Imperial Symphony Orchestra Conductor Mark Thielen has shared the stage with a wide range of artists over the years, but this week marks the first time he and the ISO will perform in concert with a rock band led by a former student of his.
The Imperial Symphony will open its 2018-2019 season at 8 p.m. Friday in the Youkey Theatre at the RP Funding Center with a pops concert featuring the Lakeland-based band Copeland. The concert promises to bring out a different kind of crowd than usual for the orchestra, given Copeland’s enthusiastic following among Millennials.
“People are really excited about this show,” said ISO Executive Director Amy Wiggins. “It’s not just people from Lakeland. We’ve got people flying in from out of state. We had inquiries from Arizona and New York.”
The concert will be a musical reunion for Thielen and Copeland’s lead singer and songwriter, Aaron Marsh, who was a trombonist in the Harrison School of the Arts orchestra when Thielen taught there in the 1990s.
“He was a fine trombone player,” recalls Thielen, the ISO’s music director.
Thielen said the concert will open with the orchestra performing two short pieces by a different “Copland” – American composer Aaron Copland (1900-1990) – the familiar and rousing “Hoedown” from the ballet “Rodeo” and the contemplative “Down a Country Lane.” Thielen said the latter work was requested by Marsh, who played it at Harrison under Thielen’s baton.
“While we have their fans there, we wanted to put the orchestra out front a little,” Thielen said. “It will be a lot of fun.”
The orchestra will then accompany Copeland on several of their songs, including “Chin Up,” “Ordinary” and “On the Safest Ledge,” and the band will also play a set without the orchestra.
Marsh, who was finishing preparations for the concert and unavailable for an interview, has gone far afield in music since he played trombone for Thielen. As a guitarist and pianist, he and other friends from the Lakeland area formed Copeland in 2001 and found success. Between 2002 and 2008, the band released four studio albums and toured extensively, winning a following and critical acclaim for its combination of indie rock and dreamlike pop.
The band broke up in 2008, but with a mostly new group of musicians under Marsh’s leadership, Copeland produced the 2014 album “Ixora,” and toured for a couple of years. Reportedly Copeland has been working on another album to be released soon. In between albums, Marsh runs his own recording studio in Dixieland and has worked as a producer with other bands and artists.
In a 2015 interview with Broward Palm Beach New Times while on tour, Marsh said starting a family affected him musically and lyrically.
“I had a complete identity change of myself going from lead singer of an indie band to being a father of kids. My view of love, my perception of love, changed a lot since I’ve had kids,” he said. “It’s a different level of love in a different way, and I found myself. I have a lot of love for my kids in the songs.”
This week’s concert continues a trend by the Imperial Symphony’s leadership to reach different, and younger, audiences. The orchestra has opened its last two seasons with pops concerts featuring local artists, including singer-songwriter Michael McArthur and stage actress and singer Elizabeth Burton. The concert with Copeland was Marsh’s idea, Wiggins said, an extension of the band’s occasional use of string accompaniment on its songs.
“We met with him to talk about ideas for a pops concert, and on his list was Copeland. I was elated. Their music is so melodic, and Aaron’s such a talented musician,” she said. “We have a tremendous relationship with Aaron. He’s always been a fan of the symphony, and a lot of ISO musicians have played on his albums. From an ISO perspective, I love doing things like this.”