January 23, 2015

Head East and orchestra to “Rock the Symphony”

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra of Southern Illinois University Carbondale co-stars with classic rock band Head East, first at a Shryock Auditorium concert, and later, as part of “Rockin’ the Symphony,” a televised series of concerts. 

The “Rockin’ the Symphony” concert is at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 29. Head East plans to show a music video featuring their song “Prisoner,” written by Greg Manahan, prior to the concert. 

Rockin’ the Symphony is a 13-concert series featuring a symphony backing a musical artist prominent in the 1970s or 1980s. Each episode will include interviews and archival footage. 

“Not many bands get a chance to play with a symphony,” founding Head East member Roger Boyd said, explaining that he and the band jumped at the opportunity to participate in the concert series. “Our first show was at the (no longer in existence) Golden Gauntlet in Carbondale in 1969. So when John Campbell (the producer) asked us about possible symphony partners, I suggested SIU’s Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra. And Maestro Ed Benyas responded right away.” 

“Crossover concerts are common for professional orchestras, as they aim to reach a broader audience,” Edward Benyas, music director for the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra and professor of oboe and conducting in the School of Music, said. “It is important for our students and other orchestra members to participate in other musical genres as well. We’re excited to collaborate with a legendary rock band, and it is a great opportunity for the SISO to appear on a PBS television broadcast.” 

Boyd selected a dozen songs for the evening’s program, choosing the classic rock band’s biggest hits, mostly from their top album, “Flat as a Pancake,” which broke ‘The Billboard 200’ in 1975 to peak at 126, and newer songs that seemed compatible with symphonic collaboration. 

“We’ll do ‘Ticket Back to Georgia’ and a few more from ‘Flat as a Pancake,’ -- of course ‘Never Been Any Reason,’” Boyd said. “We’ll also do about three songs from our newest album ‘Raise a Little Hell.’” 

He noted the band is particularly eager to perform “Prisoner,” a song that refers to a Native American legend of a native man held prisoner by the memory of the elusive Deer Woman. 

Head East is one of two bands to represent the Midwest in the series. Boyd has a connection with SIU: after the heyday of Head East, he took a break from rock and roll to earn a doctoral degree from St. Louis University, and from there, he joined SIU Edwardsville as a faculty member in the Department of Social Work. Other band members include: Glen Bridger, Eddy Jones, Greg Manahan, and Darren Walker. 

SISO has been part of the cultural landscape of Southern Illinois for more than 100 years. The ensemble is the top orchestra at SIU and in the region, bringing together musicians from among faculty and students at SIU as well as community members devoted to music. 

Tickets are $20, and student tickets are $8. Tickets are available at the Shryock Auditorium and McLeod Theater box offices, by calling 618/453-6000, or online at SIU Special Event Ticketing.