Jeans 'n Classics joins MSO for tribute to The Eagles
If Eagles fans are looking for a band that dresses up and imitates the iconic American rock band, they will not find it onstage with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra at The Maryland Theatre.
But if they are looking for musically lush, fully realized arrangements of familiar Eagles’ songs, presented by a vocalist, a band and the symphony, they will find it at “The Best of the Eagles” at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 8, when the MSO teams up with featured guest artists Jeans ‘n Classics at the downtown Hagerstown theater.
Jeans ‘n Classics owner, arranger and guitarist Peter Brennan said he makes a distinction between his group’s combination of world class rock musicians combined symphony orchestras, and “the kind of acts that try to get lookalikes, people wearing wigs and all that.”
“‘Tribute act’ is usually used to describe the kind of things with all those guys wandering around pretending to be Elvis. That, we aren’t,” he said, during a phone call from London, Ontario.
“We got into doing this to combine rock music, popular music, R&B, with an orchestra. The whole thing was, ‘Let’s experience, sort of, this popular music within an orchestral context,” Brennan said.
Born in England, Brennan moved to Canada as a boy and spent a lot of time playing music in high school.
“I was a guy that, like so many other musicians out there, had absolutely hideous basement bands that my parents tolerated. Coming out of that, I studied at university. I was in love with the idea of all things musical,” he said.
While he held on to his passion for rock music, Brennan studied to become a music teacher. He began to do studio work, production and arrangement. And then one day, more than 20 years ago, someone from an orchestra in the Ontario area approached him about a project.
“They said, ‘Could you do an Elton John show for full orchestra?’ I blatantly lied and said, ‘Yes,’ having never done anything like that in my entire life,” Brennan said. “I had enough university training that I was able to flex both muscles. And lo and behold, it went over really, really well. Some years later, they asked me to write another one.”
That was the beginning of Jeans ‘n Classics. Now in its 21st season, the group has worked with more than 100 orchestras across North America and offers more than 50 different productions.
“We have created almost 1,000 original rock and pop orchestrations,” Brennan said. “We interpret a lot of different bands, with literally everything from James Taylor to Led Zeppelin.”
Other acts feature interpretation of the music of Michael Jackson, Queen, The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac. The group also does theme and concept shows like women in rock, James Bond, and a soulful night with “literally everything from James Brown to Pharrell Williams or OutKast.”
“We don’t disfigure the music like elevator music. We bring in a band. We have vocalists. But neither will the audience have to sit there trying to spot what song we are doing. We don’t take it into a sphere that is unrecognizable for people,” he said.
This will be the third time Jeans ‘n Classics has come to Hagerstown, Brennan said, noting that music director Elizabeth Schulze is “an absolute gem to work with.”
The music of The Eagles, he said, lends itself to strings, especially in songs with a country bend, like “Take It Easy.”
“There are stylistic fiddling figures for them to do. The more rock side is very guitar driven by definition and it’s easy to imagine and adapt, having strings do it along with the guitar player,” he said.
In addition to owning and doing orchestrations for Jeans ‘n Classics, Brennan will perform as one of two guitarists at the Best of The Eagles production.
“These are great songs that are so well-written with great hooks, great lyrics, great combinations, great vocal harmonies,” he said.
Michael Shotton will sing lead vocals. The first act will feature eight or nine well-known Eagles songs and solo work of its members, such as “Desperado,” and Don Henley hits “Boys of Summer” and “The End of the Innocence.”
“The second half, we do ‘Hotel California,’ which might be the Eagles most iconic album, in its entirety, needle down, needle up. It’s very cool. The audience gets to hear a classic album, only they get to hear it with a orchestra and it’s a very, very neat experience,” Brennan said. “To hear songs you know and say, ‘Oh look what the timpanist is doing, look what the brass is doing. That is our whole raison d’etre. We want to perform and have an audience experience a rock band with an orchestra very much front and center, not in the back as a secondary role.”