A Night At The Opera: The Music of Queen #berklee


On December 5th 2019, Berklee staged its annual Singers’ Showcase, and the theme this year was A Night at the Opera—The Music of Queen. As a lifelong fan, I was honored to be asked to write the program notes for the evening’s performance.

Each song entry features a reference to the original Queen recording, and the official video embedded, plus a description of the approach the students took for the Berklee version. Selected excerpts from the show itself will appear online sometime in the future, but for now you can get a great behind-the-scenes flavour of the quality of the performance by watching Marshall Lilly’s terrific drumcam footage.

The Berklee student performers, with special guest drummer, Berklee President Roger H Brown.
Photograph: Kelly Davidson Studio


Drumcam video: Marshall Tilly

Introduction: “I see a miniature libretto from a fan”

Vocalist Shane Daneyko, midway through We Are The Champions

Welcome to the 2019 Singers Showcase. For the next two hours or so, you will see and hear some of Berklee’s most extraordinary vocalists, instrumentalists, arrangers, and dancers perform work by one of rock’s most influential bands. Tonight’s show is the result of more than a year of planning, 400 auditions, and eight weeks of intensive rehearsals. And this particular repertoire brings an extra production challenge, due to the sheer scale of Queen’s famous stacked vocal harmonies. Our 16 lead vocalists will be augmented by a choir of 12 background singers, with most of the vocal arrangements scored by students. Famously at Queen concerts, the band would leave the stage during the operatic section of Bohemian Rhapsody, leaving the audience to watch a lightshow while listening to a taped playback of Freddie, Roger and Brian’s multitracked studio-built choir. Tonight, everything you hear will be live – including those stormy backlit cameos from Scaramouche, Galileo and Beelzebub. Our students are Under Pressure. But The Show Must Go On. And we know they’ll Tear It Up.

Queen’s body of work has made an incalculable contribution to music history. Between 1970 and 1991 they recorded 191 songs and released 14 albums. All four members were technical virtuosos, which meant they could tackle any style as the fancy took them. There was something for all tastes, from prog-fueled fantasy (Seven Seas of Rhye), to campy 80s pop (I Want To Break Free), political rock (Hammer To Fall), vaudeville (Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon), deep grooving funk (Another One Bites The Dust), and 50s rockabilly pastiche (Crazy Little Thing Called Love). Their artfully constructed records used the multitrack studio to the fullest extent possible, with Brian May’s home-made Red Special guitar conjuring up the sounds of strings, clarinets, flutes and brass sections so convincingly that their first few albums had to feature the disclaimer “No synthesizers”.

Like many guitar players, and many of our students, I have a personal history with Queen and their songs, from covering Hammer to Fall and Tie Your Mother Down in bar bands when I was a teen, watching their now-legendary Live Aid appearance on British TV in 1985, right through to Monday 25 November 1991, when I came offstage at a local gig to hear the devastating news of Freddie’s passing. And I will forever cherish the day in 1998 that I was sent as a trepidatious young guitar journalist to interview Brian May at his house (rock star English mansion, to be more precise). During the interview, Brian asked me to demonstrate the magazine’s guitar TAB notation, and handed me the Red Special. Alas, there were no smartphones back then, so this paragraph will remain the only record of that encounter.

Some of tonight’s arrangements are closely influenced by Queen’s original recordings, while others take a more interpretive approach, framing these well-loved classics through the performers’ and arrangers’ own diverse cultural backgrounds and influences. The show features integrated video design, overseen by Masters Fellowship student Aaron Hauser, plus an operatic appearance (‘Barcelona’) from Conservatory Masters student Danielle Bavli. Our incomparable faculty and staff have provided expert advice, support and coaching throughout the arranging and rehearsal process, with world-class project leadership from Concert and Event Producer Maureen McMullan. There are some extra special guests with us tonight, including the superlative alumni/faculty a cappella group Vox One, and a brief appearance from a top secret guest drummer towards the end (no spoilers!). Everything else you see and hear on stage tonight comes from our talented and hard-working undergraduate students. Berklee – You Take My Breath Away.

Joe Bennett program notes, Dec 5th 2019

Berklee students Joey and Milissa covered all of the guitar parts for the Showcase performance. Played through authentic Vox AC30s, of course.

