You could call it the Opus One Allstars. The edgy ensemble from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra is collaborating with the hill-country blues-rock-drenched North Mississippi Allstars for a pair of concerts that continue Opus One's tradition of tearing down barriers.
Cody Dickinson, who with brother Luther Dickinson makes up the core of the multi-Grammy-nominated band, is enthusiastic about working with the Opus One project.
Opus One and the North Mississippi Allstars
7:30 p.m. Thursday at the New Daisy Theater, 330 Beale St. Tickets: $25, $12.50 for students with valid I.D. Also, 2 p.m. Saturday at The Magnet, 879 East McLemore. Free. Call 901-537-2525 or go to tickets.memphissymphony.org.
"For street musicians like us, it enables us to work with real musicians," he said, bursting into laughter. "Classical music and instrumentation is so beautiful but somewhat unobtainable for rock and blues bands. Opus One enables us to collaborate and really make new music together, which is so exciting."
The Allstars recently got a taste of working with an orchestra at a National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) event in Mississippi. Prolific arranger Sam Shoup orchestrated one of their songs for the gathering, and it was a revelation to Dickinson.
"That's when I realized how much I love playing with full orchestra," he said. "It's like a complete realization conceptually of the music we've been making. It was so artistically gratifying — I wanted to fold the orchestra into a suitcase and take it with us. Right now, as we're doing this interview, I wish they could strike a chord for emphasis."
Shoup is doing arrangements for the upcoming concerts that will be performed Thursday at the New Daisy Theater, and Saturday in a free show at The Magnet near the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
Saturday afternoon's free concert is being funded by an initiative to reinvigorate the Soulsville neighborhood. The Symphony Soul Project includes several free MSO concerts aimed at getting neighborhood residents to come listen and to get frequent symphony patrons to come to a different part of town.
Dickinson said a lot of thought went into the song list. "Some of our tunes lend themselves to full orchestration more than others," he said. "For example, the instrumental 'ML (Goin' Home)' that Luther and I play on guitar is a duo piece in our shows, a staple theme for us. It's by nature arranged in a way that I felt would translate beautifully into full orchestration, so it's ultimately taking something very small and making it massive."
The collaboration feeds a creative need for Dickinson. "I'm very excited about it musically," he said, "because I feel like our music has nitty-gritty soul mixed with a little sophistication."