Elvis Presley was as much about spectacle as music, especially in the latter part of his career. However, don’t expect sequined jumpsuits and pompadour wigs when the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra presents “The King: Music of Elvis” at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Friday.
“The King,” which also features four veteran Broadway singers, does away with visual glitz and glamour to showcase the wealth of material from the Elvis Presley songbook.
“A lot of people are used to seeing Elvis impersonators, and we are not that,” said singer Scott Coulter, a graduate of the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. “We make it very clear from the beginning that we aren’t Elvis impersonators. We always say if Elvis can be so easily impersonated, then there was really nothing that special about him. We think he’s so unique it takes four of us to do what he could do.”
“Elvis could sing anything,” Coulter said. “There has never been anybody else like him. When you listen to some of his recordings, the range, depth and emotion you can hear is really incredible. And you know what? He did his own thing.”
This program, the third in the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance’s Summer in the City Music Festival, runs the gamut from early hits such as “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Hound Dog” to later favorites, including “Burning Love” and “My Way.”
“Elvis bridged a big time span of modern music,” Coulter said. “He was (there at the dawn of) rock ’n’ roll, but he went on to have a career for (many) more years. His sound changed with the times, and so did the music he presented. This show is set up to show not just the evolution of Elvis but the evolution of pop music in general.”
Coulter, a Tennessee native, will be joined by singers Johnny Rodgers, Brian Wilson and Lee Lessack. He says having a quartet of singers is the key to capturing the full sound of Presley and his backing vocalists.
“Most of his songs in the ’50s and early ’60s were recorded with The Jordanaires, who were his backup singers,” Coulter said. “He took them everywhere, so a lot of those early records are really in four-part harmonies. The backup vocals are such an important part of his sound, and that’s where having multiple singers really comes into play. We all sing on every number except for two, so it’s very vocally thrilling.”
Singers Sheena Easton and Sam Harris will join the DPO for the final Summer in the City concert on July 31.
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