This month, Clef Notes is looking at the idea of classical crossover, or when classical artists attempt popular genres and vice versa. We often think of the 1990s Popera fad when we think of classical crossover, but its history goes further back in time. Today, let’s look at one example of a rock band who dabbled in “classical” ideas back in the 1960s.
Have you heard of the British rock band Deep Purple that formed in the late 1960s? Did you know that their keyboardist, Jon Lord, wrote a Concerto for Group and Orchestra that was performed at Royal Albert Hall with Malcolm Arnold and the Royal Philharmonic back in 1969? The live performance was released on vinyl later that year.
Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra alternates between the group of soloists (Deep Purple) and the orchestra. At times, the two groups integrate, but for the most part, there’s a definite sense of alternating between the rock group and the orchestra. Incorporating rock into a classical medium such as this was appealing to some, and Deep Purple wasn’t the only group to attempt it. That being said, it was also seen by others as two musical forces that should not be combined. What do you think? Note the contrast, not only in the music itself, but in how the musicians carry themselves on stage. The orchestra maintains the very traditional formal black and white apparel, while Deep Purple displays the long hair styles and typical 1960s fashion.