October 2, 2008

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Back to the 1920s with tongue in cheek
Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester at The Hop

By Dana Unger dunger@hippopress.com

Direct from Berlin, Germany, singer and entertainer Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester will take the stage at the Spaulding Auditorium on Thursday, Oct. 9, at 7 p.m. at the Hopkins Center for the Arts in Hanover. The concert will include a post-performance discussion with Raabe and the ensemble members.

With their slicked-back hair, crisp tuxedos and cheeky attitude, Raabe and the Palast Orchester recreate the look, sound and sophisticated humor of Weimer German cabaret music in their live musical performances.

A star in Germany and a growing international phenomenon, Raabe specializes in the jazz-inflected cabaret music that flourished in 1920s and ’30s Germany before being ended by the Nazis, who were outraged by its wit and sexual innuendo. Raabe and the orchestra’s shows capture every element of the dance bands of that era, from the musical arrangements to their authentic evening wear.

As a child, Raabe developed a love for Wagner and Beethoven as well as the antic sounds of the 1920s male vocal ensemble Comedian Harmonists. At age 20, he began a seven-year study of opera at the renowned Berlin University of the Arts, while dreaming of creating a “palace orchestra,” to perform the hits from the 1920s and ’30s, to finance his studies. With a few fellow conservatory students, he sought out the old sheet music in archives, flea markets and antiquarian bookshops, and collected old records and films as a model for authentic orchestral arrangements.

The ensemble premiered in 1987 in Berlin’s Theaterball and became an instant hit to the surprise of many, Raabe included.

The one-time gag took off, and Raabe and his orchestra soon began playing at venues throughout Europe, Asia and North America, performing German and English standards such as “Singin’ In The Rain,” “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” and “Dream a Little Dream,” as well as Raabe’s own compositions.

Raabe is also known for his interpretations of popular songs, taking hits like Britney Spears’ “Oops, I Did It Again” and Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb” and putting a decidedly tongue-in-cheek big band spin on them, in the process attracting some well-known fans, including Marilyn Manson, at whose 2005 wedding Raabe performed.

Though rigorous in their adherence to the authenticity of the sound and compositions of the pre-war society bands, the group is determined to never take themselves too seriously.


Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester
When: Thursday, Oct. 9, at 7 p.m.
Where: Spaulding Auditorium, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hanover
Tickets: $26, call 646-2422 or visit www.hop.dartmouth.edu