Hello Good People—
2014-what a year!! When I last wrote an update, I had just finished the Renée Fleming Super Bowl National Anthem Arrangement for her and the NJ Symphony. Then the madness began, the culmination of five years work with the Opening of Sting’s show The Last Ship. It is a remarkable piece of work with a score that is the deepest work of Sting’s life. I orchestrated it, musically supervised it, did the vocal arrangements and musically directed the run in Chicago and the first month post opening night in NY.
It was a lot more work than I imagined, but alongside absolutely extraordinary people. There was the cast led by Fred Applegate, Jimmy Nail, Michael Esper and Rachel Tucker among many others, a group of peerless and beautiful people. There was the absolute master of his domain, director Joe Mantello, leading us and never accepting anything but absolute focus and complete dedication. There was John Logan and Steven Hoggett, writer of Skyfall and Red and the choreographer of Once and The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Nighttime respectively. Watching those two solve problems and create new worlds was a privilege. Above all, I must say, was the man who trusted me with his songs and who never was anything but kind, loving, appreciative and encouraging. Sting of course.
That was most of this year. I implore everyone who is reading this to RUN and see The Last Ship because, though our audiences adore it every night and the word of mouth is great, too many people assume it is a show that is dour and is about out-of-work shipbuilders in the North of England. It is about love and joy and purpose and is an ennobling and wondrous evening of great music. The NY Times praised the score as being perhaps the best written for the stage by someone from popular music, “a seductive beauty of a score.” Go! You will not regret it! Trust me. Sting has gone into it in the role of Jackie White, the foreman of the yard, just to get the word of mouth to light more fires and to get more people in those seats. Broadway is expensive and once there is a perception that the work is darker, or perhaps more challenging, it can be tricky getting people in. Because of Sting, people are now coming in droves and hopefully it will keep going this way.
In between the Chicago and New York runs of the Last Ship I produced a record for the great blues/rock singer named Beth Hart and wrote an album’s worth of arrangements for jazz pianist Eliane Elias. I also did some writing for Kid Rock, Panic At The Disco and the band Train. I finished all of that and went immediately into musically directing the Kennedy Center Honors. This show was for Al Green, Tom Hanks, Lily Tomlin, the legendary dancer Patricia McBride and…..Sting.
Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding and Bruno Mars performed for Sting. We also surprised him by moving the matinee of The Last Ship to 1pm so the cast of The Last Ship could show up and sing the final refrain of “Sending out an SOS” from Message In A Bottle behind Bruno. It was absolutely remarkable and Sting completely lost it when the cast entered. I cannot thank producers Michael and George Stevens Jr. for taking such great care with the tribute to the Admiral (that is what I call him) Sting Sumner from Wallsend, UK.
What’s next??? The 21st Annual Rob Mathes Holiday Concert at SUNY Purchase on December 19th and 20th. Good seats are still available (there isn’t a bad seat in that theatre). Then Christmas and a bit of time off, which I need and am grateful for. I hope everyone has a great Holiday. Lots of love, Rob
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