” the art deco former movie palace in Marietta’s Square, along with special guests Flamingo Royale and the Dex Romweber Duo. If you missed our feature interview with lead singer/guitarist Murray Attaway last summer, catch up on your reading here. The all ages show has doors at 7 p.m.; tickets are $30 for concert only, $20 for after-midnight party only, and $45 for both show and party, with proceeds supporting fine and performing arts in City of Marietta Schools.

6. Lady Sings the Blues. Classic blues and jazz chanteuse Francine Reed brings her powerhouse vocals to Blind Willie’s with The Shadows and special guest Houserocker Johnson. $50 gets you party favors and champagne. Doors at 7 p.m.

 

 

7. Carry on, Way Downtown. Seventies superstar rockers Kansas headline Peach Drop 2012, the Southeast’s biggest NYE celebration at Underground Atlanta. Festivities test your stamina by starting at 11 am Dec. 31 with loads of family-friendly activities from carnival rides to photos with exotic birds, and running until 3 am on Jan. 1.There’s also a slew of other bands on two stages.  It’s free if you’re willing to brave the crowds and the likely chill of being outdoors.

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