Tie Your Mother Down

Album: A Day At The Races (1976)

Brian May’s straight-ahead riff-driven rock song was a live show favorite, serving variously as an energetic encore or as a crowd-pleasing opener. The song is a story of teenage sexual longing – our protagonist wants their date’s family out of the way for the evening so that romance can blossom. There’s a sense of playfulness in the lyric as the character asks “tie your Mother down / lock your Daddy out of doors” and even “take your little brother swimming with a brick”, then closing with the contradictory assertion “I’m just a peace-loving guy”. Live, the band always performed all 3 harmonies faithfully, with Roger Taylor’s extraordinary rock falsetto taking the top part. Our interpretation is arranged by Jennifer Hsieh, and features the vocal trio of Isabella, Thalia and Tiffany. Their performance take a rock-meets-R&B approach, mixing in influences of Destiny’s Child and Heart.

 One Vision / Hammer To Fall

Albums: A Kind of Magic (1986) / The Works (1984)

The 2-note power chord riff that opens ‘One Vision’ quickly became a staple of guitar store repertoire in 1986, joining Hammer To Fall’s All-Right-Now-inspired shapes, that were already enjoying similar status. Freddie’s lyrics were mostly improvised in the studio, and the band tried dozens of different rhyme options (“one politician” was cut, for example). A tiny remnant of the experimental studio-improv approach remains, as the last few words abandon any attempt at meaning “gimme gimme gimme fried chicken”. By contrast, ‘Hammer To Fall’ is all about the message – it’s part ode to the Grim Reaper, and part cold-war political statement 

“For we who grew up tall and proud / in the shadow of the mushroom cloud”. For many fans, it was the highlight of Queen’s iconic 1985 Live Aid performance.

In tonight’s version, arranged by Berklee faculty ensemble instructor Utar Artun, you’ll hear influences of the electronic sounds from the intro of ‘One Vision’, developed by our technical director, faculty member Loudon Stearns, and triggered from the drum pads. This is underscored by a live string section, building the energy to the drop where the riff comes in. Lead vocalist Aida Frantzen provides a powerhouse vocal for the journey, even conducting the band for the outro’s final crash “give it to me one more time!”.

 Love Of My Life

Album: A Night at the Opera (1975)

One of Queen’s most tender ballads, ‘Love of My Life’ became a crowd singalong favorite, and for many shows Freddie would let the audience take the lead for long sections. It was particularly well-loved in South America, where the live version was released as a single (our vocalist Martín Guas hails from La Plata, Argentina). The melody is instantly singable and deceptively simple, contrasting with the carefully-concealed but brief key changes toward the end of each verse, and in the bridge’s lead up to “I Still Love You”. 

There are clear classical influences in the song – some people hear Chopin – so our version is scored for a small chamber music ensemble of strings, harp and piano, providing a tranquil and sensitive underscore for Martín’s tender lead vocal.

Under Pressure

Album: Hot Space (1982)

This one-off single represents Queen’s only co-write with David Bowie; believe it or not, it was just their second UK number 1 single, the first being ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ 6 years prior. The original recording (and our version) features John Deacon’s instantly recognizable ‘dum-dum-dum-dudu-dum-dum’ 2-note bassline, which was controversially sampled in Vanilla Ice’s 1990 hit ‘Ice Ice Baby’. It was written in one long studio session, with Bowie and Mercury recording their first vocal takes separately, and features Freddie’s signature scat vocal improvs (of which more later in the evening).

Student arranger Karl Munroe has stayed true to the spirit of the classic 1981 recording, adding his own twist on the ending, and there’s enough (hot) space in our version for vocalists Emme and Marlon to mix in some improvised lines and make the performance their own.

 The Show Must Go On 

Album: Innuendo (1991)

This powerful and prophetic anthem, from the band’s final album as a foursome, might be described as the archetypal Queen song – huge harmonies, wonderful melodic guitar soloing, and a universal human sentiment, delivered with a theatrical flavor. To know that Freddie was almost too ill to sing the vocal (even though his performance is extraordinary) adds an extra poignancy to the lyric, particularly the dark valedictory humor of the signoff line “inside my heart is breaking / my make-up may be flaking / but my smile still stays on”.

The arrangement is by Malaysian student Li-Anne Kong, who has chosen to begin the song by showcasing Maniya’s lead vocal, completely unaccompanied. This is one of many songs this evening to feature our amazing 10-piece strings section, led by Australian student Emily Gelineau. And check out the key modulation from the guitar solo into the bridge – it takes some cunning music theory (and a fair bit of audacity) to get from B minor to F major in only 4 beats.

