The Florida Orchestra is bringing together rock and classical music again. Following popular concerts of music by Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin in the past two seasons, the orchestra is playing Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You, Who Wants to Live Forever and other hits by Queen on Friday at Mahaffey Theater. Brent Havens, 54, is the mastermind of the rock-classical crossover. He is founder of Windborne Music, which has six rock shows for which he wrote the orchestra arrangements and conducts. Friday's concert will feature 18 Queen songs, and Brody Dolyniuk will front a rock band and take on the Freddie Mercury vocals. Weekend had five questions for Havens.
1. You've done orchestrations of music by Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, the Eagles, the Doors, Queen and Michael Jackson. How does Queen's music compare?
For ease of orchestration, I'd say it's probably No. 1 because it's so harmonically rich. With the background vocals, the harmonic structure, it just lends itself to orchestras so well. It kind of wrote itself because the music is so fabulous. Bohemian Rhapsody is hugely symphonic. We Are the Champions works incredibly well.
2. How do heavy rock numbers work?
I think one of their heaviest tunes is Stone Cold Crazy, and we do that. It kicks the audience in the butt because it's a really up-tempo, wailing tune. The most difficult to orchestrate was probably Another One Bites the Dust, because there's not a lot for the orchestra to do. It's mainly a simple lick that's played a bunch of times. But it's fun because everybody knows the tune and Brody really gets the audience into it. Things that are that repetitive are the most difficult for me to do and make it interesting for the orchestra.
3. Are there any overlooked Queen gems that you include?
I like to dig deep into the catalog for diehard fans and find something you're not going to hear on most shows. One we do is My Melancholy Blues, from the News of the World album. It's basically Freddie at the piano playing this tune and singing. It's very jazz-oriented. It's like he's in a lounge. I orchestrated it similar to a Nelson Riddle arrangement with strings, low brass, some woodwinds and either a piano or trumpet solo in the middle of it. It's a beautiful little tune.
4. Any gaping holes in the program? Songs that fans miss?
We get that no matter what we do. We only have two, two-and-a-half hours with the orchestra. We always get asked, "Why don't you do Bicycle Race?" Well, we are going to do Bicycle Race eventually, but it's not in our current set list. We also get people asking about Seven Seas of Rhye and Love of My Life. We just haven't gotten to them yet.
5. Rank the frontmen. Mick Jagger, Freddie Mercury, Bono.
Wow, they're so different. For flamboyance, I would say, obviously, Freddie. Mick Jagger is certainly flamboyant, but it's a more in-your-face kind of performance. It's a heavier rock sound, too. Bono is a whole lot more refined in terms of his performances.