Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Q&A with Glen Burtnik

A Q&A with Glen Burtnik about Jersey Beatles Bash V coming to the State Theatre on Sat., July 23 at 8pm

Q: What can the audience expect to see different at this year’s Beatles Bash?

A: Enhanced orchestration. I pretty much know all Beatles albums by heart. And so before I carefully went over it, I originally—and absent mindedly—thought doing a note-for-note performance of Revolver could be fairly straight forward, executed by a simple ‘rock band’ (just bass, a few guitarists, pianos, and drums backing the vocals) as the Revolver album seemed to feature somewhat straight ahead, uncluttered arrangements.

But then I remembered “Eleanor Rigby”, the one and only song on the album with a string section. A song that’s a big fat landmark in the marriage of pop music and classical arranging. A masterpiece for sure.

Now, I love working with live strings and have grown fond of the group of players I’ve been working with—a quartet consisting of violinists Dana Marchioni, Linda Heffentrager, Taylor Hope and cellist James Celestino.

Upon informing them of my plans to tackle “Eleanor Rigby”, violinists Dana & Linda appealed to me that we go the distance with this important song and do it for real. To me, this would mean using the absolute correct orchestration (on the record, George Martin had arranged it for 8 strings: 4 violins, 2 violas, and 2 cellos).

Loving such enthusiasm, I took the bait, deciding to expand the string section by double. But upon going through the process of hiring eight classical string players to play for only one tune seemed an inefficient use of musicians (or kinda stupid, as we rock musicians would say).

Instead of missing an opportunity, since I’ll have all these cellists, violinists, and viola players hanging around backstage with nothing to play all evening except “Eleanor Rigby”, I figure let’s add some of the more orchestrated Beatles material to the show. It seemed a good idea to include other, more ambitious productions. The bigger, more classical & symphonic songs like “She’s Leaving Home”, “Yesterday” and “The Long And Winding Road,” “Across The Universe” as well as the wilder “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “All You Need Is Love,” “I Am The Walrus,” and “A Day In The Life.

Of course, once I got the ball rolling in such a direction, it behooved me to assemble a large horn section (featuring James Egan) and a 25 voice female choir. This music deserves 100% effort and the audience certainly deserves such as well. This event is as much a celebration as anything, and I’m planing to fill the State Theatre with the sound and passion of 40 musicians all joyfully performing this amazing music from the soundtrack of our lives.

Q: How was it different preparing for this with Revolver as opposed to other Beatles albums?

A: The Beatles began experimenting during the making of this 45-year-old album. George Harrison delved much deeper into his eastern influence with “Love You To,” a song featuring Indian instrumentation of sitar and tabla. Then there’s the beautiful French Horn of “For No One.”

And most importantly, there’s the avant gard “Tomorrow Never Knows”—an iconic breakthrough for rock music, featuring tape loops, and guitars played backwards.

Q: What is your favorite Revolver song?

A: Very difficult to say, as it’s such an interesting album. “Good Day Sunshine” makes me happy.

Q: How has Beatles Bash evolved over the years?

A: Each year the stakes are higher, at least in my mind. It is a self imposed task to try to recreate this classic music as meticulously as possible, and with each year I strive a little harder to get closer to this “holy grail” type journey. We, my fellow musicians and I, up the ante a bit each time—we get into more and more heated discussions about how each sound was produced. We’re truly music nerds about this material, and each brings their own knowledge and research to the table. There’s a sort of competition and because of this, the attention to detail grows each time.

I’ve been approaching each year as an Anniversary. In 2007 it had been 50 years since Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. 2008 was the 50th birthday of what’s known as The White Album, 2009 was the anniversary of Abbey Road’s release. Each year we performed those albums. And since last year it had been 50 years since Let It Be and 45 years since both Help! and Rubber Soul (both came out in ’65) we performed all three.

But here’s the real deal; as our musical drive and ambition for perfecting this great music has grown in intensity, so has the audience. The evenings have become a bit of a love fest—attended by both aficionados and music fans all sharing my passion for what is truly some of the most important, powerful and beautiful music ever made.

For tickets to Jersey Beatles Bash V with Glen Burtnik & Friends on July 23, 2011, visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/jersey_beatles_bash_v

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Springing" into the Music Industry

By Audrey Yeager, Marketing & PR Intern

When I was younger, I used to work as a camp counselor. I always found it interesting to ask children what they wanted to be when they grew up, mostly because the question elicited so many original (and occasionally comical) responses: an ice cream man, a rock star, a princess, a doctor, a teacher, a painter, an actor. I was amazed by the amount of responses I received that dealt with professions in the arts. Take a “rock star,” for instance. I know many teens that have followed their passions and started their own bands, practicing out of their garages and booking local gigs. I think it is fabulous that teens today are so involved with music.

