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Classical Revolution KC to give pop songs an orchestral treatment

Claire Adams (right) will be joined by a 14-piece ensemble that includes Peter Lawless (left), Teri Quinn and Nick Bell at Saturday’s concert at the Buffalo Room.
Claire Adams (right) will be joined by a 14-piece ensemble that includes Peter Lawless (left), Teri Quinn and Nick Bell at Saturday’s concert at the Buffalo Room.

Claire & the Crowded Stage is a band that lives up to its name. The seven-piece multi-instrumental pop-rock symphony typically fills whatever stage it performs from.

Saturday night at the Buffalo Room, Claire Adams will perform some of her Crowded Stage songs with a bigger band: a 14-piece ensemble that includes members of Classical Revolution KC, a contemporary chamber orchestra.

The show is a spin-off of a concert in July 2014, when Adams performed some of her songs with what she dubbed the Tiny Symphony, a nine-piece orchestra comprising horns, strings, woodwinds and percussion. That ensemble included Alyssa Bell and Nick Bell, co-founders of Classical Revolution KC.

“There are several Classical Revolution orchestras around the country,” Adams said. “They focus on performing in venues where classical music isn’t usually performed.

“When we started thinking about doing another show, Pete (Lawless) reached out to Nick and Alyssa Bell about providing the players.”

Lawless, a member of the Crowded Stage, is producing Saturday’s show. Nick Bell will conduct. The project is being financed in part by a grant from Arts KC.

The performance will include two instrumentals composed by Lawless and another Crowded Stage member, Teri Quinn, who will also perform.

“We’ll do 10 songs written by me,” Adams said. “Seven are songs we do as the Crowded Stage, but a few are songs we haven’t worked up as a band. Or we tried them, but they just didn’t fit with what the Crowded Stage does.”

In June, Adams and the orchestra went into Weights and Measures Soundlab, where owner Duane Trower recorded three songs. Two of them will be on a 7-inch vinyl, which, if the timing works out, will be ready by Saturday’s show. The size of the group presented some challenges, Trower said.

“I have recorded other groups with classical instrumentation before, but this was one of the larger ensembles I have had in the studio,” he said. “We did most of the tracking all live — orchestra and full drum kit — and it’s tough to get good takes with so many musicians.

“But Claire and Peter had everyone well-prepared, as well as having a talented group, and it went really smooth. I think it was a blast. I enjoyed the challenge and am really happy with how it turned out.”

For Adams, who plays bass in the trio Katy Guillen & the Girls, the project provides a chance to step out of her normal music zones. (The Girls’ drummer, Stephanie Williams, will perform with the orchestra on Saturday.)

“It’s really great for me to come at music from the opposite perspective, one I really look up to and respect,” she said. “All these players dedicate a lot of time perfecting their playing and techniques. Their talents and technical abilities are remarkable. I know the arrangements weren’t particularly challenging, so I think it’s fun for them — at least I hope it is. To me they sounded really complicated.

“I come from a different musical place: ‘Let’s play some chords and sing some notes.’ I’m working on improving that aspect of my musical self.”

The project revived a musical interest that goes back to her childhood.

“I love pop music, obviously, but one of the things I’ve always loved is classical pop and movie soundtracks, especially the Disney movies,” she said. “The instrumentation is amazing.

“During the recording, the horns were in a separate booth and the drums were in another room. but everyone else was in the main room, and I was in the control room, singing scratch vocals. And it was amazing. I felt like I was in a Disney movie.”

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain


Claire and the Classical Revolution KC will perform at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Buffalo Room, 817 Westport Road. Admission is $10. A VIP package is available for $20. VIP tickets include preferred seating and a copy of the 7-inch single “In the Blue.” Advance tickets are available at