You’re My Best Friend

Album: A Night at the Opera (1975)

Given Queen’s musical excesses (particularly on A Night At The Opera), this 3-minute feelgood pop song was a departure of sorts. Written by bassist John Deacon for his wife, Veronica Tetzlaff, the lyric is a sincere and authentic love poem, free of artful metaphors, and using only the simplest sun/rain/shine imagery to carry the emotional message. The original recording features a Wurlitzer electric piano, the bass notes of which provide the opening pulsing octave riff.

The version you’ll hear tonight uses some of the same instrumentation as the Queen original, but arranger James Yao makes reference to Berklee’s jazz heritage, with some extended chords and cool 4-to-the-bar guitar chord licks. Vocalists Katie and Shane perform the song as a duet, and it’s a testament to Deacon’s lyric-writing skills that the timeless sentiment comes across so well in this format without changing a single word.

 The Seven Seas of Rhye 

Album: Queen II (1974)

For some fans, Queen II is the great underrated gem of the band’s early years. Seven Seas of Rhye is the last song on the album’s B side (referred to as ‘Side Black’ in a suitably art-rock gesture), and it forms part of a fantastical journey into imaginary lands, in which we witness an ‘Ogre Battle’, ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke’ and ‘The March of the Black Queen’. It opens with Freddie’s frenetic 16th note piano riff, and features the stacked vocal harmonies that would go on to become the band’s signature sound. The lyric tells the story of a defiant hero character as he claims his birthright in the mystical land of Rhye, and there’s some wonderful wordsmithery on show – check out the repeating alliteration in each verse “lords and lady preachers / peers and privy counselors / shod and shady senators”.

In Brandon Cui’s arrangement you’ll hear all of the elements of the original recording, including that tricky piano intro, with a slightly adapted ending to create a deeper sense of closure than the album’s artistic cross-fade. Listen out for the moment near the end when vocalist Thalia Tymowski holds the band’s timing in stasis briefly, before they crash back in on the voice cue. 

 Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon / Killer Queen

Albums: A Night at the Opera (1975) / Sheer Heart Attack (1974)

One of the many unusual things about Queen’s vocal arrangements was their occasional tendency to use call-and-response backing vocals very literally, as if the band is narrating the protagonist’s journey in the style of a Greek chorus. This technique appears in several of their songs (think of verse 2 of ‘Somebody to Love’, with “I work hard / (he works hard)”. In these two songs there are several choice moments where the backing vocals play the part of this opinionated narrator, including “bound to be proposing on a Saturday night (there he goes again)”, and the faux-obsequious commentary “Perfume came naturally from Paris (naturally)”.

Li-Anne Kong’s arrangement of ‘Lazing…’ features an interpretation of the song’s vaudeville band instrumental section, originally created using multi-tracked guitar, and you’ll hear Ektoras Georgiou’s versatile and expressive lead vocal exploring the two contrasting characters that narrate each song.

 I Want To Break Free

Album: The Works (1984)

This huge European hit was less well known in the USA at the time, possibly due to the band’s then-controversial cross-dressing in the promotional video. Musically speaking, it’s an example of Queen’s preparedness to take a fresh approach to a well-known musical idea – in this case, the 12 bar blues form. The synth-heavy instrumentation was a significant creative departure from past work, going so far as to feature a synthesizer playing the instrumental solo. At the time this was a source of consternation to Brian May, causing some tension in the studio, but Queen had an unwritten rule that the songwriter has the final say, so John Deacon got his synth part.

The Berklee version resolves the dispute, 35 years on, by doubling guitar and synth on the solo. Brandon has added a live string section in place of the original’s 8-to-the-bar synth chords, giving a more organic feel to the intro particularly, and presenting a great framework for Ryne Paez’s soaring lead vocal.

You Take My Breath Away 

Album: A Day At The Races (1976)

Tonight’s concert features a great selection of well-known hits, but our creative team wanted to go deeper and explore some of the band’s more experimental moments. This darkly poignant minor-key love song describes the pain of deep romantic longing; the protagonist inhabits the cusp of devotion and obsession, and at times appears to be pleading; “I could give up all my life for just one kiss / I would surely die / If you dismiss me from your love”. The all-Freddie contrapuntal choir on the original recording was augmented by delicate piano and Brian May’s ‘cello’ guitar section.

