When Rick Lingard set out to assemble a group of 12 musicians to cover the music of iconic 1970s rock band Chicago, he knew it would only work if he could get exactly the right people.
“I wouldn’t have done it otherwise,” said Lingard, who was ultimately successful in his endeavour. Now, after hours of transcribing the music and organizing rehearsal schedules, the 12-person super-group is set to hit the Kootenays for two summer concerts on August 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. The group will play in the newly air-conditioned Civic Theatre.
The tribute band, which goes by the name 25 or 6 to 4 (the name of a popular Chicago tune), is driven by a four-person horn section consisting of Keith Todd on trombone, Tim Bullen and David Ward on trumpet, and Lingard on sax and vocals.
Drummer Tony Ferraro, keyboardist Colin Spence, guitarist Darren Mahe and bassist Doug Stephenson round out the band, while singers Melody Diachun, Arron Nelson, Lisa Backus, and Sydney Black provide lead vocals.
“I’ve worked with every one of them before. I knew the guys I wanted to get. I made the call, crossed my fingers and they all said yes.”
Lingard said this is a one-time collaboration, and there’s no guarantee they’ll ever be able to reassemble. He said Chicago’s music has had a huge influence on him since childhood, and he’s excited by the chance to tackle a musical project so complex.
“Nobody’s done it around here. The music is really challenging,” he said. “The bass lines are brutal, the drum parts are brutal, all the horn parts are brutal. The vocal arrangements are super tight and really tough. Time signatures change like crazy,” he said.
Lingard said only a team like his could tackle such intricate compositions. He made the decision to only play music dating from Chicago’s genesis to 1975.
“I grew up hearing this stuff coming from my older brother Ed’s bedroom. I grew up in the ‘80s, so I was more familiar with the David Foster influence and the newer Chicago, not now we’re doing all the early stuff,” said Ferraro, who was thrilled to be given the chance to join the ensemble.
“I’m really welcoming this challenge,” he said. “I got to admit, I knew it was going to be a lot of work, and thankfully I’m a busy musician in the area, but ultimately the selling point was the personnel of the band. That made it hard to say no.”
Ferraro said his goal is to do Chicago’s music justice.
“I want to honour them,” he said.
Singer Diachun said she’s welcoming the chance to sing along with others, since she usually tours alone.
“It’s such a luxury to have four of us together,” she said. “It’s really rare to get to work with this many talented people at once.”
She said the material was extremely challenging vocally.
“When you go into all the inner parts of Chicago’s harmonies, it’s a lot more difficult than you might imagine.”
She praised Lingard for his efforts transcribing the music. She said the team wouldn’t exist without him.
“Our audiences will hear hits that will bring them right back to the 70s, plus there will be a few songs in there they might not recognize. People are used to the super-duper radio hits, but there’s a few that are like ‘oh, I’ve heard that before but never realized that was Chicago’,” she said.
“They’ll be singing along from beginning to end.”
Tickets are $30 and are available from Otter Books or online at civic theatre.ca