Behind the success of symphonic Led Zeppelin shows

Posted on: April 19, 2019

“Brett Havens’ idea of using a full-on orchestra to embellish a popular band’s tunes wasn’t just a big hit when he rolled out the concept in 1995 with his Zeppelin show, in which he’ll once again conduct the Houston Symphony this Friday,” writes Chris Gray in Wednesday’s (4/17) Houston Chronicle. “It helped spark a phenomenon. Nowadays, it’s not unusual for an orchestra of Houston’s caliber to slot in a handful of such ‘Music of …’ shows per season…. ‘Led Zeppelin is one of the great rock bands, part of a wave of musicians who thought about rock more ‘symphonically’ starting in the late ‘60s, so it makes sense for the symphony to want to tackle their music,” says John Mangum, the symphony’s executive director and CEO.… When [Havens] began arranging the band’s songs for orchestra, a fundamental question he had to tackle was how to address the band’s imposing gallery of riffs…. ‘I let the orchestra wail with ’em, and it just works,’ [says Havens]. ‘To have 60 musicians onstage playing those lines is incredibly powerful.’ … Havens says putting a rock band onstage with the orchestra is essential to producing a show that doesn’t come off as ‘Muzak-y’ or ‘cheesy.’ ”

Posted April 19, 2019

In photo: The South Bend Symphony Orchestra (Indiana) performs a “Music of Led Zeppelin” concert with Randy Jackson of the rock band Zebra and musicians from Windborne Music at the Morris Performing Arts Center, May 2017. Photo: Peter Ringenberg