I wonder if Rick Springfield knew how successful he was going to be when he formed his first band named “Icy Blues” in high school in 1964. At that time, he was 15 years old. Now seeing the sensation that Springfield has become in his career, it is easy to forget about the fact that he was once a kid too, starting off in music the same way thousands of rock star hopefuls do today. After all, it was only two years earlier, at age 13, that Springfield had received his first guitar as a birthday present. Nevertheless, Springfield’s talent for music was unquestionable. After leaving high school, everything began to fall into place. Pete Watson asked the young Springfield to join Rock House, and the emerging musician accepted. While with the band, which changed its name from Rock House to MPD, Ltd in 1968, Springfield got the opportunity to play gigs in Vietnam. After returning, Springfield formed his own band, Wickedy Wak, but then decided to join the Australian band Zoot in 1969. (Did you know Springfield was born in Australia?)

It was clear that Springfield’s musical career had taken off by the time he recorded and released “Speak to the Sky.” At this point in his life, Springfield had moved to the United States. “Speak to the Sky” was his debut single at age 22; it became a hit. We all know what happened from there: Springfield went on to write and record more and more music that topped the charts. Springfield has released 17 top 40 singles throughout his music career. In 1982, he won a Grammy for Best Male Vocal Performance for the song “Jessie’s Girl.” Other hits include “Affair of the Heart,” “Love Somebody,” and “Don’t Talk to Strangers.” Springfield also branched out into acting and appeared in General Hospital. He most recently made appearances on Californication and Hawaii Five-0.

See Rick Springfield live on Sunday, July 10 at 7pm.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

“Workin’ for a Livin'” - Huey Lewis and the News Had to Do It Too

By Alyssa Selvaggio, Marketing/PR Intern

With the way our economy is today, a day rarely goes by without someone talking about how hard it is to find a job and be successful. For Huey Lewis and the News, that topic of conversation is all too familiar. While they have sold over 20 million albums and had 19 top-ten Billboard hits in the past 30 years, the road to get there was definitely a bumpy ride.

Starting off as two rival bands in San Francisco, they put their differences aside to become one. They released their first self-titled LP record in 1980 and experienced little success. Their efforts to create a live sound by only doing two or three takes for each song did not turn out to be sensation they had hoped for. For their second album, Picture This, they learned from their first album and took their time making a cleaner sound. When this album was released in 1982, they had one hit song, “Do You Believe in Love,” which helped them become more popular, but they were not a big name yet.

Still determined to become superstars, Huey Lewis and the News quickly ran back to the studio to record their third album in 1983. Delays in debuting Sports because of record label issues left the band in a tough situation. They wanted to reach out to people with their music, but their album was stuck in the studio. The band decided that they needed to go on tour to get noticed by more than just Bay Area fans. They travelled around the country touring in small clubs and bars to get their name out to the public. As they were on tour, Sports was released and they got news that their album had climbed its way to the top of the Billboard charts. They had finally reached stardom.

From then on, Huey Lewis and the News only became more famous. With their humorous and memorable videos on MTV (remember them buried in the sand in If This Is It?), each of their singles shot to the top of the music scene. Having a career and doing well is not always easy. Huey Lewis and the News proved that sometimes even music stars have to spend their days “Workin’ for a Livin’.”

See Huey Lewis and the News live at the State Theatre on Tuesday, July 12.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Can't Help But Dance Along...

By Audrey Yeager, Marketing & PR Intern

As a classically trained ballet dancer, my friends laugh at me every time I bust a move to anything that isn’t Mozart or Tchaikovsky. But I can’t help but start dancing when I hear that ultimate feel-good party song that has undoubtedly ‘survived’ the decades. The hit is a staple at all karaoke nights, and is as much a symbol of female empowerment today as it was when it was first released in 1978. (And yes, I will admit to butchering the song at many a karaoke gathering with my friends and family—I wish that I could hold a tune!) Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” is doing more than surviving; this hit is here to stay.

This song is just one of the reasons why Gaynor is a disco music legend. The lyrics are about a woman letting go and moving on after getting out of a difficult relationship. Mixed with Gaynor’s extraordinary vocals, the toe-tapping pump-up disco beat, and its relatable theme, it’s no wonder how quickly “I Will Survive” came into the limelight.

Let us follow the song from when it was first introduced to its place amidst music today. After being released in October of 1978, “I Will Survive” became immediately popular. The song was first released on the “B”-side of a record. (Gasp! Remember the time when there weren’t CD’s or iPods?!) The “A”-side of records were usually the more popular ones, and were often heavily edited with changes to the song’s speed and pitch. Luckily, “I Will Survive” did not undergo many changes.

Only one year after its release, the song secured the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The next year, “I Will Survive” won a Grammy for Best Disco Recording. Since then, it has been recorded in over 20 languages. It is incredible to see how many famous music artists reproduced this hit. Among the singers that released covers of Gaynor’s song are Diana Ross, Cake, Gladys Knight, Chantay Savage, Shirley Bassey, and Selena. In 2000, "I Will Survive" was ranked Number 1 on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Dance Songs, beating out classics party hits such as “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge and Aretha Franklin’s “RESPECT.”

