Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Stewart Copeland in Edmonton for unique symphony performance

It’ll be no surprise for Edmonton music fans to see Stewart Copeland behind his set of drums this weekend, but they won’t be hearing any of his famed hits with the British rock band The Police.

The drummer on hit songs like “Roxanne” and “Message in a Bottle” will be showing off his talents another way as he performs his original soundtrack to the epic biblical drama Ben-Hur alongside the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

As a young man, Copeland never could have imagined his career going this way.

“We were just finishing off a Police album, I think our last Police album, when an incoming phone call came in from Francis Ford Coppola,” he said.

The director asked Copeland to help with the soundtrack of the 1983 film Rumble Fish. Twenty years later, the composer had become a self-described “flinty-eyed hired gun,” composing the scores for TV, dozens of movies and video games.

“I just by accident picked up the skills of how to create a chart for a giant orchestra,” Copeland said.

These days, even though he still loves rocking out on the drums, it’s the thrill of the concerto that keeps him writing.

“I got all this technique and all this training which I never used in rock and roll. But now, in this sophisticated musical environment, that cool stuff can shine,” Copeland said.

After an interesting project, composing the music for a live arena rendition of Ben-Hur, Copeland discovered the 1920 silent version of the film.

“This Ben-Hur is bigger than the [1959] Charlton Heston one,” Copeland said. “It’s got a cast of tens of thousands and real battleships crashing into each other, bursting into flames without [computer graphics].

“Everything you see on the screen actually happened.”

Copeland knew his music for the tale could live on with a touring show where local orchestras play alongside the silent film and he does what he does best on the drums.

“And since it’s [a silent film], that’s the best part, that’s catnip for a film composer,” Copeland said.

“After dodging dialogue and dodging sound effects… now the mighty Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and your humble servant on the drums are going to fill up that sound.”

Stewart Copeland’s Orchestral Ben-Hur with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra plays at the Winspear Centre Friday and Saturday night.


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