I have several theories/statements I treat as credos when it comes to music. I am absolutely convinced in the truth of a particular one that I also like to spread like wildfire when discussing music with people (happened recently hence the idea of this post was born). It is about orchestra/choirs elevating music of all genres in a mind-shattering way.
I firmly believe the orchestra incorporations help all kinds of artists reimagine their songs and bring them to the next spine-chilling level. Yes, of course, I have examples to prove it and I will present them to you so let’s explore this electrifying topic.
To make this post more presentable I decided to officially formulate my theory.
Adding an orchestra/choir to any type of music arrangement regardless of the genre/song/artist inevitably greatly enhances the power, emotions, and overall listening experience to the given song.
I have said it before – I am fascinated by the power of music and its ability to transmit emotions, send messages, and express feelings. I don’t have a clear memory of the very first time I encountered an orchestra/choir remaster of a song but regardless of when it happened I still see it as the most powerful and impactful way of experiencing music.
Taking two entities (a band/artist and an orchestra) and putting both of them radically out of their comfort zones leads to pure wonders. Boundaries are broken, limits removed, and creativity flows free to create a totally new experience. And when this phenomenon occurs genres become completely insignificant and meaningless. I have witnessed acoustic ballads, rock anthems, metalcore pieces, and hip-hop tracks take completely different forms when orchestras get involved and the results have always made me gasp in amazement.
Here is something truly magnificent!
I always get chills in my entire body and a very specific feeling in my guts – a mix of warmth, excitement, and anticipation when the orchestra starts playing and the other involved act drastically switches their usual form of delivery to a more emotional and heartfelt variation. It is hard to explain the feeling unless you have experienced it.
This is not a fitting example but The Manchester Orchestra have mastered the art to a new level and the feeling I mentioned above always appears when I play their live performances.
I am still fascinated by the overflow of emotions and the complex but beautiful soundscape environment created by adding an orchestra to any type of music. The whole atmosphere changes drastically and everything takes a more polished, clear, and powerful form – it feels like a song is reborn with a stronger determination to express its message.
It was probably Apocalyptica who was my first encounter with what wonders could be achieved by adding orchestral/classical elements into (specifically) heavy rock-based music
Without actively looking for it I gradually encountered all kinds of music merged with orchestras in the form of collaborations or one-time grandiose live shows. Every single time I was driven to a different dimension when immersing into a collaboration of such sort.
This guy + an orchestra is what I call an immersive musical experience
Since trying to explain the way this type of music makes me feel and my fascination with the art is futile I want to simply show you the four performances featuring an orchestral collaborator which have impressed me the most so far.
Bring Me The Horizon with the Parallax Orchestra (live at Royal Alber Hall)
Insane! The combination of electrifying hardcore drums and guitars with the gentle orchestra is out of this world
I am aware Bring Me The Horizon are appearing way too often in my posts. I have already expressed my utmost appreciation and respect for their stunning growth, experimentation, and boldness so I will save it this time.
Their live performance in Royal Albert Hall on the 22nd of April 2016 was and will stay in the history of music as a “special, special night” (quoting Tomas Doyle from Rock Sound). Bring Me The Horizon were joined by the Parallax Orchestra and choir conducted by Simon Dobson and featured PVRIS as a supporting act. This is already legendary but there is more.
The show was benefitting Teenage Cancer Trustand all proceeds from the tickets and sold copies of the incredible DVD were donated to the cause.
In regards to Oli’s relationship with cancer, also a piece that would be incredible with a live orchestra
The setlist of the show certainly made every Bring Me The Horizon fan happy as it included songs from different (and as we know, BMTH are unmatched when it comes to discography diversity) eras – That’s The Spirit (Doomed, True Friends, etc) power-tracks, Sempiternal (Empire, Can You Feel My Heart, etc) classics, and even There Is Hell… (It Never Ends) throwbacks that were not performed since 2014.
