David Garza in Concert: The Art of the Rock Song

By Fredric Dannen, photo by Sean Reagan

When rock and roll started to fill the airwaves in the 1950s, no student of music took the genre seriously. In truth, there wasn’t much to the form. The rock song was almost invariably a simple, unsyncopated melody in 4/4 time. But in the 1960s, the songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney changed all of that. They produced songs in swing rhythm, in parallel major and minor keys, and with insistent dissonance. And they experimented with instrumentation. When they jointly composed the ballad “She’s Leaving Home” in 1967, the song was scored entirely for voices, harp, and string orchestra. Even classical musicians took notice. Ned Rorem, a distinguished American composer of art songs, pronounced “She’s Leaving Home” to be “a mazurka equal in melancholy and melodic distinction to those of Chopin.”

David Garza: The Art of the Rock Song
With Fredric Dannen, piano
Tue, May 19, 7pm
200 pesos
Bellas Artes
Hernández Macías 75
Tickets available at Solutions, Recreo 11; La Conexión, Aldama 3; and Los Milagros, Reloj 17

“She’s Leaving Home” is one of the songs that the popular San Miguel singer David Garza will perform in a concert at Bellas Artes on Tuesday, May 19, at 7pm. Entitled “The Art of the Rock Song,” the concert will feature other works by Lennon and McCartney, and by songwriters whom the British duo influenced, such as Billy Joel (“New York State of Mind,” “She’s Got a Way”); Elton John (“Your Song,” “Goodbye Yellowbrick Road”); and Paul Simon (“Bridge Over Troubled Water”). Garza usually performs with his guitar or with the backing of a rock band; but on this occasion, he will be accompanied by the theater’s nine-foot Steinway grand piano, to emphasize that the compositions are indeed concert songs, and works of art.

The concert will be the fourth installment of the Bellas Artes’ so-called “Steinway Series,” a monthly concert featuring the theater’s piano as either a solo or ensemble instrument. As always, 30 percent of the proceeds will benefit the Rural Education Institute of Mexico, A.C., a nonprofit organization with the goal of improving educational opportunities for non-urban Mexican children.

The songs that Garza will perform all serve to demonstrate the diversity and  sophistication attained by the best composers in the rock era. The remarkable Lennon/McCartney song “A Day in the Life,” for instance, is cast in G major, but its melancholy soul derives from the parallel major and minor keys of E. Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman” is made up of cascading 16th-note arpeggios and frequent changes of meter, a likely outgrowth of his classical piano training. Elton John’s songs are distinctive for their use of the so-called “slash chord”—chords using a bass tone other than the root note. Garza’s warm and appealing singing style and three-octave vocal range are perfectly suited to the material.


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