The French coined the term deja vu to describe a situation in which a person's impressions of a current event evoke memories of a similar occurrence that happened sometime in the past.
“Yesterday Once More,” the Oklahoma City Philharmonic's recent tribute to the Carpenters, evoked a similar feeling in me, although it was more of an aural sensation (deja entendu) than a visual one. For it was approximately 40 years ago that I heard the Carpenters in concert on the same Civic Center stage.
Produced by Jim Brickman, “Yesterday Once More” surveyed nearly two dozen hits the Carpenters made famous during the 1970s. A vocal ensemble and three-piece combo joined the orchestra for this nostalgic tribute.
The music of Karen and Richard Carpenter captured the public's imagination during a particularly difficult time in American history: the war in Vietnam continued to rage and the Watergate scandal would ultimately undermine Richard Nixon's presidency.
Through their music, the Carpenters offered an escape from the harshness of reality. Karen's sultry alto voice and Richard's expert arrangements created a wide range of emotions, from the melancholy to the upbeat. As one of the singers characterized their music, it was “the soundtrack of an entire generation.”
While John Trones, Jen Burleigh-Bentz, Michelle Carter and pianist David Lohman didn't set out to duplicate the Carpenters' sound, their renditions certainly evoked the duo's close harmonies and the clever harmonic shifts.
This music became so well known that even a song's opening vamp was sufficient to remind listeners what lay ahead. Think of the gently rocking piano chords that introduce “Close to You” or the oboe solo that launches “For All We Know.”