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    Did we hear that? Did we hear what that man just screamed? Did some dude in the KY Center audience just yell “ROCK THIS BITCH?” Is that what center-stage Ben Folds heard correctly? Oh, it is? Good, do we know about this tradition? Did we know when an audience member screams “ROCK THIS BITCH!” that it’s time for Ben Folds to completely improvise a song? To arrange each section of the Louisville Orchestra -- winds, strings, horns, percussion, etc. -- in this improvisation? But before all that, you know what Ben Folds needs? Where’s the guy who screamed that? Hi, oh, hi, yes, we need a theme, don’t we? Ben Folds asks the man, "Have you been in a bad relationship in the past one to five years? Oh, you have? Why did she leave you?" Man says, "She wanted a house and life I couldn’t afford." Ben says, "Alright, our theme is 'Broke Ass Man.'” 

    And so the Broke Ass world begins. First with Ben. He figures a melody on his piano, the instrument he’s been hammering all night, through classics like “Brick” and “Gracie” and his three-movement Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, which first premiered with the Nashville Symphony. It’s all doo-de-doo-de-doo-de and Ben assigns this part to the bassoons. They stagger through at first, then catch on, turn up the tempo. Next the bass with a bun-dun-dun-da-dun-dunt. Then cellos to horns to upper strings. Ben says, "Let me hear it all together so I know I’m not on crack cocaine." Bob Bernhardt, the Louisville Orchestra’s Pops Conductor, leads the swirl and it sounds so other wordly, a funky Wizard of Oz-like-thing. 

    Watching this process of experimentation feels like witnessing a genius at work. All these elements to consider, balance, time correctly. It’s a serious task, but also fun/funny. The lyrics for the song come from some anonymous internet confession with the words “broke ass man” in it and they’re simultaneously awful and perfect. (Roses are red, violets are blue, why the hell was I ever in love with you...or something.)

    Now it’s our turn. Ben conducts the audience. Divvies out soprano singing parts to all the sopranos out there; altos to altos. We’re all one “ahh” and “ohh”-ing then we’re split into three sections: right wing, center, left. We hum long notes then stroke staccatos and it becomes like a round. We are all involved. We are all a part of this. 

    Just what Ben believes in. This community. That old movie Drumline’s sentiment: One Band, One Sound. All the parts of the symphony to make one arrangement. Each hand in. As Ben says, it makes us all citizens of the world.

    Photo courtesy of Gerry James 

    Arielle Reyna Christian's picture

    About Arielle Reyna Christian

    Oh me! Just a screamer and dreamer. Poet, know it. Righter writer. Too much wordplay is good for the soul. Arts all around. Hooty hoo!

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