The Berklee Really Eclectic Orchestra Records an All-Strings Rendition of 'Miserlou' from Home

The high school ensemble embraced the stay-at-home restrictions for their innovative take on the influential rock guitar tune.

May 5, 2020

The Berklee Really Eclectic Orchestra (BREO), a high school ensemble for string players centered around learning popular music, has not let Boston’s stay-at-home order stand in the way of collaborating to create music. Having rapidly shifted from in-person ensembles to an online learning experience, BREO has completed its all-strings rendition of “Miserlou” as a tribute to surf-rock legend Dick Dale, who passed away last year. 

Created during Berklee's Five-Week summer program, BREO brings together local high school–aged musicians with Berklee’s Professional Performance Division, in partnership with Berklee City Music, to learn popular music by ear in a communal and improvisational style. BREO's affinity for improvisation helped it shift gears quickly when in-person ensembles were no longer an option. 

“By the time the stay-at-home order was announced, I had already started thinking about how to manage my classes and ensembles online,” remarks Mimi Rabson, BREO's founder and artistic director. “It seemed possible to handle BREO the same way with the same technology.” Rabson, an associate professor in the String Department who specializes in improvisation, technology, and recording techniques for strings, worked closely with the students to continue BREO despite not being able to meet in person. “Most of the students were already using Zoom, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime,” says Rabson. “They assured me it would be a doable transition, and they taught me a lot of tricks for using the technology.”

What began as an ensemble class, where students personally interact and collaborate with each other, has become an online experience where students record each of thier parts individually, with Rabson compiling and producing the final result. High school student and BREO member Emma Forkey notes, “I liked being able to record multiple takes and put the best parts of them together. I was pretty impressed with how good it sounded, considering we weren’t able to hear each other.” 

“Working online was a big adjustment, but seeing projects come together after a couple of weeks of hard work was really amazing,” said high school student Jo Doyle.

Listen to the Berklee Really Eclectic Orchestra's rendition of “Miserlou": 

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