THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
29th May, 2014 0
Although they possess enough exquisitely detailed vocal and instrumental ability to become a regionalized musical franchise in the vein of such legendary groups as The Eagles and Crosby Stills & Nash (whose work they have deftly re-enacted in the past and meticulous attention to detail they commonly share) the musical collective known as Grefe, Gaus & Grefe are undoubtedly selective and discerning about the projects they pursue.
Now, after a two-year hiatus, the extended musical family of Tim Grefe, Tamara Grefe, and Stephan Gaus have assembled together once again to fashion together another impeccably crafted Benefit Concert for The Saginaw Choral Society that will be happening at Bay City’s State Theatre on Friday & Saturday, June 13-14th at 8:00 PM.
Joined by guitarist Domingo Vasquez, bassist & instrumentalist extraordinaire Ryan Fitzgerald, drummer/keyboardist Loren Kranz, multi-talented instrumentalist & arranger Jeff Hall, and Drew Parent, for this latest outing the group will be constructing an ambitious and meticulously crafted performance of material written by such legendary artists as The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Barenaked Ladies, Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor, Fun, Matt Wertz, Mumford & Sons, Phillip Phillips, Simon & Garfunkel, Steely Dan and Styx, to name but a few.
Beginning their latest project six months ago, the group have dedicated countless hours mapping the complex and tricky musical textures that are involved with paying homage to the works and materials of some of the most talented vocal groups of our time in what amounts to a selective and encyclopedic sampling of the most divergent vocal groups populating the upper echelon of the musical charts over the last several decades; and in each of their performances audiences are treated to faithful letter-perfect renditions of polished musical perfection.
Two years ago the group had declared a curtain call on these annual performances, noting they had reached the musical goals they had set to achieve and would be taking an extended breather from the rigors of molding new material to the high standards they set for themselves; but as Gaus explains, “The Saginaw Choral Society still needs money to maintain itself as a viable arts organization, all our performances have been successful demonstrated that this event is a proven fundraiser, so these are the main reasons that I wanted to get involved again.”
“There is a tremendous amount of work involved constructing these performances,” notes Tim. Last Sunday our rehearsal lasted 7 hours, but it’s difficult to find a better batch of people to work with, plus I’m incredibly impressed with the talent of the newer young musicians that we’ve enlisted to join us on our latest outing.”
An added challenge this year is the fact that two years ago when they last convened, group members such as Ryan Fitzgerald weren’t as sought after as they currently are, so it was easier for the group to block out practice sessions. “But Ryan plays eight days a week now, go it can get a little complicated in terms of scheduling,” adds Grefe.
“These songs are complex which involves more rehearsal time,” explains Tammy. “We don’t wish to waste precious time with the musicians involved in the group, so half of the time we spend together is devoted to vocal rehearsals and figuring out the harmonies, which we do acapella so as not to waste band time.”
This in itself can be a challenge. Notes Tim: “I can’t read music but do have a set of solid ears, whereas Tammy and Jeff are experts at transcribing charts. It’s amazing to me when figuring out some of these songs that a note can be hanging out there like a ripe fruit and nobody can hear it. They’ll go into their little cubby holes and discover the note and it will show up later and no one will say anything. I call this the syndrome ‘The Case of the Missing Note’,” laughs Tim. Adds Stephan: “The nice part of our vocal rehearsals is how we all agree exactly on what notes are being sung.”
Another signature component of Grefe, Gaus & Grefe is the thematic approach they take with each of their concert performances to organize the material around. “This year we’ve decided to go with the theme: ‘Everything’s All Right Tonight’, which is the basic plan incorporated to organize this potpourri of material,” explains Tammy.
“Every song is based upon the fact that everything is ‘okay’,” elaborates Tim. “Regardless of the trials & tribulations of life – the hard winter, the chilly spring, the economy, politics, whatever worries you – tonight everything is okay. These are not necessarily all songs of inspiration, but thematically they are tied together with that sentiment.”
