A definitive and transformative album for anyone who had ears in 1984, Purple Rain left the image of Prince forever emblazoned on the world’s soul, the heart beating in time with the insatiable disco-decorations, electro-pop exploration’s, and pure rock vibrations.
Troy Peters, Musical Director for the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio, was definitely moved by the groove, and will be joined by a group of local musicians as they pay tribute to the album for the long-anticipated Purple Rain Live!, which will be presented at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on Monday, March 13.
“I can still remember the moment ‘When Doves Cry’ came on the radio, it sounded like the future being blown away,” Peters reflected, recalling the moment that took so many by storm over 30 years ago. “When Prince died, [Purple Rain] clearly became the direction we needed to go. The wounds won’t be fresh, but it still feels timely, turning it into something that is meaningful to people right now.”
Peters, bold in his previous two choices of Radiohead’s OK Computer and the Beatles’ Abbey Road, said that Purple Rain was already on the short list when he began considering the next endeavor in the spring of 2016.
“The first two of these shows were such a huge success for audience members and musicians, it became clear that this is a part of what YOSA is,” Peters said. “It seems like this has become a San Antonio tradition. I love that.”
One of the greatest joys for Peters and the members of YOSA – classically-trained musicians in high school and college – is how the collaboration with local musicians has created a type of family reunion of sorts.
“We are trying to balance returning to artists that we’ve worked with before while incorporating new groups into the roster,” Peters said. “In this music scene it’s possible to do both, often times because people are in more than one band.”
Fans will be able to appreciate the vast array of talent representing all of San Antonio, as Peters has invited everyone from Mariachi Campanas de America to bluegrass group Sweet ‘Shine & Honey, with lead singer Rachel Laven blazing trails after winning a songwriting award at the Kerrville Folk Festival.
What Peters calls “old favorites” such as Alyson Alonzo and Nina Diaz will be gracing the stage once again. Alonzo has participated in all three YOSA-Live events, along with indie-rock soul ambassadors fishermen.
“We’re not purists, but when it comes to iconic songs and artists we’re not going to fix something that’s not broken,” said fishermen lead singer Edwin Stephens, referring to the original composition as a road map. “It’s nice to have such a large band of proficient players, as there’s some extra production to pull off live …. and if you have enough people you can pull of those bells and whistles.”
Stephens said that the group is incredibly honored to have the opportunity to play such an iconic track for the show, and they’ve done their best to stay true to the original.
“We didn’t take a bunch of liberties, but we do have a special twist, a moment set up to be truly magical for the audience and band,” Stephens said. “We hope to play the show of our lives that night, not just to showcase ourselves but to pay reverence to Troy’s brainchild and give our city something special.”
The same process of reverence Stephens hopes to pay Peters and company, is one that Peters himself is reveling in as the man behind the magic wand.
“It’s a long-term process, living with the material as a listener-as I get closer to the show there are several key layers,” Peters said, referencing the composition process that has to take into account the expansions and limitations of Prince’s genius, his orchestra, and the ideas of the guest musicians. “The real thing is where the band wants to take it. More and more bands invite me out to practice, where we’ll discuss and contribute more ideas.”
Collaboration is a key component for Peters as he recognizes the opportunity this provides in the movement of local music happening right now in San Antonio.
“There is an energy right now of renewed entrepreneurialism and enthusiasm, and it’s heartening to see the city investing in that infrastructure and growth,” Peters said, calling it a “renewed focus.”
“There’s also great excitement about the showcase being in the Tobin Center, not sure I’d have come up with this without the Tobin.”
Performing with the Foreign Arm for the Prince tribute, violinist and YOSA alum Darian Thomas recognizes Peters’ focus.
“He is very flexible with the bands, down with the idea of bands representing themselves,” Thomas said, referencing experience from his foray with Femina-X at Abbey Road Live!. “We all feel comfortable asking for what we want-Troy will let us know if it’s a little complicated or too far-fetched.”
Thomas has the unique perspective of having seen it from multiple perspectives: as a trusted leader in the orchestra, as a band member, and simply as a classical performer.
“As a member of the orchestra it’s a really cool thing, being there with the bands, a different and foreign feeling,” Thomas said, referring to the presence of drum kits and amps and synths scattered throughout the stage. “While classical musicians are used to accompanying soloists, you are now accompanying a bunch of people telling a story simultaneously. And then you’re accompanying them as they tell another person’s story.”
For Thomas, the fact that so many people connect with the music is a surreal and positive experience.
“We are trying to blend the power of the orchestra with the benchmark albums that have affected a lot of people’s lives,” Thomas said. “This day allows pop and classical music to step outside of themselves.”