By Grayson Ruhl
On March 28, the Sewanee community had the privilege of hearing Stewart Copeland and his fellow band members and musical prodigies play in Guerry Auditorium. Playing on stage with Copeland were the classically trained pianist Jon Kimura Parker, the renowned and stunning violinist Yoon Kwon, Judd Miller on the electronic valve instrument (EVI), and Marlon Martinez on the bass. Copeland specializes not only in contemporary rock music, but also in opera, ballet, world music, and chamber music. In “Off the Score,” he and his fellow musicians aim to combine revered classical elements and the improvisational aspects of rock and jazz. Copeland, Parker, and these other talented musicians fulfilled this goal of intersecting disparate styles of music with songs such as “Birds of Prey,” composed by Copeland, which offered a robust entry that demonstrated each member’s talent, as well as classical renditions, such as their exquisite interpretation of J.S. Bach’s “Sarabande.” All songs were instrumental, leaving opportunities for the band to improvise during certain songs, and it was difficult to decipher what was and wasn’t improvised because everything sounded polished. It is obvious that Copeland and his fellow band members live for creating more adventurous music, and they accomplished this goal with the “Off the Score” performance. While Copeland’s drum playing was invigorating and erratic, the other members had wide varieties of musical talent as well. For instance, the violinist, Kwon, played the sweet yet melancholy “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla and the wild fiddle tune “Who Let the Cat Out Last Night” by Paul Schoenfield back to back. These two pieces contrasted with each other greatly.
Each member of the band had one or more opportunities to play a solo, or at least were the focus of the performance at some point. During these solos, other members looked on in utter appreciation. Most evident of this was Miller’s EVI solo, which introduced the band’s interpretation of Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Music Professor Stephen Miller commented on the band’s talent, explaining, “Seeing Copeland on stage made it clear why the band was so successful. They’re all so innovative and talented.” The band members’ desire to branch out, combined with their talent and appreciation for classical artists such as Bach and Stravinsky, may have motivated them to play such diverse and innovative shows. To make their show even more exciting, they played two marvelous encores for the audience to conclude their amazing performance.