Tonight’s interpretation is performed by award-winning Berklee faculty/alumni a cappella ensemble Vox One, and arranged by faculty member Yumiko Matsuoka.

 Another One Bites The Dust

Album: The Game (1980)

As Queen explored synthesizers for the first time in 1980, they were also expanding their range of stylistic influences. This timeless bassline, with its three solid staccato on-the-beat root notes, takes some inspiration from Chic’s ‘Good Times’, although it appears to stay the right side of exact copying; both bands always spoke respectfully of each other in interviews. The disco-influenced recording features sound effects galore, including backwards piano/guitar and Harmonizer processing. The song was released as a single at the suggestion of Michael Jackson, who reportedly advised “Freddie, you need a song the cats can dance to”. 

The melody covers an unusually  large range, from F below middle C, to C above, because the verses are sung in two different octaves. Throughout the song you’ll hear the versatility of lead vocalist Tiffany Munroe, as she interprets the song’s tension-filled lyric.

Fat Bottomed Girls / Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Album: Jazz (1978) / The Game (1980)

‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ was a double A side single, meaning that radio stations were encouraged to choose either one for airplay – the flipside contained ‘Bicycle Race’. Both songs’ lyrics refer to each other; ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ contains the outro line “Get on your bikes and ride!” and ‘Bicycle Race’ responds with “Fat bottomed girls will be riding today”. Like so much of Queen’s work, the stacked vocal harmonies carry much of the texture, from the a cappella opening to the fully harmonized choruses. This being a Brian May song, the guitar riff is central to the song’s identity, in the verses particularly.

By contrast, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ foregoes block harmonies in favor of call-and-response backing vocals, featured prominently in verse 2 and in the breakdown “Ready Freddie” section. During the live sets, Brian May would switch guitars from acoustic 12-string in the intro to solid-body Fender Telecaster for that 1950s ‘twang’ guitar solo, then back to the Red Special for the full-on outro. The changes always seemed effortlessly fast – and everyone in the crowd was probably watching Freddie anyway.

In this Berklee medley, lead vocalist Miguel Soto adds additional rhythm guitar for ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and then goes into full showmanship stage-owning mode for ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’. Marina Vinogradova’s arrangement maintains a nod to that original Telecaster solo, but adds new instrumentation, including some lick-trading in the solo from Trace Zakur’s tenor sax.

 Somebody To Love

Album: A Day At The Races (1976)

By 1976, vocal layering was a recognizable and familiar part of the Queen sound, and this gospel-style song was described by the band as showing off Freddie’s Aretha Franklin influence. Brian, Roger and Freddie stacked up around 100 parts in the studio to make the full choir, contributing overlapping commentary on the narrator’s loneliness. 

Given that Berklee lead vocalist Isabella Peña is bilingual, the production team decided it would be cool to do the whole of verse 2 in Spanish, including the wall of background vocals. Here’s your starter: “Trabajo duro todos los días de mi vida”. Towards the end of the song, you may get a cue for some audience participation – be ready!

Barcelona

Album: Barcelona (1988)

Although not strictly a Queen song, we couldn’t ignore this ground-breaking pop/opera duet in our celebration of their work. It was originally commissioned for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games; Spanish Soprano Montserrat Caballé, a native of the city, asked her friend Freddie Mercury to write the song, which was completed with additional co-writing and production from industry stalwart Mike Moran. Freddie’s vocal part was recorded first, adding the soprano parts for demo purposes in his falsetto range. He was reportedly in awe of Caballé’s remarkable dynamic control and vocal tone.

As most readers will know, Berklee and The Boston Conservatory merged in 2016, enabling ever more exciting creative collaborations within our community. Tonight we are pleased to welcome two outstanding Conservatory performers; Masters Opera student Danielle Bavli takes the soprano role, with Brass performance major Jimmy Millen performing the lead trumpet part. The core band is augmented by the rich textures of our 12-piece pop-up “Flash Mob orchestra” – bass trombone, flutes, piccolo, trumpets, French horn, harp and strings.

