Beauty and the Beat
Beauty and the Beat
Beauty and the Beat
INTERVIEW “BEAUTY & THE BEAT”
INCEPTION OF THE PROJECT
TARJA: The idea of performing live with a symphonic orchestra, choir and Mr. Terrana on drums was originally mine. Mike has done a recording with drums over classical pieces that I think it is great. I could imagine it on a stage with a real orchestra as a part of a bigger concept. I believe this kind of combination of instruments, particularly playing mainly classical music, is very unique. I have been making collaborations with orchestras before and I could foresee a great outcome.
MIKE: I had the idea to record a version of the “1812 overture” as a tribute for Cozy Powell about 4 years ago. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to record a whole CD of classical tunes, which become known as “Sinfonica”.
I had performed many solo shows across Europe and South America playing the classical pieces from “Sinfonica” and the people seemed to enjoy
the mixture of powerful rock drumming with classical music.
One day during a break from the road, Tarja and I were discussing our interests in classical music and opera and we decide to put together a show called “Beauty and the Beat”.
It seemed natural enough, because Tarja is very well known for playing classical concerts on her own; I however was new to the classical world and being a self taught rock drummer I was not sure how my drumming style would fit in with the orchestra. After we finalized the concept we decide that we needed to do a test show just to see if it would work live. Fast forward to Bulgaria 2011, we were booked to perform to a full house in a beautiful ancient amphitheater.
HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR THE FIRST SHOW?
MIKE: To prepare for this first show we did 2 days of rehearsal with the orchestra, which in the beginning was not so easy for me. This show was to be the model for all of the other shows on the Beauty and the Beat tour to follow so it was very important for us.
TARJA: I was training vocally hard during many weeks before the first show. I also took singing lessons with my vocal coach in Buenos Aires to make sure that I was in the correct track. I needed to find new clothes for this show as well, so I trusted the local Argentinean designers for it.
I sent the scores that I had for the orchestra and choir in advance, so they had the material in hand before the real rehearsals started in Plovdiv with Mike and me. The orchestra had been rehearsing the songs alone without the soloists for some weeks. When we arrived to Bulgaria, we had two days of rehearsals with them. It was very exciting for all! We realized during the rehearsals how demanding and challenging the actual program is, but we all enjoyed the challenge. I talked with the conductor all the tempo issues in each of the songs in advance and made sure that we were all in the same page.
TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF THE SHOW
TARJA: For me it is rather impossible to sing classical music with in ear monitors or a handheld microphone, because I want to hear my natural voice and also I want to have my hands free while singing. In these concerts I used two wedges where the monitor engineer mixed the instruments from the orchestra that were needed in order for me to hear the tuning and tempo properly. Also I had my voice with some reverb in the wedges. For the classical pieces I used a microphone that is designed for this type of performances, brand called Schoeps. It is a microphone that I am not holding in my hand nor it is very close to my mouth, but instead is on the stand more or less 30 cm away in front of me. A handheld microphone I used in the rock songs in order to get more definition in the voice. The volume of my voice is rather lower in those songs comparing to the classical pieces.
It was always a challenge in these concerts to get the monitor sound fixed in the sound checks, but that is what sound checks are designed for!
I had to plan carefully the set list and running order for these concerts. While we needed to keep the interest of our audience it wouldn’t get too difficult for me to sing. It is vocally very challenging to make the changes between classical pieces and rock ones. I was glad to have the chance to relax and concentrate into my following pieces at the backstage while Mike was performing his solo numbers.
MIKE: First of all acoustic drums are very loud, so I had to adapt my drum tuning and playing style for the dynamic level of the orchestra, this involved tuning my drums lower and using tape to dampen the toms and snare drum.
I also had to be very aware of my striking power when playing. You cannot play acoustic drums with the same intensity with an orchestra as you would with a rock band. This took some time and practice.
It was also technically complicated to get my in ear mix correct for this kind of project. All the instruments were mixed and then divided into sub groups that were sent to my mixer. Its very important to have a good musical and dynamic balance between all the orchestral instruments, otherwise you don't hear the piece in its correct form, making it difficult to play along.
All of these variables had to come together perfectly so that I was able to play and perform the pieces to the best of my abilities. A task easier said than done; however I have always enjoyed a good challenge and I enjoy playing all forms of music. I believe it’s important as artists to push ourselves into different areas in order to grow and to evolve.
I must say I learned a lot about music, myself and from the classical musicians and conductors involved with the Beauty and the Beat project. It was really interesting and fantastic experience and I hope to do it all again in the near future.
HOW WAS IT TO WORK WITH AN ORCHESTRA?
MIKE: Orchestras normally don't play in time the way rock or metal bands do. They are free in their interpretation of the pieces and they rely on the conductor for the correct tempo, dynamics, and intensity. The orchestras basically kind of swims in the time, not playing in perfect time like a metronome. This forced me to make a compromise. I had to take an average between my feeling for tempo and dynamics and the conductors’ feel. Please keep in mind that in a rock band you play with 3 or 4 other people, within the framework of an orchestra you are working with 80 people or more. It’s a lot of information to consider, so to work this way, you must have BIG EARS! I had to listen, watch and take my cues from the conductor. Normally in a rock band the drummer is the conductor. Again not being a classically trained musician I had to learn these things on the spot.
