CSULB choir to perform with the Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones’ music director Matt Clifford watched as Cal State Long Beach choir students rehearsed the 1969 song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

But if they want to perform with the Rolling Stones as part of the band’s 50th anniversary “50 and Counting” tour, Clifford said they’re going to have to sound more British.

“You guys need to make it sound more anglicized,” Director of CSULB choral, vocal and opera studies Jonathan Talberg said.

The Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir will send 26 of its members to the Staples Center on Friday to join the Rolling Stones on stage to perform as part of the encore.

Talberg will conduct the choir on stage as the Rolling Stones play. The offer was pitched to Talberg by the American Choral Directors Association National President Jo-Michael Scheibe several weeks ago.

“Of course I’m interested in doing a Stones show, giving my students the opportunity,” Talberg said.

His students, like junior vocal performance major Becca Bishop, reacted with as much enthusiasm.

“I screamed,” Bishop said. “My landlord called me and asked if everything is OK, and I said, ‘I’m singing for the Stones, man!'”

With more than 200 choir students in his classes and not enough stage space for all of them, Talberg said he had to be selective in picking which students would go.

“I wanted to give the seniors a reward,” Talberg said. “I had to find a way to pick 26 great singers. It just makes sense that I’m not playing favorites and that I take all my seniors and a couple of juniors.”

With Wednesday’s rehearsal comprised of mostly seniors, many of the students said they perceived the opportunity as the optimal finishing touch of the work they’ve done at CSULB.

“It’s the coolest way to end my Long Beach experience,” senior vocal performance major Becky Hasquet said. “I’ve done back-up gigs before but never anything like this … This is the Stones at Staples.”

Clifford, who has worked with the Rolling Stones since their 1989 Steel Wheels tour, stood in to watch Wednesday’s rehearsal in the music complex’s choir hall. He filmed the rehearsal and said he would show Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger that night as a preview of what to expect.

Clifford said that the Rolling Stones recorded the original song with the London Bach Choir in 1967 but never used a choir for the song live until last November during a concert in London.

“It was such a success that we wanted to continue it,” Clifford said. “We also thought it’d be nice to involve local choirs in each of the cities we’re playing in.”

University of Southern California’s school choir, the USC Thornton Chamber Singers, will perform with the Rolling Stones at the Honda Center on May 15, and other local choirs will also join the British rock group for the song in between Friday’s opening concert at the Staple’s Center and the Anaheim show on May 15 at the Honda Center.

CSULB’s choir will have a final rehearsal on Friday before heading to Los Angeles for a full sound check prior to start time.

“When you’re doing a show with one of the greatest bands in history, you just have to take a moment and be in the moment,” Talberg said. “That’s what I’m going to tell them.”

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