I am not exaggerating when I say I get chills at every song intro. The Parallax Orchestra and Simon Dobson’s direction have brought out the best of Bring Me The Horizon and I can confidently say this is their most unique performance (we are talking about a band excelling at live shows, just saying).
The blend of the band’s recent, more subtle material and earlier, heavy tracks was impressive in itself but the addition of the orchestra elements and choir parts made each song times more powerful and emotion-invoking. I am humbly jealous of the people who managed to see this in person – it truly is a once in a lifetime performance bringing the best of several worlds into a mind-shattering experience.
Hilltop Hoods with The Adeline Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Singer Choir: Drinking From The Sun, Walking Under Stars Restrung
Undeniably an equally powerful orchestral collaboration is one initiated by a group of Aussie hip-hop masters – Hilltop Hoods.
I love this band and everything they have ever done but the Drinking From The Sun, Walking Under Stars Restrung album is my favourite work of theirs to date.
A different type of collaboration, this one serves as a great support of my theory – hip-hop merges with orchestra and a choir to completely reimagine energetic and heartfelt verses breathing in new life and energy into them. It is simply beautiful and soul-touching and the only thing you can do is stare in awe while enjoying the chills.
Hilltop Hoods had collaborated with an orchestra in 2007 reimagining another great album – The Hard Road. However, this time the 32-piece Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (with composer Jamie Messager) is joined by the 20-piece Adelaide Chamber Singer Choir with conductor Hamish Mackenzie. This already sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
It gets better – this diverse group of amazing artists took two of Hilltop Hoods’ best album and created something overwhelmingly powerful and recharging. The energy and environment constructed by both the hip-hop legends and the orchestras are really out-of-this-world and I cannot recommend it enough.
Half Alive – In fluorescence
Half Alive is a band I see as filled with potential, power to touch hearts, and supreme sense of unison. I am in love with their catchy, dancy vibes and their well-executed choreography.
Their debut album Now, Not Yet is an absolute must hear and a great start of their bright presence in the music world. To make it even better the band took four of the best songs and reimagined them with an orchestra (with composer Miguel Atwood Ferguson).
The thing is Now, Not Yet is not just a very good debut album – it unveiled a world the band created and expressed themselves with. As they have stated in an Instagram post:
We wanted to reconstruct the music; exploring where it could bend & flow. “In florescence” means “in the process of flowering”, which we thought adequately described two themes we are very passionate about in our art- the surface level being these songs in particular, in their finding new ways to bloom. And second, on a deeper level, to every human being’s continual transformation and longing for The Beautiful; in both conscious & subconscious pursuit.
There is a sense of familiarity in In Florescence mixed in with a completely new environment and experience thanks to the addition of the orchestra and the creative retouches of the band and Miguel Ferguson. Once again we witness a great enhancement of emotions and messages but this time things go further and create a magical new world to explore. With just four songs, this is really an impressive feat.
Witness how the spell was cast in the supporting documentary
Fink Meets The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
I was quickly enchanted by Fink’ art – soothing sound and vocals with intimate yet relatable storytelling and genuine emotion – what is not to love? I didn’t dare to imagine this united with an orchestra but my introduction to the collaboration with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra showed me that no matter what I would have expected the result would pulverize me anyway.
The collaboration includes an interpretation of several classical pieces chosen by the band and an exclusive arrangement of six Fink songs with the help of Jules Buckley.
It is truly a phenomenal spectacle and what makes it different from my examples above is that it is not only a reimagined version of the (in this case) guest artist’s songs but a carefully selected blend of different pieces harmonized with the mutual efforts of everyone involved in the process.
I guess no words are necessary once you press play.
I cannot count the times I have listened to a song and said to myself “damn, this would be sick with an orchestra”. I am excited about all the artist/band x orchestra/choir collaboration I haven’t heard and the ones that are yet to happen. What I listed above is just a small teaser of all the magic happening in this type of joined effort.
Which are your favourites and what do you think about such crossovers? Let me know.
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