News > Champions of the Embassy

Added on 05-Apr-2009

The first time the members of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic rose on Friday night to acknowledge the applause of the crowd at the “Music of Queen” show, they looked sheepish.


Maybe a little peevish.

I found myself thinking, “Would it kill one of you to twirl your violin like a baton and, perhaps, light it on fire?”

But the musicians soon got into the spirit of things, while somehow restraining themselves from using their instruments as kindling.

And what a restless spirit that spirit of things was.

The late Freddie Mercury and his band Queen made music that combined glam and glitter rock with cabaret music, colossal studio-crafted choral elements, screaming synthesizers, and an unabashed internalization of the phrase “whatever is worth doing is worth overdoing.”

The best place to get a bead on Mercury, who died of complications from AIDS in 1991, is the Web site There you can read reviews of the band’s concerts written shortly after those concerts were performed.

One reviewer concluded about a show: “Outrageous, excessive and overblown? Well of course it was, and marvelously entertaining at that.”

So was the Philharmonic show, which was devised by a Berklee College of Music-trained composer named Brent Havens.

The marriage of rock and classical music wasn’t officiated by Havens, but he certainly has done a lot to make sure the union lasts.

Havens, who debuted the “Music of Queen” show at Embassy Theatre, has previously shepherded symphonic shows devoted to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and The Eagles around the country.

He told me by phone last week that he conducted a two-year survey at his shows and the results revealed that 90 percent of the attendees had never seen their local symphony perform before.

There were quite a few first-timers in the crowd Friday night.

Like Pat and Dick Crowl of Fort Wayne.

“I have been wanting to come to the Philharmonic,” Pat Crowl said. “I can’t remember the last time I have been in this building. I feel bad.”

Crowl said she has nothing against straight non-rocking classical music, only “it seems kind of long.”

And then there was the New Haven foursome of Dave and Sheryle Braaton and Tom and Janell Kline.

Sheryle Braaton said she’d been following her husband Dave around from rock show to rock show (including Queen at Memorial Coliseum in the early ’80s) for several decades.

“And she can’t remember most of them,” her friend, Janell Kline, said.

“Well, it was the ’70s,” Dave Braaton said.

So unfamiliar was Janell Kline with her surroundings and the night’s proceedings that she assumed the Queen tribute would be all instrumental.

When I told her there would be a lead vocalist, she said, “Phew.”

As a stand-in for Mercury, Las Vegas-native Brody Dolyniuk displayed enough of the master’s vocal chops to satisfy most skeptics in the audience.

Dolyniuk didn’t try to copy Mercury’s performing style, choosing instead to win the audience over with irony, self-deprecation, and Sin City-style ingratiation rather than high camp.

Dolyniuk exhorted the crowd to “yee ha,” “woo hoo,” and “woof woof” and it capitulated the way no classical music audience has for 150 years or so, when that sort of thing went on all the time.

Audience members yelled out requests (“We Will Rock You” was a fave) and tended to express their pleasure in howls.

At one point, a police officer had to bounce a cowboy-hatted man who tried to hand something to Dolyniuk.

Actually, at two points: The man returned and had to be rebounced.

The item he ultimately tossed onstage was a gold necklace with a cross on it, according to Dolyniuk.

This may have been a celebration of Dolyniuk’s talents or a lamentation of Mercury’s lifestyle.

The audience was generous with its standing ovations and this had to mean something special to the Philharmonic’s musicians, even though they weren’t exactly required to do any heavy lifting that night.

The perfect restraint of the typical classical music audience has to get a little tiresome after a while.

I walked away wishing not only that the orchestra would play more rock music in the future but also that classical music hasn’t jettisoned so much of its rowdy populism in the past.


Submitted by: Richard Orchard

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