James Bennett II is a staff writer for WQXR.
Brooklyn Duo, Devoted to Making New Classical Fans, Drops an Ed Sheeran Cover
Monday, February 27, 2017 - 03:37 PM
Marnie and Patrick Laird of Brooklyn Duo are back at it again. A few weeks ago, the feel-good musical couple that brought us a tight “Take On Me” cover, a collaboration with Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect. This time, their pop song of choice is “Castle on the Hill,” Ed Sheeran’s confessional and nostalgic song, in which he yearns for the innocence of youth.
Sheeran’s song is massively popular, dominating charts in the US and UK, and racking up almost 146 million listens on YouTube. The cover capitalizes on the songs beloved status and keep things simple, with the piano accompanying a homesick cello.
“We choose popular songs that we love, and try to bring out the melodic and harmonic beauty within them,” explained cellist Patrick Laird when we asked about how the two approached music. “Through our covers, we're able to reach so many people that wouldn't otherwise be exposed to these instruments or to classical music in general.” Marnie usually heads up the arranging, and her work allows listeners who are new to the classical space to secure a foothold with a familiar tune.
But their work doesn’t just stop there. They bridge the space between crossover music and classical repertoire with Brooklyn Classical, a project that’s fairly new and still taking shape. With this initiative, they showcase beautiful classical performances from talented musicians. Patrick explains that musicians invited to perform will often do a pop cover for Brooklyn Duo, then record a more traditional performance. The resulting interplay between the two projects is such that listeners might start out listening to Sia, and stumble upon a Smetana. Talk about a way to bring newcomers into the fold.