By Craig Davis, Craigslegztravels.com
The eye-catching ads have been prominent on social media showing musicians playing amid a sea of candles like a field of sunflowers.
Intriguing because the setting is classical with strings or a grand piano, but the music is contemporary pop.
These Candlelight concerts, featuring the works of a wide range of rock and pop artists, have been staged for the past couple of years in Miami and in more than 90 cities throughout the world.
They are set in small, often iconic venues and very visually appealing because of the hundreds of candles — all battery powered — covering the stage.
I am glad we waited until the first Candlelight show in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a tribute to the music of Queen at the Savoy Cinema on Aug. 5, 2022. Until you’ve heard a serious string quartet perform a Beethoven aria followed by “Fat Bottom Girls,” can you really appreciate the concept of classical pop?
Freddie Mercury an opera aficionado
As one of the performers pointed out, the late Queen front man Freddie Mercury’s love for opera and his theatrical style makes the group’s music a perfect fit for the Candlelight concert series produced by Fever.
Mercury recorded the album “Barcelona” in collaboration with Spanish operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé in 1987. The title track was written to be the theme song for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but Mercury died the year before the Games.
Coincidentally, the original music video for the song has Mercury and Caballé performing to a candle-waving audience. (View the video at end of this story).
The Candlelight concert tribute to Queen at the Savor Cinema was true to the late singer’s spirit. In a show that spanned 65 minutes, the Listeso String Quartet played 12 Queen classics interspersed with four famous operatic pieces.
From La Boheme to Bohemian Rhapsody
The highlight was a three-song set that began with “Quando m’en Vo’(Musetta’s Waltz)” aria from La Boheme and concluded with “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Mercury’s “mock opera” from the album “A Night at the Opera.”
Throughout the performance I envisioned the apparition of Freddie Mercury prancing with his microphone. But during “Bohemian Rhapsody” the faces of Wayne and Garth rockin’ out in the “Wayne’s World” 1976 AMC Pacer flickered amid the candlelight in my imagination.
The musicians — the South Florida group is among about 40 string quartets from the Listeso music management agency performing in Candlelight shows world-wide — were not only consummate players but also engaging in connecting with the audience.
They took turns introducing each three-song segment and explaining how Queen’s music fit the theme of the performance and providing fun facts about the various songs. Such as the Italian operatic phrases contained in the lyrics of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and that Mercury intended the overall meaning of the song to be left to the listener’s imagination.
The show culminated with the audience singing along to “We Are the Champions” followed by an encore of “Another One Bites the Dust.”
Candlelight concerts at venues world-wide
We look forward to attending more Candlelight Classic Concerts, which promise “music for every taste, from Bach to the Beatles.” They are being staged pretty much everywhere, from Atlanta to Auckland, Barcelona to Boston. Check here for the nearest city offering the Candlelight experience.
The quaint Savor Cinema (formerly Paradiso), a boutique art movie theater that originated as a church in downtown Fort Lauderdale, is well suited to the Candlelight concert concept, and the debut show had a nearly full house. Tickets were reasonably priced: $35, $45 and $55.
Upcoming concerts scheduled at Savor Cinema include songs from animated movie soundtracks (including “The Lion King,” “Toy Story,” “The Little Mermaid”) on Aug. 20, a tribute to Coldplay on Sept. 2, and a tribute to ABBA on Sept. 17.
The Miami area has a number of upcoming Candlelight shows at the Coral Gables Congregational Church and the Hotel Colonnade, also in Coral Gables. The Colonnade has the Queen tribute on Sept. 1. But also intriguing is “Classic Rock on Strings” at the same venue on Aug. 25 and Sept. 22. Click here for details.
The tentative program features: Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit; Rolling Stones – Paint it Black; David Bowie – Life on Mars?; Kansas – Carry On Wayward Son; Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama; Bon Jovi – Livin on a Prayer; Guns n’ Roses – Sweet Child o’ Mine; Blondie – Call Me; Cream – Sunshine of Your Love; Aerosmith – Dream On; The Who – See Me, Feel Me / Pinball Wizard; Boston – More Than a Feeling; and Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven.
Meanwhile, enjoy Freddie Mercury and Spanish operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé performing “Barcelona.”