Indigo Girls are seldom mentioned in the same breath as Beethoven, Bach, Chopin in Mahler. But during the past decade, starting with a private collaboration with the Atlanta Ballet, the Georgia duo has added performances with symphony orchestra to its regular performing itinerary.
"We've played with (string) quartets and had scores for some of our songs for records before, but playing live with (an orchestra) is a totally different scene," says Amy Ray, 50, who began performing with Emily Saliers during 1985. "And it's good. it's a great experience, totally challenging musically and every other way. You have to be on your toes because it's all very big and there's a lot more moving pieces than when we do one of our regular shows.
"But it's good to have something that completely surprises you and that you have to work yourself up for. We enjoy the unexpected."
Ray says she and Saliers are also "getting better" at doing the orchestra shows. "The first few were pretty nerve-wracking," she acknowledges. "You've got to play pretty differently. You've got to be in time. You can't be spontaneous -- or you have to learn a different kind of spontaneity than what we usually do onstage. You have to get in the same mindset as (the orchestra musicians) to keep yourself from going over the cliff.
"Sometimes you can fee, like, an air that they're lowering themselves to do this with us -- and they are. It's not like they're playing some great classical piece. But they usually come around because our arrangements are quite good and they're very active, so it's not like we're asking the orchestra to be background music for us strumming and singing. I think they recognize and appreciate that."
Ray says she and Saliers are also gearing up to record a new album, with plans to hit the studio this fall for a 2015 release.