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Carpenters tribute show does it up right

With a band of 13 musicians and vocalists, the Carpenters tribute show ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ is able to create the duo’s lush, layered harmonies as close to the original recordings as possible. The show comes to Detroit Lakes’ Historic Holmes Theatre Jan. 21. SUBMITTED PHOTO1 / 2
Lead singer Amy Lee authentically recreates Karen Carpenter’s unique style with her smooth, alto vocals. “She nails it,” says Aimee’s proud husband, Boyd, who is the show’s lead producer. SUBMITTED PHOTO2 / 2

When husband-and-wife musicians Boyd and Aimee Lee first started dating, each of them was harboring a secret. Fortunately, it turned out that this secret would bring them closer together rather than tearing them apart, because it was something they had in common: A love for the music of The Carpenters.

“We were both closet fans… but we’re very much out of the closet now,” Boyd joked during a telephone interview this past week.

“It was a deal breaker when we first started dating, although I didn’t know it at the time,” Aimee said. “One day, after we had been out on five or six dates together, Boyd said to me, ‘I have something for us. He took me down to the den and popped the DVD of the Carpenters documentary into the player. I gasped and said, ‘Oh, I love the Carpenters!’ He said, “OK, I think this’ll work.’”

But their mutual love for the brother-and-sister musical duo that produced such mega-hits as “Close to You,” “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Superstar” remained hidden from their fellow musicians for many years.

“Musicians just don’t tell other musicians that they’re into The Carpenters,” Boyd laughed, referring to the duo’s reputation for romantic, feel-good music with such mass appeal that it is sometimes classified as being cheesy and sentimental. “It could put your reputation on the line, even cost you gigs… It’s so ‘not cool.’”

So when Aimee came up with the idea of doing a Carpenters tribute show a few years ago, “Boyd thought I was nuts,” she said.

But after kicking the idea around for a few years, the couple decided that if they were going to do a Carpenters show, they were going to make it as authentic as possible.

“We wanted to get as close to the original recordings as absolutely possible, with as large a band as we could afford to use,” Boyd said. “So we started talking to the musicians we really, really wanted. Luckily, every last one of them was like, ‘So, you’re doing a Carpenters show,” and when I said, ‘Yeah, is that OK?’ they all said, ‘I am so IN. It was pretty funny.”

“Every single person was super excited to be on board,” Aimee added. “The whole band is like a family now. This group is not only a bunch of great musicians, they’re wonderful, wonderful people.”

“We have a string section, a horn section, a full backing band and four backup singers, plus the leads,” Boyd said.

“We have a grand piano player too, and our sound technician,” Aimee said. “It’s pretty authentic. We weren’t going to do this with synth(esized) horns and strings. It just didn’t feel right.”

“It was basically, ‘Go big or go home,’” Boyd explained. “We wanted to do it right.”

“It’s been a great experience – so much fun,” said Aimee. “Who knew The Carpenters would have such an influence on our lives?”

Though they try to stay authentic to the music, they don’t actually try to replicate the musicians themselves, Aimee noted.

“I have the good fortune to be an alto, so I sing all the leads,” she said. “It’s kind of scary, like sacred ground… but I don’t try to be Karen Carpenter (or look like her). This is truly a tribute to The Carpenters and the other incredible musicians and writers who influenced them.”

“Burt Bacharach, Herb Alpert, Paul Williams… Herb Alpert (the trumpet player) was really the first person to kind of discover them,” Boyd added. “She really does nail it though,” he said of his wife’s vocals, adding that his own role in the show is to serve as a backing vocalist and guitar player.

“He also does the majority of the production stuff,” Aimee said.

Besides the music, Boyd said, the group’s tribute show also includes a little bit of dialogue, talking about the historical context of the songs and how they came to be.

“We stay away from the subject of how she (Karen Carpenter) died,” said Aimee, referring to the fact that the gifted singer passed away in 1983, less than a month before her 33rd birthday, of complications resulting from her struggle with anorexia nervosa. “We wanted to focus on the joy their music brought to people.”

And joyful has indeed been the overwhelming response, she added. “We have people coming to our shows who have seen it seven or eight times. It’s really been amazing. The response has been even better than we expected to be.”

“We’re no longer ashamed (of being Carpenters fans),” Boyd joked. “We’re officially out of the closet.”

The tribute show, “Rainy Days and Mondays: The Music of the Carpenters” comes to Detroit Lakes’ Historic Holmes Theatre on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, $17.50 for students, and can be purchased at the Holmes Box Office, 806 Summit Ave. (open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday, and two hours prior to the show), by calling 218-844-7469, or by visiting the website, www.dlccc.org/holmes.html.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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