Celebrate the music of Elton John at Schuster Center this weekend

Actor-musician Craig A. Meyer joins Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra for “Remember When Rock Was Young: The Elton John Tribute,” a Rockin’ Orchestra Series concert at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Saturday, Jan. 22.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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Actor-musician Craig A. Meyer joins Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra for “Remember When Rock Was Young: The Elton John Tribute,” a Rockin’ Orchestra Series concert at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Saturday, Jan. 22.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Craig A. Meyer has earned a global reputation for “Remember When Rock Was Young: The Elton John Tribute.” Still, it isn’t a surprise to anyone familiar with the performer, who joins Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra for a Rockin’ Orchestra Series concert Saturday, Jan. 22 at the Schuster Center. As he tells it, he’s been preparing for this role since elementary school.

“I was always a ham,” Meyer said in a recent telephone interview. “I was always performing. My sister and I started dancing in second grade. Music and performing has always been a part of my world and it grew from there. I got myself an agent in L.A. at an early age and started doing television, film work, commercials and print work. All I ever wanted to be is a working actor and that’s all I’ve ever been.”

Meyer was in third grade when he started learning piano on his own.

“We had a piano in the house that my father had learned on, which is now in my home,” he said. “I was plunking at it, and he decided to teach me some basic chords. He got me this great poster with all these chord inversions on it. I’d save my pennies from my allowance from my chores and buy the song folios of Elton John, Billy Joel and Barry Manilow. I’d read the chords and listen to what they were playing, and I’d mimic it. That’s how I taught myself how to play the piano.”

In the trenches

While Meyer was already preparing to embody a flamboyant rock star like John as a youngster, it was just the beginning of his creative training. In fact, he apprenticed at Disney World when he was in his late teens and early 20s. He went on to appear in musicals on Broadway and has done national tours.

“My background is theater so that’s the way I’ve approached my show,” Meyer said. “I cut my teeth on stage so live performance is my realm. I worked for Disney for decades, so I’ve watched great craft people craft live shows. I toured with Barry Manilow for two years and watched how he and his team put together the show. I’ve really been blessed to learn from the extreme pros. I’m talking about master class-level stuff. I saw what it takes to put those elements in a pattern and in a form that will create a reaction in the audience.”

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Actor-musician Craig A. Meyer joins Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra for “Remember When Rock Was Young: The Elton John Tribute,” a Rockin’ Orchestra series concert at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Saturday, Jan. 22.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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Copyright by BJOERN KOMMERELL Bjoernkommerell.com bkommerell@gmail.com

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

On the stage

Meyer’s stage experiences helped him conceptualize “Remember When Rock Was Young.”

“This is a theatrical piece,” he said. “We’re not a cover band. We’re not just doing a bunch of songs. You’ll go see a band at a club and they’ll finish a song and there will be a lot dead air while they’re taking a drink of water and maybe retuning. That’s not who we are. We’re a theatrical show. Once we kick off the show, we’re in show mode. The show has a rhythm and a pace. I put the songs in an order that builds pressure and then takes pressure off, then builds pressure and then takes it off.

Meyer has several different variations of “Remember When Rock Was Young,” including a 45-minute show and another that runs two hours.

“The symphony show we’re doing in Dayton is its own beast,” he said. “There are certain songs I don’t have symphony charts for, and symphony shows have very tight time limitations because of musicians’ unions. We’re very careful when we’re setting our programs to make sure we fit in that space. It’s so glorious to hear his music with an orchestra. It’s spinetingling.”

Half a century of hits

Elton John scored his first Billboard Hot 100 hit with “Border Song,” which peaked at 92 in 1970. He scored nine No. 1 hits with songs like “Bennie & the Jets” (1974), “That’s What Friends Are For” (1985) and “Candle in the Wind” (1997). He continues to be part of the musical mainstream more than 50 years later. In December, his single with Ed Sheeran, “Merry Christmas,” became John’s 70th song to make the Billboard Hot 100. The track was No. 1 in the United Kingdom.

“For the late 20th century and early 21st century, Elton John is one of the great composers of the world,” Meyer said. “His and Bernie Taupin’s music will continue to endure like Gershwin, Porter, Mozart, Bach, Brahms, and Wagner. These are songs and melodies that are timeless and will be sung again and again. They wrote songs that will outlast all the other composers that have come along in the ‘90s and early 2000s that you can’t recall, remember or even hum. In 40 years, they’ll be doing retrospective albums of Elton John’s work like Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow have done with the Great American Songbook.”

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Actor-musician Craig A. Meyer joins Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra for “Remember When Rock Was Young: The Elton John Tribute,” a Rockin’ Orchestra series concert at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Saturday, Jan. 22.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Actor-musician Craig A. Meyer joins Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra for “Remember When Rock Was Young: The Elton John Tribute,” a Rockin’ Orchestra series concert at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Saturday, Jan. 22.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Combined ShapeCaption
Actor-musician Craig A. Meyer joins Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra for “Remember When Rock Was Young: The Elton John Tribute,” a Rockin’ Orchestra series concert at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Saturday, Jan. 22.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Finding new fans

John widened his appeal in the 1990s by contributing award-winning music to Disney’s “The Lion King” and “Aida.” His songs have also appeared in numerous films, including “American Hustle,” “High Fidelity” and “Dog Day Afternoon.” More recently, Dexter Fletcher directed “Rocketman,” a 2019 biopic based on the singer’s life and career.

“Elton John fans, whether casual or hardcore, understand that you feel things when you hear his music,” Meyer said. “There is heart and soul, gut-wrenching pain, crazy joy and silliness in the different songs he’s written. And through films like ‘Almost Famous,’ ‘Sing,’ ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’ and ‘The Lion King,’ Elton’s music has permeated the younger generations as well. Even if they don’t know his name, they know his songs.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at donthrasher100@gmail.com.

HOW TO GO

What: Craig A. Meyer and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra present “Remember When Rock Was Young: The Elton John Tribute”

Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22.

Cost: $27-$90

More info: 937-228-3630 or www.daytonlive.org

Artist info: almosteltonjohn.com

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