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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: January 14, 2019

PSO plays along with the songs of rock’s female icons

Written by: Ray Routhier

Women rock our musical world.

From Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin to Tina Turner and Joan Jett, female rockers have made waves and inspired generations of fans and other musicians. They haven’t had it easy, with rock being a pretty male-dominated genre for much of its history.

But women rockers will have their day, two days actually, in Portland this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, the Portland Symphony Orchestra is presenting a pops concert called Women Rock featuring the music of women with powerful voices, backed by the 75-instrument power of the orchestra.

Cassidy Catanzaro, Katrina Rose Diderikson and Shayna Steele
Photos courtesy of the Portland Symphony Orchestra

The program will include songs made famous by all the women named above, plus Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Irene Cara, Pat Benatar and others. Three featured vocalists, who have been performing with Women Rock shows and orchestras around the country, will be bringing the songs to life. They are Cassidy Catanzaro, formerly of the rock band Antigone Rising; Katrina Rose Diderikson, star of a live show called A Night with Janis Joplin; and Shayna Steele, who has appeared on Broadway in “Rent” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” and was in NBC’s “Hairspray Live” in 2016.

“We’re excited because there’s really no better time than now to celebrate these women who have defined the decades for us,” said Carolyn Nishon, the orchestra’s executive director.

The Women Rock concerts are among four pops concerts the orchestra will put on this season, in addition to ones focusing on Broadway musicals, the music of Frank Sinatra and one with the jazz band The Hot Sardines.

The guest conductor for the Women Rock shows will be William Waldrop, who was most recently conductor for a revival of “Cats” on Broadway.

The Women Rock show was developed by two production companies, Schirmer Theatrical and Greenberg Artists, and tours the country performing with orchestras. The program includes 18 songs, done in the style of the female singer who made them famous.

The show kicks off with “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin, followed by “Dancing in the Street” as recorded with Martha Reeves on lead vocals, and then “So Far Away” by Carole King. Other songs in the show include “Love Is A Battlefield” as performed by Benatar, “I Love Rock N’ Roll” by Jett and “Proud Mary,” as recorded by Turner.

In the show, there are five songs by King, more than any other artist. King’s impact on pop and rock music was huge. She wrote or co-wrote more than 100 Billboard Hot 100 hits between 1955 and 1999, and her album “Tapestry” soared to No. 1 in 1971 and made her an icon of singer-songwriters everywhere.

Catanzaro, who sings the King songs in the show, says she tries hard to not over-sing the numbers. She wants to “do service” to the stories King is so adept at telling in song.

Plus, singing King’s songs, backed by an orchestra, is a uniquely emotional experience.

“The songs are emotional themselves, but then to have the power of an orchestra behind you is extraordinary,” said Catanzaro in phone interview from Ottawa, Canada, where “Women Rock” was being performed.

Catanzaro said it was especially gratifying for her, and the other women in the show, to be paying tribute to women who not only paved the way for their careers, but set an example to follow.

“All of us, our voices were developed by listening to these artists,” said Catanzaro. “My mother had all Carole King’s albums, and they were a huge inspiration to me.”

Portland Symphony Orchestra presents “Women Rock”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday (Note: the Sunday performance has been CANCELLED due to the storm. Contact Port Tix for refund/exchange options.
WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $32 to $83

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