A Kind of Magic 

Album: A Kind of Magic (1986)

Queen’s soundtrack for the 1986 fantasy film Highlander remains the most extensive movie score project of their career. The title represents a line of dialogue from the main character Connor MacLeod, and the lyrics include several other references to the movie’s themes of power, eternity and immortality: “one prize, one goal… there can be only one”. The 8-to-the-bar bassline drives the groove throughout, with Brian May’s subtle guitar licks trading almost onomatopoeically off the lead vocal.

Our version, arranged by Marina Vinogradova, is a tightly focused interpretation of the 1986 single release, with some creative re-harmonizations of the backing chords, and brand new electronic sound effects for the intro. Keep your ears open for the electronic vocoder effect on the backing vocals, underscoring Katie and Maniya’s life-affirming duet.

Who Wants To Live Forever

Album: A Kind of Magic (1986)

This heartbreaking ballad was written to underscore the intense scene in Highlander where Connor MacLeod’s wife Heather dies of old age, while he is forever condemned to immortality. It’s a rare example of a May/Mercury duet, with Freddie’s vocal picking up the story in verse 2.

The original recording (and the Berklee version) follows a huge dynamic journey, from a tender and sensitive introduction, building through the character’s mounting grief and loss to the celebratory choruses, proclaiming the eternal power of love and exhorting us all to seize life’s moments while we have them.

We have moved from duet to trio in tonight’s version, with our leads Ektoras Georgiou, Laufey Lin, and Michal Vainschtock each taking solo sections, then locking into three-part harmony for the later choruses, and ending with bare voices over haunting strings. This final section is part-inspired by the line “one sweet moment, set aside for us”.

Radio Ga Ga

Album: The Works (1984)

If Queen eschewed the synthesizer in their early years, by 1984 they had certainly gotten over it. Radio Ga Ga features early 1980s music technology hardware throughout, including a Roland Jupiter-8 to create the song’s signature ‘bubbling’ filtered bassline and a VP330+ vocoder for the “Rayyyy…diooooo” backing vocals in each verse. The lyric is a nostalgic celebration of radio, and a commentary on the rise of disposable pop and the video format through MTV. There are historical references to classic radio broadcasts that changed the world, including Orson Welles’s 1938 almost-hoax adaptation of War Of The Worlds (“Invaded by Mars”) and Winston Churchill’s 1940 wartime broadcast from the Houses Of Parliament (“You’ve yet to have your finest hour”).

Martin and Michal trade lead vocals in our version, and they’re both singing in the clearest sweet spot of their high tenor ranges. There will be a moment when you, our audience, are required to ‘do the arm movements’. If you don’t know what this means, just follow the direction from the stage. And don’t be shy – you’ll look great in the concert video!

Bohemian Rhapsody

Album: A Night at the Opera (1975)

Sometimes we teach general guidelines of songwriting at Berklee – tell a clear and simple story, get the hooks in early, repeat the title several times, describe a universal emotion, and don’t go over 4 minutes. Bohemian Rhapsody cheerfully broke every one of those so-called ‘rules’, going on to be one of the most successful and well-loved songs of all time. The song, and the Night At The Opera album overall, exceeded recording norms in many ways, not least by being the most expensive record in history up to that point. The story is of a young man’s confession (to his mother) of a possibly-accidental murder, as he confronts his imminent execution (verse 1&2). To save his own life, he signs a Faustian pact with the devil, and is then tortured in the fires of hell by various mythical characters (opera section) before managing to “get right out of here” (rock-out section), and finally achieving repose and inner peace (“nothing really matters” outro).

Lee Abe’s arrangement represents perhaps the biggest technical and artistic challenge of the whole show for our cast – it’s a faithful and full-scale interpretation of the original recording. True to the band’s original live performances, lead vocalist Miguel covers parts of the piano accompaniment (watch out for the flamboyant Freddie-esque crossed-hands as he hits the two high notes in the intro riff), and seizes center stage as the song’s drama unfolds.

Bicycle Race 

Album: Jazz (1978)

‘Bicycle Race’, perhaps more than any other Queen song, shows off the band’s oh-so-British tendency towards lyric silliness, delivered deadpan. The concept is simple – our narrator scorns everything life has to offer, because he wants to ride his bicycle. This framework carries references to pop culture, literary works, fictional characters and political events. The backing vocals are part of the conversation too, providing suggestions for Freddie’s character to dismiss (“black – white / bark – bite / Lord – Peter Pan / Smile – Watergate”). The excitement mounts throughout, as the “bicycle” harmonies become more intense, with even the studio production contributing to the narrative, when the vocal harmony on the chorus’s high-pitched second “bi-cycle” is extra-reverbed and doubled with a cycle bell sound effect.