See Gloria Gaynor live with the Village People on Saturday, June 25 at 8pm.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

“Weird Al” Yankovic – Summer Tour Kick-off in New Brunswick

By Kayla Steinbach, PR & Marketing Intern

As a child I would carry around three different cassettes tapes with me everywhere I went. (You know…the primitive way of listening to music where songs were placed inside a plastic rectangle on a thin ribbon that would constantly get stuck inside and around any machine that would supposedly play your songs. You would then need to use your finger or a pencil to re-wind the tape hoping you wound it properly or at least didn’t rip the ribbon because then the tape was useless!) I carried a tape full of lullabies, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and “Weird Al” Yankovic’s The Food Album, with classics like “I love Rocky Road” (a satire on “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” made famous by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts) because I did, I loved rocky road ice cream. I preferred Al’s “Eat It” to Michael’s “Beat It” any day of the week. “Eat It” even earned Yankovic his first of three Grammy® Awards.

“Weird Al” Yankovic, is the undisputed king of pop culture parody. He has sold more comedy recordings than any artist in history, with six of his albums going gold (including my beloved The Food Album), eight going platinum, and Alapalooza going double platinum. His satirical twist on songs like Coolio's “Gangsta's Paradise” (“Amish Paradise”), and Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (“Smells Like Nirvana”) have made him a household name. Some of Al's other hits include “Gump,” “White and Nerdy,” “I'm Fat,” “I Lost on Jeopardy,” “Pretty Fly for a Rabbi,” “Like a Surgeon,” and “Bedrock Anthem.”

Al's live show is family-friendly with lots of surprises, costume changes, and all the antics you'd expect. I can’t wait to see him and sing along with all my favorite food inspired songs plus so many more! See you at the State Theatre on Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 8pm for a laugh-out-loud event that is sure to bring tears to your eyes!

For tickets and more information please visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/weird_al.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Get ready to Rock & Roll in July!

By Kayla Steinbach, PR & Marketing Intern

The month of July brings sunshine, pool parties, and Rock & Roll to New Brunswick. We have four rockin’ acts set between July 10-23 including four Grammy® Award-winners!

On Sunday, July 10 at 7pm come out to the State Theatre for Grammy® Award-winning singer/songwriter, Rick Springfield. He has had 17 top 40 singles, including the smash hits “Jessie's Girl,” “Don't Talk To Strangers,” “Affair of the Heart,” “Love Somebody,” “Celebrate Youth,” and “Rock of Life.” Springfield is also a TV actor starring in General Hospital and Californication.

Huey Lewis and the News are set to perform on Tuesday, July 12 at 8pm. For one night only, the Grammy® Award-winning band will pay tribute to Memphis soul with the Soulsville Tour including songs like “Respect Yourself” and “Got to Get You Off My Mind. But don’t worry, the band will also play all those classic Huey Lewis and the News songs you know and love— like smash-hits “The Power of Love,” “If This is It,” “Doing It All For My Baby,” “(Too) Hip to be Square,” “Workin’ For A Livin’,” and “Back In Time.”

That weekend on Saturday, July 16 at 8pm, Shawn Colvin & Loudon Wainwright III will take the stage. In her 19-year career, singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin, best known for her Top 10 hit “Sunny Came Home,” has won three Grammy® Awards and released eight albums. Grammy® Award-winning folk singer Loudon Wainwright III has recorded over 20 albums. His songs include “Dead Skunk,” “Needless to Say,” and “My Girl” with John Hiatt. Wainwright has also appeared on the TVshow M*A*S*H as the singing surgeon, Capt. Calvin Spaulding.

To close out the month, Glen Burtnik & Friends are back at the State Theatre on Saturday, July 23 at 8pm for their fifth annual Beatles Bash. Marking the 45th anniversary of Revolver, Glen and friends are to perform the Beatles album note-for-note! Songs include “Eleanor Rigby,” “Got to Get You into My Life,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “I Want to Tell You,” and “Taxman.”

For tickets and more information please visit www.StateTheatreNJ.org.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Awakening – One of the Best Musicals Out There

by Kelly Blithe, Director of Public Relations

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Spring Awakening on Broadway with the original cast, many of whom are now well known including Lea Michele, who is now in the TV show, Glee; and Johnny Gallagher Jr. who won a Tony® for his portrayal of Moritz, and went on to star in the Green Day musical American Idiot. Since that night, I have had nothing but admiration for this show. From its catchy tunes to the powerful messages within the storylines (some very obvious, others not as much), it has become one of my favorite musicals of the last 10 years. The story is something that many people can relate to, growing up and the pains that come with being a teenager—peer pressure, seeking your parents/friends approval, and the general feeling of just wanting to be accepted. The storylines combined with the music provide such a strong backbone for the actors that when they perform the song “The Bitch of Living,” everything just clicks right into place. And even though it has been a few years, this CD still makes regular appearances on my playlists (especially, “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” “The Song of Purple Summer,” and of course “The Bitch of Living”) and I can’t say that for every musical that comes out these days.

So, I look forward to seeing the national tour performance of Spring Awakening this Saturday, April 2 because as much as I love my soundtrack, nothing beats live theater, don’t you agree?

For tickets or more information on the April 2 performances of Spring Awakening, visit: http://www.statetheatrenj.org/spring_awakening