Maryland Symphony Orchestra to present 'Classic Rock Meets Orchestra' one-night only

September 19, 2012|By KATE COLEMAN |
  • Peter Brennan founded Jeans N Classics, which will perform during the Saturday, Sept. 22, MSO concert.
Submitted photo

Does anybody really know what time it is?

Well, yes. 

Music Director Elizabeth Schulze and the Maryland Symphony Orchestra certainly do.

It is time  — 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22 — for "Classic Rock Meets Orchestra," the pops concert of the MSO's 31st season.

Instrumentalists and vocalists from the international touring group Jeans 'N Classics will join the orchestra to perform classic hits from three, classic, rock bands — Earth, Wind & Fire; Chicago; and Blood, Sweat & Tears. The legendary groups formed in 1967, 1968 and 1969 and brought unique versions of the new sound of horns and jazz to rock 'n' roll. They sold hundreds of millions of records and garnered many awards.

Peter Brennan founded Jeans 'N Classics and wears many hats in the organization.

"I play (guitar), I write, I orchestrate," he said in a recent phone interview from his home base in London, Ontario, Canada.

"It all started out with absolutely no plan that it would ever grow really beyond a few ideas."

About 17 or 18 years ago, Brennan had a request from an orchestra in London. He was known because he'd done a lot of studio arranging and production and had met various "orchestral-type" players.

"Do you think you could write a full orchestra show?" he was asked.

"I completely lied and said yes," Brennan admitted with a laugh. "I went by the seat of my pants, and it went very well."

It wasn't until 1996 or '97 that Brennan realized he was "going to have to jump into the deep end of the pool."

The water is fine: Jeans 'N Classics has grown into a veritable empire. There are about two dozen performers — featured vocalists, backup singers and band members. There are 45 shows in the company repertoire. They include music by Elton John, Billy Joel, Kiss, Queen, Beatles, Pink Floyd, ABBA, The Police, Sting, The Eagles, Michael Jackson, Motown and Led Zeppelin. One show is titled "It Came From the Jersey Shore" — not the reality show — and features tunes of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. Brennan plans to program some Lady Gaga songs in the future.

"I'm having a great time," he said.

Between now and June 2013, Jeans 'N Classics has 84 nights booked in Canada and the United States. Although they have a few weeknight gigs, the show-specific troupes fly out for performances on Thursdays or Fridays and return Sundays. The schedule allows everyone on the roster to do other musical things.

The Jeans 'N Classics troupe coming to The Maryland Theatre this weekend exemplifies this approach.

Gavin Hope has diverse experience in song, stage, film, and TV throughout his career. He has done musical theater, TV and radio jingles, received a Juno (Canadian Grammy) nomination for a single on his debut recording and was a member of a Juno-nominated a capella ensemble. He is now planning a second album.

Hope performs the Michael Jackson material in Jeans 'N Classics' show. "He does a passable moonwalk. I'd give him a seven on it," Brennan joked. "He can really dance. Outrageous stuff."

Wisconsin native Jean Meilleur has been with Jeans 'N Classics for 15 years. A prolific songwriter, Meilleur's vocal style has been described as "passionate, provocative and distinctive."

Paul Stevenson is a trumpet player who is "at home with both classical and jazz," according to his bio. He performed with Diana Krall and Aretha Franklin, with symphony orchestras and on more than 20 recordings. He holds a master's degree in performance from the University of Western Ontario, a degree in education from the University of Windsor and is an educator with the Thames Valley District School Board.

"Just for fun" and because he feels so lucky to have Stevenson with Jeans 'N Classics, Brennan has thrown Chuck Mangione's "Feels So Good" into this weekend's concert program. The MSO's concertmaster, Joanna Owen, also will be featured on the piece, Brennan said.

Stephanie Martin also is a versatile performer. Born in the U.S., the Toronto-based bilingual vocalist has done musical theatre and voiced several animated films and television series. Also a songwriter, Martin is preparing her second recording project.

Andrea Koziol is a Toronto-based singer and composer active on the folk and jazz festival circuit, according to bio information. She has recorded five solo albums and is a member of Lushus, an "all-girl" vocal ensemble. 

Peter Brennan and his troupe are looking forward to performing with the MSO.

"I learned long ago that orchestra players can play anything. It never ceases to humble us and amaze us as a rock band coming in, what they're capable of. It's so gratifying," he said.

"We are very pumped," he added. "It should be a blast."

If you go ...       

WHAT: "Classic Rock Meets Orchestra"

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $15 to $49 for adults; $8 to $25 for students; $5 for ages 12 and younger.

CONTACT: Tickets may be purchased at; in person at 30 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown; or by calling 301-797-4000. Tickets also will be available on the evening of the performance at The Maryland Theatre box office, which opens at 6:30 p.m. 

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