They’ve ‘only just begun’

Tribute band Close to You: The Music of the Carpenters will bring ’70s classics to the Sellersville Theater this Friday

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Timeless.

This is how Lisa Rock describes her favorite band, the Carpenters. From Karen’s deep vocal range to her brother Richard’s simple yet powerful musical arrangements, the ’70s duo was truly something special. Songs like “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Please Mr. Postman” were the soundtrack of Rock’s childhood, and now she’s sharing these classics with audiences across the country. On Friday, Aug. 18, Close to You: The Music of the Carpenters will hit the Sellersville Theater for a night of music and memories.

It’s showtime: The seven-piece group stays as true as possible to the Carpenters songs fans fell in love with years ago. The band performs the same arrangements as Richard Carpenter while Lisa Rock sings in the original key of Karen. PHOTO: Close to You: The Music of the Carpenters

The longest touring tribute group of the Carpenters’ music, Close to You: The Music of the Carpenters has been on tour for eight years and has played nearly 200 shows in 36 states to sold-out audiences. As a lifelong Carpenters fan, lead singer Rock still can’t believe this is her career.

“It’s a love project that took off,” she said.

As a child, Rock was introduced to the Carpenters by her parents, who owned the band’s first album. She was immediately hooked from her first listen, and their music remained a constant in her life through her teen years and as she embarked on a musical career of her own.

In the ’90s, Rock put together a multi-media Carpenters production featuring music and clips of old concert footage and interviews. About 10 years ago after a sold-out show, she was approached by a representative from the venue asking what other types of shows she could do. After some reflection, her next step was clear — an entire concert dedicated to the music of the Carpenters.

What started out as Rock and a piano player has now grown into a seven-piece group dedicated to performing each song in its original key and recreating the arrangements of Richard Carpenter. For Rock, singing these songs is like second nature, especially since her voice naturally sits in the same range as Karen’s. It also helped that sheet music was available for both vocals and piano.

But her backing band had more work to do. No sheet music existed for drums, bass or guitar, and many of the musicians came into it familiar with the Carpenters’ music, but weren’t experts. Together, they worked to perfect the subtleties in the music to make it as true as possible to what fans fell in love with years ago.

While Close to You: The Music of the Carpenters features performances of all the duo’s hits, it’s much more than a concert. Rock makes the show as interactive as possible and encourages audience members to sing along and become a part of the production.

“You’re sitting in your living room and we just happen to be on stage,” she said.

Interactive entertainment: Audience members can expect an interactive show where they can sing along and hear untold stories from people who had the pleasure of knowing and meeting the Carpenters. PHOTO: Close to You: The Music of the Carpenters

Throughout the night, she shares stories gathered over the years from people who had the pleasure of knowing and meeting Karen and Richard. Some come from family members of former Carpenters’ bandmates, while others provide insight into the inspiration behind songs. Several years ago, Rock coincidentally met the daughter of the Carpenters’ postman, who reflected on how Karen used to leap from her drum kit when the mail arrived. Karen’s excitement over this daily occurence is what eventually led to their recording of the popular Marvelettes’ hit “Please Mr. Postman.”

Since Close to You: The Music of the Carpenters was first formed, their following has steadily grown year after year, and though she’s been touring with the group for some time, audience members still continue to surprise Rock. While they predominantly attract a middle-aged crowd, a number of college students consistently attend simply because they enjoy the music. Rock also sees the nonexistent generational gap in her home as her 8-year-old son runs around the house singing along to the Carpenters, just as she did at his age.

“It’s a testament to the Carpenters,” she said. “Their music is timeless.” ••

IF YOU GO…

Close to You: The Music of the Carpenters’ Sellersville Theater performance is on Friday, Aug. 18, at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

The theater is located at 24 W. Temple Ave. in Sellersville.

Tickets can be purchased at st94.com/listing, or by calling the box office at 215–257–5808.

For more information, visit closetoyouonline.com/home.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com