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‘A totally Spokane event’: Orchestra powered by local universities will add new dimension to Peter Rivera’s classic songs at the Fox

Checking out a clip of Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” with the Berlin Philharmonic or Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra will give music fans an idea of what Peter Rivera’s show will deliver Friday at the Fox Theater.

The Berlin Philharmonic adds so much depth to “Rock You Like a Hurricane” that it hits the gut in a unique manner. Thanks to the San Francisco Orchestra’s string section, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” surges like a tidal wave.

How will Rivera’s classic Rare Earth tunes, such as “I Just Want to Celebrate,” “Get Ready” and “Born to Wander” sound backed by a 40-piece orchestra, featuring the Whitworth String Orchestra and Gonzaga Alumni Horn Section?

“There’s only one way to find out,” Rivera said.

Rivera’s show at the Fox is certain to be a visceral experience.

“It’s going to be amazing,” creative show director David Cebert said. “I want this to be the best possible show and my big inspiration is that Scorpions show with the Berlin Philharmonic. Watch that video and tell me that the performance is not epic!

“Whoever did the arrangements for ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ nailed it. We’re all trying to knock it out of the park here for Peter.”

The concert is an organic, homegrown effort with the Gonzaga and Whitworth musicians.

“This is a totally Spokane event,” Cebert said. “This is about a community coming together.”

Gonzaga University Bulldog Band director David Fague leads his musicians during the Saint Mary’s game, Jan. 14, 2017, at the McCarthey Athletic Center.  (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga University Bulldog Band director David Fague leads his musicians during the Saint Mary’s game, Jan. 14, 2017, at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)

Cebert, 61, drew inspiration from Expo ‘74.

“That event had such an impact on me,” Cebert said. “My parents moved here in 1970, and Expo ‘74 blew me away. When I was (13) I saw what a town like Spokane can pull off and I stayed here.

“I remember the feeling back then was that we can do anything in Spokane. This show is another example of that. What we’re doing isn’t easy, but we’re going to pull it off.”

The magic will happen for Rivera, 78, who will sing and play drums while flanked by the orchestra and Cebert, thanks to a little help from some friends.

Dave Fague, the director of jazz studies and the Bulldog Band at Gonzaga, plays an instrumental role. He performed with Rivera at his show last December at the Bing, assembled the horn section and transcribed the horn and string parts for the Whitworth Orchestra.

“I just put Dave’s audio on paper,” Fague said. “It takes a lot of organization.”

Time is a precious commodity for Fague, who will assemble a 100-piece band for Gonzaga basketball in three weeks. However, Fague couldn’t pass on the Rivera gig.

“Peter has such a super-warm heart,” Fague said. “This is something that’s so important to him. I want to make it special for him. After I played with him last year at the Bing, I got to know him and so I’m as invested in this show as much as everyone else who is involved with the concert.”

The same goes for Brent Edstrom, 57, professor of music at Whitworth University, who arranged “Born to Wander” and “I Really Love You.”

“I’m very excited since I did a couple of arrangements for the Whitworth Orchestra,” Edstrom said. “I was just at a rehearsal that went very well. Peter’s music sounds amazing with the strings.”

The accompaniment will flesh out the songs, but it all starts with Rivera and his band.

“Peter is a great musician and his band is amazing,” Fague said. “The pocket his band creates is special. This is going to be interesting since we’ll have a classical conductor (Philip Baldwin) with us, and that makes it a totally different ballgame. All I know is that it will be special. I can’t wait to see how this goes since when I did the show at the Bing with Peter last year, which was so great. I can’t remember having that much fun. We’ll see what happens this time.”

Rivera is moved by the local music community’s support. “I just can’t say enough about what all of these incredibly talented people are bringing to the table,” Rivera said. “I can’t thank them enough. They’ve all become friends.”

No one is closer to Rivera than keyboardist-engineer-arranger Cebert.

“My relationship with Peter is beyond special,” Cebert said. “I wore out my Rare Earth records 20 years before I met Peter in 1994. It’s been a fantastic relationship ever since.

“When we started putting this show together, I was very excited since Spokane has such wonderful musicians. Everything we’ve been doing with the string sections and beyond has fit like a glove. The bonus is that this will be such a great experience for the young musicians. And then there’s Peter, who will have his night with a full orchestra playing his music along with him. It’s all happening in Spokane with musicians from Spokane. It’ll be an amazing, unforgettable night.”

To purchase tickets, go to foxtheaterspokane.org.

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