Berklee’s staging of the song is inspired by West Side Story; our two ‘gangs’ of lead vocalists face off against each other and duke it out. We suggest you just go with the flow here and lose yourself in the cheerful daftness of the song. Bicycle races are coming your way, so forget all your duties. Oh yeah.

It’s A Hard Life 

Album: The Works (1984)

“I don’t want my freedom / There’s no reason for living with a broken heart”. The overwrought operatic introduction to this singalong ballad is taken from Ruggero Leoncavallo’s 1892 opera Pagliacci – which was itself based on a tragic clown character who believed (coincidentally?) that “The Show Must Go On”. By Queen’s standards, the original recording is fairly straightforward – piano, drums, bass, and guitar, albeit with heavy voice and guitar layering as the arrangement develops.

Lead vocalist Aida Frantzen self-accompanies on piano for the understated verses, carrying the mic to center-stage as the texture builds. In the original recording, Brian May’s guitar emulates strings; Berklee’s arrangement has gone in the opposite direction, scoring the song for 10-piece strings section, replacing the guitar solo with Emily Gelineau’s commanding and strident violin.

These Are The Days Of Our Lives

Album: Innuendo (1991)

For most people, this reflective song of farewell was the last they would see of Freddie; the video was shot in May 1991, when his health was weak, and the single was released on his 45th birthday, just weeks before he passed away. The song is unremittingly positive throughout; our storyteller reflects on a life well lived, and is at peace with his journey, leaving no regrets as he passes life’s mantle to the next generation; “No use in sitting and thinkin’ on what you did / When you can lay back and enjoy it through your kids”. 

As in the 1991 version, our vocal harmonies are modest; Laufey Lin and Marlon Solomon take the verses separately, splitting into simple parallel thirds in the first chorus. Our arrangement adapts many of the original’s synthesizer lines for more organic instruments, including flugelhorn and 5-string bass. 

We Will Rock You / Flash / We Are The Champions

Album: News Of The World (1977) / Flash (1980) / News Of The World

Two of these songs need no introduction – ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are The Champions’ are icons of musical culture, enjoying radio airplay, cover band performances, and sports-stadia singalongs all over the world. ‘Flash’ is perhaps slightly less well-known in the US, having been written for the 1981 movie Flash Gordon, and achieving only modest chart success as a single. It features perhaps the simplest rock riff of all time – a single low note, pulsing 8-to-the-bar, doubled with piano, bass and kick drum, building up to the camp retro-sci-fi harmony lines that follow each “Flash…ahhh”.

We’re using ‘Flash’ here partly to have some fun with these big textures, and also as a transition song to give our special guest drummer time to take the stage. Shane Daneyko’s anthemic tenor leads the proceedings; the band explores some polyrhythms and chord substitutions in the outro choruses. We’re telling you that now, in case you miss anything while you’re singing along at the top of your voice.

Don’t Stop Me Now / God Save The Queen

Album: Jazz (1978) / A Night at the Opera (1975)

From the perspective of 2019, it’s hard to believe that ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ reached only number 86 in the US charts when it was released; it’s one of those songs that feels like it’s always been a classic. The song is an unashamed paean to partying and hedonism, with unsubtle imagery of rocket ships, tigers, and travelling at supersonic (and light) speed. Queen’s original band arrangement, by contrast, is a study in restraint; it’s just piano, bass, drums and voices for the first two minutes, and the guitar is only unleashed for the solo, playing an unlayered single-note line, and then dropping out for the rest of the song.

Emme Cannon takes lead vocals for the intro, but you can expect to hear from most of our cast on this final song. We’ve augmented the original band arrangement slightly with tenor sax, but for the most part, the song’s musical and lyric excesses don’t need much adornment.

In a final bow to Queen, we end our show just as they did – with the British national anthem. Some audience members may know that the melody of ‘America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)’ (1831) was borrowed from ‘God Save The Queen’ (1744), with new lyrics added by Samuel Francis Smith while a student at the Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. Smith’s song was first performed in public on July 4th, 1831 at Park Street Church in Boston. The Berklee arrangement is a tribute to Queen’s status as rock royalty, featuring drum rolls, cymbals, layered overdriven guitars, and of course the famous gong.

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