Consider this list of newsworthy events: The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion, the Watergate scandal led to Richard Nixon's resignation, Karol Jozef Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II, Iran took 52 Americans hostage and Jim Jones masterminded the Jonestown massacre.
Those who lived through that turbulent decade will have no problem identifying it as the 1970s. But decades are also defined by music and fashion trends. The 1970s conjure images of miniskirts, bell-bottoms, platform shoes, bell-sleeved shirts, polyester suits and spandex.
Musically, the '70s were no less diverse, from disco, funk and new wave to hard rock, country rock and soft rock prevailing. That wide range of musical styles will be the focus of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic's 2012-13 pops season opener.
Jack Everly, a frequent guest conductor with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, will present “Disco Days and Boogie Nights,” a tribute to the 1970s that will feature guest vocalists Farah Alvin, N'Kenge, Anne Beck and the a cappella group Chapter 6.
In 1998, Everly created the Symphonic Pops Consortium, an Indianapolis-based organization that produces theatrical pops programs for symphony orchestras. In addition to being the consortium's music director, Everly works with some of the industry's top orchestrators — Fred Barton, Wayne Barker and Mike Runyan — to create innovative musical arrangements.
“We had already created programs that paid tribute to the 1940s, '50s and '60s so the '70s seemed like the next logical step,” Everly said recently. “With these shows, you always have to ask yourself if the pieces you want to program will translate into a symphonic medium.
“In planning these decade concerts, it all comes down to what's appropriate for the style of the music. Did a song become popular at the beginning of a decade, was it a turning point or was it released near the end of the decade? It's something we analyze about every piece.”
Some of the 1970s tunes that made the cut and were arranged for this concert include John Lennon's “Imagine,” the Village People's “YMCA,” Marvin Hamlisch's “The Way We Were” and Gloria Gaynor's “I Will Survive.” Chapter 6 will be featured in Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“The Chapter 6 guys met in college and have been together for a number of years now,” Everly said. “They have incredible musical ears and wonderful voices. Any group that we feature has to be as good as the group (the orchestra) behind them. Chapter 6 has embraced that and it's become one of the high points of their existence.”
As with any musical retrospective, “Disco Days and Boogie Nights” promises to remind listeners of some musical high points that defined that era. Even with such titles as “Love Boat and Other Masterworks,” “Groovy Movie Themes” and a “Keep on Truckin' Medley,” this concert doesn't shy away from some of the decade's more unusual offerings.
“There's obviously quite a lot of humor in this show,” Everly said. “I also think any time you do a concert that deals with an entire decade of pop music, nostalgia plays a large part of it. What you can't lose sight of is that it still has to entertain people who may not be the biggest fans of that music.
“I take great pride when audience members have a big smile on their faces and tell me they enjoyed what they heard and that they will come back. That's what we aim for. If they're not there, we're not there. We exist because of our audience.”