VERO BEACH - “We’ve Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered,” the world’s leading tribute to the music of Karen and Richard Carpenter, visits The Emerson Center on Sat., Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale now.
We spoke with vocalist Michelle Berting Brett, whose uncanny ability to recreate the sound and phrasing of Karen Carpenter is astounding.
“What’s so incredible about The Carpenters’ is the emotional connection that people have to this music,” Ms. Brett told Hometown News. “These were wedding songs, songs that mothers sing to their babies while holding them in their arms. They have a real resonance for people in a beautiful, emotional way. These songs are part of happy occasions in people’s lives.”
“Our collective musical experience in the 1970s was the same, because most of us grew up with only a few radio stations. We were listening to the same songs on the radio, and it captured what we went through as we were growing up and coming of age.”
The five piece band of Nashville professionals seeks to recreate hits like “Close to You” and “Rainy Days & Mondays” as faithfully as possible.
“The Carpenters’ music was pretty music, it was beautiful music, but it was also complex music. These weren’t just three chord pop tunes. They were intricate arrangements. Richard was a genius with the way he arranged the songs.”
“We don’t try to impersonate Karen and Richard. I’m not wearing a wig and pretending to be Karen, and we don’t have someone on stage wearing a blonde wig and trying to be Richard. What we really try to do is recreate that music as authentically as possible.”
“We tell stories about The Carpenters’ career. My husband, who produces the show, worked with many people that knew Karen and Richard, so we’ve got these really unique stories that not everybody has heard. You won’t find them in a book or on Wikipedia. They’re very personal stories about Karen and Richard. People love to hear the behind the scenes stories. It’s an opportunity to get to know The Carpenters and their journey in a new way.”
Everybody knows the sad story, that Karen Carpenter passed away because of a terrible eating disorder, “but we try to focus on their beautiful legacy. I think there is a tendency to focus on the sad, and the high drama. What we want to leave people with is the beautiful legacy of The Carpenters’ music, the incredible gift of these songs.”
After studying opera and musical theater in Toronto, Ms. Brett said “people kept telling me that I sounded like Karen Carpenter, which was a wonderful compliment. That beautiful, distinctive voice of hers.” She first performed the music of The Carpenters in Toronto in 2009, with only a piano player, in a small cabaret club.
“It was just an opportunity to put the songs out and see what the reaction would be. It’s grown from there to a national touring show. We’ve been across the U.S. from the Carpenters’ hometown in southern California to Las Vegas, New York City, and all points in between. We’ve had a great adventure with the show.”
“I really listen to Karen’s phrasing and try to capture the way she sang those songs. I don’t try to imitate her sound because, as far as I’m concerned, there’s only one Karen Carpenter, there will never be another. But Karen had a very definite way of approaching a lyric, she sang with so much beautiful emotion, and she had an incredible ability to sing these long phrases. So I’ve definitely studied that.”
Ms. Brett said that the crowd in every town they play always seems to know all the songs, and they sing along.
“We’ll take you on that musical journey. When we meet people after the show, they always say ‘we knew that we knew a few of The Carpenters’ songs, but we didn’t realize we knew every word of every song.’”
Tickets are $30-$75, available at www.MusicWorksconcerts.com or by calling (800) 595-4849.
The Emerson Center is located on the campus of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Vero Beach, on the SE corner of 16th St. and 27th Ave.