Corky Siegel bringing unique sounds to USD

Corky Siegel bringing unique sounds to USD by David Lias It�s a long way from the Pepper�s Show Lounge in Chicago back in 1965, to Colton Recital Hall at The University of South Dakota.

It�s a journey, however, that Corky Siegel will be making.

In style.

Corky Siegel�s Chamber Blues will be performing at Colton Recital Hall here Tuesday, April 20, beginning at 8 p.m.

What they will offer to their Vermillion audience that night is a unique sound built from years of experience, and from Siegel�s revelation that classical music and the blues, when mixed properly, compliment each other very well.

�I started out performing in 1965 in Chicago at a place called Pepper�s Show Lounge in Chicago,� he said. While there, he had the opportunity to perform in the house band with his partner, Jim Schwall, for such historic blues masters as Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Willie Dixon and Little Walter.

Siegel and Schwall later formed their own blues band, named appropriately Siegel-Schwall. While performing a gig at another blues club in 1976, they noticed that a man kept returning to hear their show night after night.

That man was highly esteemed maestro Seiji Ozawa, who at the time was conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Today, he conducts the Boston Symphony.

Siegel remembers how Ozawa insisted that Siegel-Schwall and the orchestra perform together.

Siegel didn�t know it yet, but a new sound was about to be born.

�It really was a great success, and Ozawa kept telling me that I must pursue this blend of blues and classical music,� he said. �I didn�t pursue it, but it pursued me.�

�In 1983, I completely fell in love with the idea of blending blues and classical music,� he said.

The Chamber Blues first performed in 1987, and were wildly successful.

�It was neither my idea nor my fault,� Siegel said in a phone interview last week. �It was just something I had to go with because it totally captured my music and my heart.�

Siegel continues to perform as guest soloist with symphony orchestras world-wide, including the New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Boston Symphony and most recently, the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal with Maestro Charles Dutoit.

People who come to the April 20 performance in Vermillion may be surprised by not only the unique sounds of the Chamber Blues, but also by the fact that these musicians � a classical string quartet performing with the added sounds of harmonica, piano, and East Indian tabla (a hand drum) � are not the stiff, solemn musicians one would expect.

�We are all top-grade classical performers, but we have so much fun,� Siegel said. �And the fun is totally contagious.�

People who think classical music has to be �dry,� he added, are misguided.

�I really think music is a source of joy,� Siegel said. �For the longest time, I think, people have thought that if a classical musician shows any sort of feeling of happiness or joy while performing, there must be something wrong. Classical musicians have always been expected to put a cap on the joy and suppress it.�

�I think it�s just the opposite with us,� he added. �We, as performers, have so much fun, it�s hard to describe.�

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