The music of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel is among the most enduring of its era, both quiet and soaring. But for fans hoping for a reunion tour, all may be lost now that Simon announced his retirement from performing.
Still, there is hope for those who are willing to accept a reasonable facsimile.
The duo sings again
The Simon & Garfunkel Story, which visits the Honeywell Center in Wabash next Friday, provides a means of experiencing the music live and in the kind of setting which would have been ideal for those songs the duo recorded.
With a host of tribute bands and jukebox musicals paying homage to some of the world’s most popular musical acts, The Simon & Garfunkel Story is something entirely different — while kinda the same.
“It’s pretty much right down the middle,” said Ben Cooley who fills the shoes of Art Garfunkel in the show. “There are no scenes, and we don’t act anything out. We go through the songs chronologically and show what was happening in the world at the time of each song. We don’t talk to the audience as Art and Paul but as Ben and Taylor [Bloom, who plays Paul Simon]. We don’t address their relationship at all but stick to the music rather than the drama of their lives.”
Video screen projection and multimedia aspects to the show help speak more about the times in which the songs were being written and performed, including scenes of social strife, civil rights activism, and anti-war demonstrations.
Although the music didn’t always directly address those issues, they loomed large all the same, as the Simon & Garfunkel television special Songs of America demonstrated. The Simon & Garfunkel Story reflects that reality and puts their music in a social context that is sometimes lacking in retellings of their history.
Clicking pretty quickly
Cooley got the job over a year ago and had to get up to speed on the catalog of music despite what should have been a definite advantage.
“My parents were prime age to be Simon & Garfunkel fans, and my dad was at the Central Park concert,” Cooley said. “So I knew about them and knew some of the songs like ‘Sounds of Silence’ and ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’ but it took me a while to get caught up with all those songs.”
In addition to learning the songs, Cooley studied Garfunkel himself. The tall singer strikes a very recognizable stance, one that’s immediately recognizable to diehard fans.
“I try to channel him as much as I can,” Cooley said. “I studied his mannerisms and the way he stands on the stage.”
Cooley and Bloom will be the pairing that takes the stage at the Honeywell next week, but there are actually two duos who tour as Simon & Garfunkel. Getting the job required a vocal audition of course, but it, not surprisingly, required a compatibility test with Bloom to assure that their harmonies were where they needed to be to pull off the familiar songs.
“We clicked pretty quickly,” Cooley said. “We did a lot of work on the phrasing of the songs to make sure we could match their voices. We melded together pretty quickly though. The band that plays behind us is just great, and the video screen behind us provides a really cool visual postcard as we’re singing.”
Cooley said that the audiences, while often skewing toward those who remember the era, are also very intergenerational, including younger fans who grew up listening to it with parents and even grandparents. His own parents are a good example of that.
And when that familiar music begins to wash over those in the theater, there are a few songs that might receive a little bit more ovation than the others.
“Really most of the songs get a big reaction,” Cooley said. “‘Scarborough Fair’ and ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ both get a big reaction. But if I had to pick one, it might be ‘The Boxer.’ That one really seems to be a favorite.”
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