By MIKE CHAIKEN
Although the hit singles from James Bond movies often get the attention, singer Sheena Easton—who had one of those singles—said there is much more in the world of “espionage” music than just Agent 007.
And Sheena will share the breadth of that universe when she teams up with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra on Saturday at the Bushnell with “The Spy Who Loved Me.”
The evening centers around the music from television series and movies about espionage and/or private eyes, explained Sheena in a phone call from her home. And the concept is one she “lovingly and painstakingly put together [herself],” she explained.
Although, Sheena recorded the theme for the James Bond film of the same name, “For Your Eyes Only,” she makes it clear the evening is not about just James Bond. She explained the evening, which is performed by Sheena and her “own secret weapon” Scott Coulter as they are accompanied by the HSO, offers a wide swathe of television and movie soundtrack pieces. Sheena said she has tried to design the set list for the show so that it’s not all one pitch. The audience is taken on a ride through this cinematic/ television musical genre, she said.
Just as Sheena is passionate about the concept of “The Spy Who Loved Me,” she said she is passionate about films. She remembers how her father – who worked in a steel mill—would take her to the local movie theater each week to see whatever was playing (as long as it was age appropriate).
With her passion for film, Sheena said she appreciates the artistry of those composers who score espionage movies. They “have so much great stuff to work with.” The music adds another dimension to the action on screen, she said. Even though film is a visual medium, said Sheena, “if you take the music out… half of the excitement and emotion is gone.” Sheena said she has friends who compose for films. “I know how much work goes into creating tension and drama.”
When asked what she feels was the best time for espionage flavored film scores, Sheena said she feels the golden age was in the 1970s and 1980s. The Cold War provided a wealth of material for movies and it was a great time for music in general.
But, Sheena said, she realizes it’s all a matter of context. She grew up in the1970s and 1980s. “If I was probably 25 now, I’d say today was the best stuff.’
For “The Spy Who Loved Me,” Sheena has been performing with symphonies across the country, including the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.
“When I first started to perform with symphonies,” said Sheena, “it scared the crap out of me.”
“With a band, I’m the boss. It’s all about me,” said Sheena.
With a symphony, Sheena said, the controls are handed over to the conductor.
“As a vocalist… you’re part of a huge ensemble,” said Sheena of performing with a symphony like HSO. In a band, a singer’s note is more important than the rest of the group. But in a symphony, there are times where the singer must share the focus with the other instruments.
These days, Sheena—who was born in Scotland—calls Las Vegas home. She explained the move to this side of the pond was made for professional reasons and more importantly for the sake of her children. By staying in Las Vegas, she explained, her children could go to school there and wouldn’t feel uprooted from their friends if Sheena continued the life of a show business gypsy.
“We have been here so long, my kids are adults,” said Sheena of her 21 year stint in Nevada.
These days, as well, Sheena’s once thick Scottish accent has turned to a more American flavor.
“My Scottish brogue comes out after talking to my sister,” said Sheena, who explained in the early days of her career, the British press often accused her of overemphasizing her brogue.
The fade of her accent is no surprise, Sheena said. She’s lived in America since she was 21-years-old. Now, she said, if she tries to speak with a brogue, it’s like anyone else trying to fake one.
“My accent tends to go with where I live,” said Sheena. She said she once had a personal assistant from Texas, and while the assistant worked with her, Sheena often found herself peppering her conversation with “y’all.”
As for what’s next in her career, Sheena said her primary focus will remain on “The Spy Who Loved Me.” The Hartford date is just the third time the show has been performed, said Sheena, who is keeping her performances limited to weekends. But it has generated interest from a lot of other orchestras interested in the concept for their pops series, said Sheena. And there is such a wealth of material available for the theme, she said the show will be able to grow and evolve over time. Besides “The Spy Who Loved Me,” Sheena said she is making plans to focus on her own music during a three week tour of Australia.
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra Pops! Series presents, “The Spy Who Loved Me,” with special guest Sheena Easton on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Mortensen Hall at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Tickets start at $19, $10 for students with ID. For more information, call (860) 987-5900 or go to HartfordSymphony.org
By MIKE CHAIKEN