He’s done rock. Pop. Jazz. Standards. Broadway. Opera. Holiday songs. Even Renaissance lute music, for God’s sake!
And just when it seems like Sting doesn’t have any other curve balls to throw our way, he’s found another one.
The multi-faceted former Police frontman comes this year with an orchestra, recreating his group and solo songs in symphonic arrangements both on stage and on his latest album, “Symphonicities.” And it’s not just the expected ballads and pop tunes — such as “Every Breath You Take,” “Fragile,” “Fields of Gold,” “Englishman in New York” — that are being “re-imagined” in this setting, but also trademark rockers like “Roxanne,” “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” and “Next to You.”
“I’m like a kid in a toy shop,” reports Sting, 58, who was born Gordon Sumner in England and was a school teacher before going full time into music and starting the Police in 1977. “I’m having the time of my life. I’m having so much fun. The arrangements are fun. The orchestra’s having fun. The conductor’s having fun, and I’m sure the audience will, too.
“It’s just basically going after the fun.”
Sting says he was led to the orchestral path in early 2009, when he was invited to perform with the Chicago Symphony at a benefit concert. “I’m curious and I always like a bit of a challenge,” he explains, “so I’m not daunted by it and I said, ‘Yeah.’ And it was very successful.” That led to another concert, this time with the Philadelphia Orchestra in January of this year, and by the time that was over, Sting says he began thinking, “Let’s see if we can take this a step further and take it on the road. It sounds very grand, but it came about.”Sting and Maestro Steven Mercurio of the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra picked more than three dozen of his Police and solo songs, which were subsequently “farmed out” to veteran arrangers such as Rob Mathes, Dave Hartley, Vince Mendoza and Michel Legrand, among others. “I’ve always said a good song will survive almost anything,” Sting explains, “and some of these things were ripped off wholesale from classical music, anyway” — citing specifically his Sergei Prokofiev-influenced 1985 single “Russians.”
Many of the arrangements have been “a total surprise,” he says, but they’ve caught a particular spirit Sting sought in them.
“One of my things was I didn’t want the orchestra just sitting behind me sawing whole notes on a pop ballad,” says Sting, who’s also accompanied by a core rock quartet during the our. “That is deadly boring to me and probably deadly boring to them and the audience. I wanted the orchestra to be a very important rhythmic element to the music, and so the music would be challenging them rhythmically, if not technically.
“My job,” he adds, “is to keep these songs alive. This is my life’s work, and I want to keep interested in it as long as I can — and keep the audience interested as well. This infuses new life into (the songs), new blood into them, new interpretation. Always throwing in some novelty and surprise is the key element, really.”
Sting — who also boasts an acting resume that includes both film and theater work — plans to record and film “some landmark shows” during the tour, possibly for future release. He’s also hoping the jaunt will “inspire” some new writing. But aside from declaring the Police essentially over after its 2007-2008 reunion tours — “I think we covered all the bases and we don’t need to do it again,” he explains — Sting won’t take a guess at what musical direction he’ll head in next.
“Well, you know, I never want to get painted into one corner,” he says. “I’m always trying to keep as many balls in the air as I can. I’m not going to end up just stuck with an orchestra; I think that would just be against my principles. I like exploring as many different areas as I can and keeping them alive.
“I don’t want to be exclusive about anything. I just want to keep doing everything.”
Sting and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra perform at 8 p.m. Friday, July 16, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $84.50 and $57, pavilion only. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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