by: PHOTO COURTESY: ARI GOODBLATT - Soundstage Rhythm Orchestras offbeat approach promises to take over Oregon City's Pacific Crest Grand Ballroom on May 18.Don’t expect a traditional orchestra to take over Oregon City’s Pacific Crest Grand Ballroom when May 18 arrives, because you won’t find one in Soundstage Rhythm Orchestra’s rejuvenated approach to big band music, ballroom dancing and a century’s worth of memorable hits. 

Within this 28-piece orchestra (which also includes a master of ceremonies) are seasoned and creative musicians with the tools to rejuvenate generations of music. The SRO banner flies over musicians in the string, woodwind, brass, keyboard and percussion section. They have a flair for the unusual, but are always entertaining.

“We have a group of people that can all write, arrange and produce very unique music. We can take songs that are memorable to people and add a dynamic weave of sounds with a nostalgic, emotional contour,” said Gordon McDonald, SRO’s keyboardist and one of their arrangers.

Reimagining and revisiting hits for a modern dance-hungry audience while paying close attention to seasoned musicianship is SRO’s calling. As the largest dance orchestra on the West Coast they build their diverse set through collaboration and experimentation.

“Everyone is in tune with the goal and contributing to the puzzle, but we are adding little audible elements that create the big sound,” said Michael Shaw, a cellist and founder of the group. “Sometimes you’re not sure what that little part can do, but the real surprise and the real kick is when it’s a little different, and it fits so well. That’s when we have success. We’re always listening to new music, finding new ways to unpack it and fit it together again.”

Shaw recently listened to “Some Nights,” a powerful pop-ballad with driving percussion and sneaking three-part harmonies. When the song ended, the group discussed how to expand the song for 28 instruments — string, wind, brass and rhythm sections.

“We’re not actually following the rules,” McDonald said. “The potential is unlimited because our toolkit is unlimited.”

Outlandish costumes and a lively stage presence promise to enhance a live performance known to pack ballrooms with music fans and longtime ballroom dancers. Contagious stage presence and skillful entertainment, they say, will be packaged by accomplished musicians who love performing wildly eclectic shows.

“This is filling a slot, musically,” McDonald said, “one that has been missing for a long time.”

To catch Soundstage Rhythm Orchestra’s show you can purchase tickets at Ticket Tomato, or through the website Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the show will begin at 7:30 p.m.

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