Hooked on Classics
Louis Clark (b. 1947)
Louis Clark received his formal training at the Leeds College of Music, but quickly left the traditional field behind and took his talents to the “rock” genre. Some classical music devotees refer to this as “going over to the dark side”, a la Darth Vader. It was, however, a brilliant move both for himself personally and for popular music as a whole. He helped incorporate a much wider range of musical approaches into a field that had been dominated for years by “four-man bands”, who appealed most to those audiences who valued traditional music the least. He became the arranger and orchestra leader for the Electric Light Orchestra, one of the pioneering groups who brought orchestral sounds into their pop-rock style in the mid-seventies. He conducted the orchestra and voices behind ELO on their album Eldorado, and for a time played keyboards and synthesizer with the band on tour.
However, his greatest success was in the 1980’s when he conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in their three albums titled Hooked on Classics, all of which made the top of musical listings such as Billboard’s Top Albums. These albums brought classical music themes, recognizable to all, into a modern setting. Recorded to a continuous “disco” up-tempo beat (sometime interspersed with a gentler, but still continuous, pulsation that might be termed “soft rock”), the themes took on a new life and brought new attention to classical music. Audiences who would otherwise ignore Beethoven and Mozart found that they could “dance to the beat” and learned the melodies. Perhaps a few of these afterwards explored classical music further, and found some fascination there. It is for sure that they enjoyed the music itself, in this newly-created genre, and it retains its popularity to this very day.
Green Eggs and Ham
Rob Kapilow (b. 1952)
Robert Kapilow has built his career on bringing great music to new audiences. He has written compositions specifically to bring “serious” music to people who might otherwise listen only to “popular” music. He has composed music with a family theme, and music to commemorate famous places or public events. He seamlessly incorporates references to familiar classical music into his own works. He has even written a book about classical music, All You Need to Do Is Listen: The World of Music from the Inside Out, which delves into the world of serious music without being pedantic.
His widely acclaimed series of presentations “What Makes It Great” has brought an understanding of the inner workings of classical music to those who already know and love it, but don’t fully understand why. The series has run regularly for over fifteen years, and has drawn rave reviews from critics. The President of the Celebrity Series in Boston sums it up perfectly: “In my twenty years in this business I have never seen a more innovative musical program help open minds and change attitudes and perceptions about classical music.” High praise indeed!
Kapilow studied music at Yale (from which he graduated Phi Beta Kappa) and the Eastman School of Music, as well as privately with Nadia Boulanger. He later spent several years on the faculty of Yale University, where he was also the Music Director of the Yale Symphony Orchestra as well as Opera New England. He has conducted many major orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra and the National Symphony (not to mention more than 300 performance of the Tony-award winning musical Nine on the Broadway stage). His tireless efforts to bring serious music to new audiences, especially young ones, has earned him the nickname “the pied-piper of classical music.”
Green Eggs and Ham fits perfectly into his technique of bringing new audiences to classical music by presenting it in the context of something they already know. The famous Dr. Seuss children’s story (which, by the way presents the very adult theme of the irrationality of prejudice against anything unfamiliar) gives Kapilow a perfect vehicle for his mission. It presents “real” music to young people who don’t know it, and who perhaps “turn their nose up towards it” because of their preconceived notions. It has become a favorite in the world of children’s theater. The famous music critic Richard Dyer, of the Boston Globe, has called it “the most popular children’s piece since Peter and the Wolf.” As with so many of his other compositions, it makes reference to many familiar classical works, while entertaining both the young and the old(er) in its audiences.
Program Notes by C. Michael Kelly