These two articles originally appeared in the Plain Dealer daily newspaper, published in Cleveland, Ohio.
Live World Premiere For Doors Concerto
Roll Over Beethoven, and tell Jim Morrison the news.
by John Soeder
7 June 2001
Cleveland's Contemporary Youth Orchestra will put a classical spin on "Light
My Fire," "Hello, I Love You" and other classic-rock favor ites by the Doors
during a unique concert tomorrow night at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and
The ensemble of 85 high school students will perform selections from "Riders on the Storm: A Doors Con certo," arranged by Jaz Cole man. He'll be at the rock hall to introduce the piece. Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek will be on hand, too.
"This is so hip of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," said Manzarek. "Music, especially this kind of music, will take young people to places they haven't been. That's the im portant thing about music. It opens the doors of perception."
The performance, funded by a $25,000 grant from the Kulas Foundation, marks the world premiere of the Doors concerto in a live setting. It's also the first installment of what the rock hall hopes will be an annual series of collaborations that will match the Contemporary Youth Orchestra with other rock-related compositions.
"I'm very excited about it," said Coleman, due to arrive in Cleveland today from the Czech Republic, where he is the Prague Symphony Orchestra's composer in-residence.
"We're making history," he said. "The music of the Doors started out as antiestablishment, subversive music. Now it's moving from the subculture over to culture."
Coleman may be best known as a member of the post-punk band Killing Joke, although he's a classically trained pianist, violinist and vocalist, too.
Decca Records released a recording of "Riders on the Storm: A Doors Concerto"
last year, with Coleman conducting the Prague Symphony Orchestra. He also has
orchestrated material by the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.
"I believe in the future, classical music will draw from rock music to move forward," Coleman said.
He conceived of the Doors concerto as a tribute to those who died in the Vietnam War. In their memory, Coleman will ask for a moment of silence before tomorrow night's concert.
Manzarek, a classically trained pianist himself, said the Doors were "highly influenced" by Stravinsky, Debussy and other classical composers, as well as blues, flamenco, jazz and "good old American rock 'n' roll." The band was inducted into the rock hall in 1993.
The solos furnished by maverick violinist Nigel Kennedy on the album version of "Light My Fire: A Doors Concerto" will be handled at the rock hall by the Cleveland Orchestra's Mark Jackobs. Classical guitarists Jason Vieaux and Daniel Lippel will be featured on "Spanish Caravan." Manzarek plans to sit in, too, on "Light My Fire."
What would Doors frontman Morrison, who died in 1971, make of the concerto?
"Jim would love it," Manzarek said. "He was very intelligent, very sensitive and very artistic. . . . Morrison was a classical buff, too."
It's not much of a stretch from the Doors concerto to Bach, said Liza Grossman, conductor of the Contemporary Youth Orchestra.
"This is probably one of the most classical pieces we've ever done," she said. "For example, in Light My Fire,' there's a fugue section which is almost identical to the bowing style that would be required of a string section to play Bach."
As anyone who has heard "The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Plays the Music of Meat Loaf" can attest, classical music and rock 'n' roll don't always mix. But "Riders on the Storm: A Doors Concerto" is "a significant work," said concert producer Santina Protopapa, manager of education programs at the rock hall.
"It's orchestrated well," she said. "A lot of times, people will score popular music for orchestra and it's just no good. They just throw strings behind the melody."
The rock hall plans to make "Works for Orchestra by Rock Artists" an annual event, culminating with a concert every June. Future performances might feature material by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers who have dabbled in classical music, said Protopapa. "We'd like to have Billy Joel, Paul McCartney and a host of other artists here," she said.
The rock hall is on the right track, as far as Coleman is concerned.
"None of the people I grew up with listened to classical music," he said. "They listened to rock. Now those people are getting older and they want to listen to an orchestra. But they don't want to listen to Beethoven and Mozart. If you arrange these pieces of rock music with a lot of love, it resonates.
"I hope people are moved by this music. . . . I think it has greater relevance than going back 200 or 300 years to some dead composers. It has more meaning for me and for everybody else."
Youthful Event Mixes Rock, Classical
by Mark Satola
11 June 2001
Classical music and rock 'n' roll set aside their differences and found a way
to sing together Friday night at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, when
the Contemporary Youth Orchestra gave the world premiere of "Riders on the
Storm: The Doors Concerto."
Conducted by Liza Grossman and featuring the Cleveland Orchestra's Mark Jackobs as solo violinist, "Riders on the Storm" is not so much a concerto in the strict sense as it is a suite of eight movements. Each meditates in a fairly straightforward way on well-known songs by the 1960s West Coast rock band.
Composer Jaz Coleman also used the work as an opportunity to express his thoughts on the Vietnam war, pollution of the global ecosystem and political oppression of minorities.
Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek was on hand to help Coleman introduce the work. "What was once subversive music in the '60s, we're going to memorialize tonight as classical music," Coleman said.
Coleman is probably the ideal musician to realize that aim. A classically trained violinist and award-winning chorister in England, he was also the founder of the post-punk band Killing Joke. He is currently composer-in-residence with the Prague Symphony Orchestra and the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra.
From its opening bars, "Riders on the Storm" demonstrated Coleman's ability to effectively combine the classical and rock idioms. Drawing on elements of southeast Asian music (tuned percussion, pentatonic scales, raga-like glissandi) and to a lesser extent the English pastoral tradition, Coleman created a tuneful landscape in which the famous songs could grow according to classical modes of development.
Although Coleman's writing for the orchestra is accomplished and more than a little original, the movements were predictable. A listener quickly came to expect that there would be an evocative introduction, a statement of the song melody, a middle section of rhapsodic elaboration and a concluding restatement of the tune.
Nevertheless, there were effective moments, especially in the sixth movement, a lively treatment of "Light My Fire," with Manzarek sitting in at a Kurzweil electric piano. Here Coleman worked up some fine contrapuntal energy in the orchestra, which played so enthusiastically that Manzarek's pedestrian comping sounded fine.
Clocking in at a little over an hour, "Riders on the Storm" could have benefited from trimming. The third movement, "Spanish Caravan," is stylistically the odd man out in the piece and could have been eliminated. Its Granados-inspired strains were plainly jarring in the work's eastern-sound world. Local classical axemen Jason Vieaux and Dan Lippel were nevertheless splendid in their brief appearance there.
Violinist Jackobs performed heroically throughout, infusing the somewhat conventional solo part with conviction and passion.
The real stars of the evening were the youth of the Contemporary Youth Orchestra, who played the work with enthusiasm and a professionalism that belied their high school age. They responded with almost telepathic empathy to the clear and insightful leadership of conductor Grossman.
The concert was the first of a new series at the rock hall called "Works for Orchestra by Rock Artists," which is intended to encourage greater communication across the rock-classical divide. While the project is commendable, the rock hall should consider a better venue for its
presentations. Friday night, orchestra and audience were squeezed into one side of the lobby, with only enough seating for half the audience. The rest were forced to stand for the duration of the concert, which with remarks and stage-setting lasted an hour and a half.