The conductor is the man who runs the show on stage and most of the conductors in the tour were kind and open mined to my concept of rock drumming mixed with the classical pieces. However initially there were a few moments of confusion, because of the shear volume of the drums. One of the biggest problems is that the pieces I play are famous and they don't need drums. They sound perfect without modern rock drums. So I think for many my interpretation of these pieces was a bit of a shock. Normally the second day of rehearsal was always better and we got to know each other and play together. At the end the conductors, orchestras, choirs and myself all had to adjust accordingly. Not all orchestras are equal: some are better; some have more or less experience. The conductor can also modify the performance of an orchestra. There were many variables involved that changed with every show we did, every show was uniquely different and challenging.
TARJA: I have been working with several orchestras before the “Beauty and The Beat” project, so for me performing with an orchestra or choir it was not a new experience. Anyway, every orchestra sounds and plays differently and every conductor works differently. It always takes some time to adapt to the change as a soloist and you have to be ready to direct people with things you need. This concept of having the drums playing together with an orchestra brought a new challenge for all of us, because of the tempo issue. We didn’t use any click tracks during the concert, so as usual there are differences in tempos because no orchestra plays like a drummer is used to. So many times we had difficulties in hearing each other properly or getting the tempo right even in the middle of the song, but we managed pretty well. The orchestra of Zlin really is a great orchestra and it was a pleasure to be their soloists for three nights for the video recordings.
LETS TALK ABOUT THE DVD RECORDING
TARJA: There is an extra tension around when you know that you are recording and filming the concert. It is funny, but there is no way that you could forget that and only concentrate in making the show as usual. Everybody in the crew, including me were nervous about the situation, but in a good way. Everybody wanted to make the very best out of it.
We didn’t have any camera rehearsals, so the filming crew really worked hard during the concert.
MIKE: We are very fortunate to be able to rehearsal and record the DVD in the Convention Center, a very beautiful new venue in Zlin Czech Republic. The orchestra and conductor were professional young open-minded people so we were off to a very good start. There were two days of rehearsal scheduled with the orchestra and choir before the taping of the DVD. We also added some new pieces to the show, among them a medley of Led Zeppelin, so it took some time to work out the transitions from song to song. All 3 shows were sold out and the 2nd show was recorded for the DVD. I was a bit nervous before the show even thought I have made many DVDs before, but never with an orchestra. I was also singing, which is also something I am not normally doing with the rock bands I play with. So I remember just sitting in the dressing room, alone and thinking: “you really going to do this”. And well… I did! It’s also not so easy to play drums wearing a suit and tie. Many jazz drummers in the past used to play in this style. Now that I have completed 15 shows playing drums in a suit I have a new found respect for them.
MIKE: After the DVD we embarked on 12 more shows in Russia, Czech Rep, Mexico, Lima Peru, Finland, Estonia, Romania and Poland. Of course when you travel you run into all kinds of different barriers: language, mentality, political, but in most cases the experiences of working in foreign countries and working with new artists is a pleasurable and rewarding experience. I think it’s an education you simply cannot buy. It is the real world experiences, which truly shape us into what we ultimately become. The Beauty and the Beat tour was very much unlike most of the rock n roll band tours I have experienced.
We were flying into the cities, and then driven to very nice hotels and we rehearsed in very nice comfortable conditions. The venues were also very beautiful theaters or concert halls. On a rock tour you drive in a bus directly after the show to the next show, but on a tour of this nature we were in each city for 3 days. So after rehearsal you can enjoy the city and relax a little bit before moving on. All of the orchestras and conductors were different, but all of them were brilliant in their on way so this kept things interesting.
TARJA: Touring with Beauty and The Beat was relaxed, but on the other hand also hard work. We traveled a lot between the cities and countries and always had two days of rehearsals with each orchestra before the concert. I had to keep on training my voice during this tour, since the program was a real challenge to me and I had to keep focus in my singing technique.
The rehearsal days were usually really long and meanwhile we were also doing promotion, interviews and signing sessions. So touring doesn’t only mean concerts.
In Romania unfortunately I got really sick and we needed to postpone the concert a couple of weeks even though we tried until the last minute to make the show as planned. It is very hard for me to keep myself healthy all the time and especially if I am performing classical music, there is no way for me to sing the program properly if I get something as mild as flu. During rock tours, I have sang several times while being sick without audience even realizing it, but classical concerts are different and require vocally more from me.
Otherwise the tour with Beauty and The Beat was really a wonderful experience. I learned enormously from working with different orchestras, choirs and conductors. Also the fact that we always performed in beautiful, big theatres or concert halls, made us feel happy that we could reach many people to listen to us.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAT PROJECT?
TARJA: Our main goal with these kinds of concerts is that the younger audience experiences the beauty and power of a symphonic orchestra and choir. Hopefully it will serve as an introduction to classical music for some of our fans.
MIKE: We hope that the release of the DVD will help to promote the concept of fusing rock and classical music together. It is really music for the masses and for all ages, so I think it should appeal to a very large part of the music listening population. We also hope to play many more concerts all over the world.
MIKE: Recording the Beauty and the Beat DVD was a great memory! We met a lot of nice people along the way and made many new friends in far away places. I love working with Tarja, it’s always a great pleasure. I would also like to thank her for the opportunity and for trusting me to play with her in this classical musical environment. I think of myself mainly as a rock drummer so I must say that this DVD has become a millstone in my career. I am very proud and honored to be a part of it and to have done something new, fresh and exciting.
TARJA: I have only great memories from this experience. I am very happy that we worked hard to make this DVD happen, because in the end it shows that it was worth it. The concert looks and sounds good and we all can be proud of it. I hope we can continue making people happy with music, same way as music makes us happy every day.