Discovering a box of old tapes from his early recordings was a marvelous surprise for Music Box Dancer composer and pianist Frank Mills.
Hearing the orchestral music on these tapes “sent goosebumps down by back,” he recalled.
Now Mills plans to share his thrill with fans when he performs on Monday, May 1, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.
He jokingly calls his upcoming concert “keyboard karaoke.” It will go like this: The 75-year-old will perform his catchy piano melodies on stage, including Sunday Morning Suite and Classical Rock.
But his piano will also be accompanied, for part of the play list, by the orchestral music he had remixed and re-engineered from these tapes. It was originally created for Mills’s 1980s albums by studio musicians who had been moonlighting from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Since Mills thought these tapes “were the summary of my career,” he feels it worth the considerable effort and expense it took to re-engineer this recorded music for use on his 2015 album, After the Dancer.
Firstly, three out-dated recording machines had to be located just so engineers could work from the tapes. Then, new state-of-the art recording equipment had to be used to digitize the music.
In the process, Mills played around with the sound mixing, bringing up the volume on some instruments and blending others into the background. After the original records, Mills recalled thinking “I wish I’d done this, or done that… now 20 years later, I had done it!”
He hopes fans will enjoy hearing him perform with the lush recorded orchestration. He promises to also play some piano solos for those who prefer the pared-down approach. (No orchestration exists for Music Box Dancer).
Mills also plans to share a few secrets with budding musicians in the crowd. One fan wrote to tell him he plays his sheet music, but it never sounds as good. The trick, said the pianist, is liberal use of the piano pedal to create a fuller sound.
Now a married father of four, with three grandsons, Mills sometimes wonders how long he can keep touring. He’s reduced his forays to once a year, from three times. But the Toronto-born Vermont resident admits it’s the instant fan feedback he craves.
He’s been soaking up the concert experience since playing Ontario Place in about 1980. “It was just so thrilling. I remember thinking, if my father could only see me now!”
For more information about the 7 p.m. show, or tickets, please contact the Black Knight Ticket Centre.