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Ex-‘Idol’ hopefuls join symphony

When you think of the symphony, what names pop into your mind? Mozart, maybe, or Bach?

But what about the Bee Gees, Journey, or Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons? This Saturday, three former “American Idol” contestants will be performing pop, rock and jazz classics while accompanied by the Spokane Symphony and conductor Morihiko Nakahara in a program called “Symphony Idol,” meant to challenge your perceptions of an orchestra’s limitations.

Any regular “Idol” viewer will recognize the participating vocalists: Haley Scarnato and LaKisha Jones, who were top 10 finishers on the show’s sixth season, and Matt Giraud, who came in fourth place during season 8.

The playlist includes an eclectic blend of familiar ballads (“I Will Always Love You,” “My Heart Will Go On”), R&B standards (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “River Deep – Mountain High,”) and Broadway show tunes (“Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”).

“There have been other ‘Idol’ shows that people have tried to do, where you go into this town and there are five other Idols and we each do a set and that’s it,” Haley Scarnato said from her home in Las Vegas. “But this is so good because it’s actually done the right way.”

Although Scarnato, Giraud and Jones each get their own showstoppers – “LaKisha does Whitney Houston and brings down the house, and I do Celine Dion, and Matt does some really great jazz numbers,” Scarnato said – there’s more interaction between the singers than you’d see on a typical episode of “American Idol.”

“We each have our own little niche, but then we also get together and sing in three-part harmony, which is great,” Scarnato said. “I think that’s what people want to see. They didn’t really get to see that on the show.”

Scarnato, a Texas native who cut her teeth on country songs, says that reuniting onstage with Jones was a homecoming of sorts – “We’re like sisters, and it’s so nice seeing her again,” she said – but the addition of a symphonic accompaniment brings even more power to the performance.

“It’s so fun, and so nice to have that big symphony underneath you and giving you all that support,” she said. “It’s a lot easier to sing that way.”

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