“The first tune we’ll perform is a Huey Lewis tune – They Say It’s Alright’,” continues Gaus, “and then we move to Everything’s All Right Tonight’, so we get that theme hooked into the audience’s mind right in the beginning. We start in the early 60’s with The Beatles and The Beach Boys and then move to Paul Simon and go to Mumford and Sons and more current stuff, so basically we are covering 50 years of music.”
“Several things spark my interest about this group,” reflects Tim, “but for me the highpoints are watching veteran pros like Jeff Hall working with younger pros like Ryan Fitzgerald. We’re doing this very difficult song by Barenaked Ladies and Ryan plays the acoustic bass perfectly – it’s a pleasure to watch him perform. On another song we were running into instrumentation issues, so Ryan said he would bring in a looping bass mechanism for his bass so he could play the other part. Then we’ll say, ‘We need a Hammond B3 and he will say, ‘I’ve got one of those’. Or we’ll need a Theremin on one of the Beach Boys tunes and he’ll say, ‘I’ve got one of those.’ Need an extra saxophone? Ryan has it covered.”
Another huge challenge for this year’s re-alignment was securing a guitarist that could commit to the rigorous rehearsal schedule. “Domingo Vasquez is our second fifth guitar player and one of the area’s best kept secrets,” states Tim. “He is immensely talented and we are fortunate to have him on-board. Our son Andrew got promoted with a new job, guitarist Carter Roberts also wasn’t available due to his job and personal commitments, then we got Jim Pagel on-board who was fantastic, but looked at the material and couldn’t handle the time commitment, so he referred us to Eric Netkowski out of Midland, who also got promoted with his job and will be in New York City on the weekend of our performances, so we are very fortunate to have Domingo. Without him this wouldn’t be happening.”
Instrumental astuteness notwithstanding, the pivotal focus and strongest suit of this musical collective reside in their strong vocal harmonic ability to faithfully render a song. “Stephan and I are buddies and get together on a regular basis to sing and we quarrel like divorcees over these vocals,” relates Tim. “It stretches everybody to the max. We’ll listen to a song and go ‘Why Can’t you hear that note, I think it goes like this’. But really there is no other way to do it than struggle over the deconstruction.”
“Tim has everything in his head and uses no notes or lyric sheets,” adds Stephan. “I have every entrance lined out and everything scripted. I knew when we did Crosby Stills Nash that is was going to be a struggle to properly tackle the material, but the next year when we did The Eagles I thought it would be easier and not only was I wrong, but after we started going after the material I realized these guys are geniuses. With the One Hit Wonders show I thought these would be toss-off ditties, but you dig into the material and realize they are more intricate than you suspected and there’s a reason these songs went to number one.”
“I have an untested theory, “interjects Tim, “that no matter how amateur a listener you are, there is something in the brain that has recorded the ‘real way’ the song is supposed to sound. Nothing against bar bands, but they hack the chords and go through the song and then when you hear a band that does the song the way it was written, something in your mind goes ‘Holy Crap – that’s it!’ I believe this part of the success we have with our audience. We dissect the material and do it the way they expect to hear it and they all go, “wow!”.
“The other thing we totally enjoy is the fact our audience comes in an open and happy party mood,” concludes Tim. “They sit there in concert and listen to us – they’re not getting drinks or trying to hustle girls – the audience is open to the music and not fighting us.”
“If you look at all the music in the world and attempt to choose new material to perform it’s amazing to me how many wonderful and creative songs are out there.”
“For me this is what music is all about, because I get to ride in the cockpit of this huge well-oiled engine.”
Grefe Gaus Grefe will perform at Bay City’s State Theatre on June 13 & 14th at 8:00 PM. All seats are reserved and range in pricing from $25, $20 and $10 for students. You can order tickets online by going to statetheatrebaycity.com or calling 989-892-2660 or 989-753-1812.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)