News & Press
Norton Center welcomes a unique pop-rock, genre-bending adaptation of “The Sound of Music” from the Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata
Sep 23, 2011
DANVILLE, KY— On Friday, September 23, 2011 Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts will present the Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata (BRO) performing a genre-bending music mix of rock, jazz, R&B and pop adapted from Rogers and Hammerstein’s internationally beloved work “The Sound of Music.” The concert is the live version of their new album, “The Hills Are Alive”.
Formed in 2009, BRO is a four piece instrumental group comprised of musicians who have spent far too much time together in rehearsal rooms, vans, studios, and airports as members of countless other musical projects. Their shared musical DNA includes shows and recordings with The East Village Opera Company, singer/songwriters Jane Siberry, Jonathan Brooke, and Dar Williams, and playing in the “pit” of the recent Broadway show “Spiderman.” For their debut project, they decided to reinterpret the songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.” To really make the music come alive, they hired a variety of guest vocalists – adding to the group an element that truly highlighted the group’s range and flexibility with muscial styles. “We wanted a platform to play whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted,” says Peter Kiesewalter, the group’s founder and leader.
The band name stems from three thoughts: Brooklyn – New York City’s most populous borough (population 2.5 million); Rundfunk – the transmission of artistic ideas through electromagnetic waves, or the German word for “broadcast”; and Orkestrata – a combination of “orkestra” (musical ensemble) and “strata” (layers of rock), or an ensemble that uses layers of rock as its musical foundation.
“Perhaps more than any other performance this season, BRO truly encapsulates the Norton Center theme ‘REImagine,’” remarked Steve Hoffman, the Norton Center’s Executive Director. “The group has taken something steeped in tradition and refashioned it, forcing us to realign our expectations and rediscover music we thought we knew in a completely unexpected way. My favorite song is their version of 'Do-Re-Mi' that they mash up with the Jackson 5’s 'ABC' – a blend that is cross-generational, cross-national, and just an all-around good time.”
Winner of the prestigious Canada Council for the Arts Award in 1997, Kiesewalter used his award money to relocate to New York City, where he quickly established himself as a musician, arranger, and producer of enormous range. His freelance work covers a wide spectrum – resident composer at ABC News Productions from 1999 to 2004, Music Director/Arranger of numerous awards shows (Directors Guild of America, Gotham Awards, FiFi Awards), and Arranger/Leader of the annual and widely loved “Downtown Messiah” concerts from the (former) Bottom Line Cabaret in downtown New York.
In 2004 he founded the East Village Opera Company, an ensemble that reimagines the classic Opera repertoire by combining orchestral and rock instrumentation. Signed by Decca, they recorded three albums, toured around the world, and were nominated for a Grammy® in 2008 for their release “Olde School.” Rock and classical fans and critics alike praised his ability to maintain the precarious balance between tradition and renewal.
After booking what was to be a one-night-only performance at NYC’s Highline Ballroom, Kiesewalter received a cease-and-desist letter from the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization, because he had not paid for the rights to perform or cover the original work. After sitting down with the organization’s executives, who were clearly impressed by his creativity, the group was granted permission to perform its tunes in their new style.
Ted Chapin, president of the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization was quoted in The New York Times in January, offering support and expressing his excitement over the group by saying: “The extraordinary thing about ‘The Sound of Music’ that’s different from many other musicals is that it’s a collection of songs that got into the culture, and people began making reference to, like, ‘My Favorite Things’ and ‘I Have Confidence’ and ‘So Long, Farewell.’ Even mainstream popular singers did covers of the songs. And yet for all of that, there’s been relatively little smart, written-out and well-scored experimentation.”
Until now, that is. Prior to the album release this past March, BRO had also been featured in The NY Post, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, the CBS Early Show, and the NY Daily News. In one interview, Kiesewalter warns those expecting a traditional remake, saying: "We aren't bringing sets; there aren't seven kids; there are no lederhosen. This is a rock band."
Joining Kiesewalter (who also plays the keyboard for the group) are: Jeff Lipstein on drums, who made his debut in the Blue Man Group and has performed with a host of other acts including violinist David Garrett; Richard Hammon on bass; Thad Debrock on guitar, who has performed with the Broadway show Spring Awakening, singer/songwriter Ari Hest, rapper Nelly, and the Jonas Brothers, among others; and vocalists Everett Bradley who performed and helped create the Tony®-nominated hit show Swing in addition to performing as percussionist and backup singer for the tours of Darryl Hall, Jon Bon Jovi, and Richie Sambora; Victoria Cave, best known for her backup vocals with the band Steely Dan; and Jamie Leonhart who has performed as a soloist at NYC’s Avery Fisher Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall and has been employed as both a voice actor and vocalist for television and radio in addition to working extensively as a background and session singer (Judy Kuhn, Paul Brill, Beatriz Acevedo, the Undisputed Heavyweights and more).
The Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata performance begins at 8:00 PM. Tickets, ranging from $28-$55, are on sale now and can be purchased on the web at NortonCenter.com or by calling the box office at 1-877-HIT-SHOW.
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