Symphony program a tribute to Simon and Garfunkel

04/28/2013 8:40 AM

08/08/2014 10:33 AM

The Simon and Garfunkel Retrospective performers are not imitating a legend — they simply are honoring one.

Singer/songwriter’s Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s ballads propelled them to stardom in the 1960s. A.J. Swearingen and Jonathan Beedle will sing several of Simon and Garfunkel’s Grammy Award-winning songs and well-known ballads as they perform Saturday with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.

“We discovered very early on that we had this vocal blend that seemed to be there right from the start,” Swearingen said. “We just loved Simon and Garfunkel so much. It just seemed to fit.”

Swearingen and Beedle began performing the ’60s dynamic folk-rock duo’s songs in the early ’90s.

“We have a mutual love for the music,” said Beedle, who grew up listening to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “The Boxer.”

Beedle and Swearingen said they studied old recordings and video clips of Simon and Garfunkel, but because no two performers are the same, they do not see themselves as imitators.

“We try to adhere to how they did it without impersonating them,” Beedle said.

Swearingen and Beedle dress in modern garb and do not put on wigs or imitate Simon and Garfunkel in looks. What they do is blend their voices and bring the rich tenor and baritone that Simon and Garfunkel made famous to the stage.

Although each concert is a bit different, audience favorites like “Mrs. Robinson” and “The Sound of Silence” always make it into the show.

Beedle said that his favorite song of the night changes depending on the audience.

“Each audience has a different flavor,” he said.

Unlike the musicians they emulate, Swearingen and Beedle grew up in Pennsylvania, not New York City.

In March, Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” was one of 25 recordings selected for preservation through the Library of Congress.

“I know how great the music is,” Swearingen said. “We’re a modern-day version of a folksinger.”

“The Sound of Silence,” a 1966 recording, serves as a benchmark to a generation. By 1967, “Scarborough Fair” had reached hit status for the duo from Queens. One year later, the poetic “Bookends” album was released.

“It’s amazing to stand on stage and be performing these songs and have the symphony behind you,” Beedle said. “It’s so beautiful and so powerful to stand on stage and have that music wrap around you. It’s spectacular.”

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