April 2015

“Happy” at the GRAMMYs

Getting an inside perspective on the performance and unique arrangement of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” at the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

National Standards: 1, 2, 3, 5

Prepare: Have the class read “Happy” at the GRAMMYs (page 26 of the student edition). The article shares detailed insight on what went into the live performance, with focus on the acoustic guitar part provided by producer, songwriter, and guitarist Brent Paschke.

Key points in the article:

  • Film composer Hans Zimmer and classical conductor and composer Benjamin Wallfisch arranged the song, and classical pianist Lang Lang and Zimmer took solos.
  • Paschke worked from demos and chord charts to prepare his part, spending 4 hours to work out his own voicings.
  • A dress rehearsal was filmed in case something prevented them from doing it live.
  • Six days of six-hour-long rehearsals were taken to ensure a perfect performance involving 50 other performers.

Begin: Compare and contrast preparation for a production like this GRAMMY performance to a typical concert, from Paschke’s perspective. Topics may include:

  • How he would work out his part for either production — independently with a recorded track or in person with a band?
  • The amount of rehearsal that would be put in to either
  • The frequency of performances of a single song — once v. countless
  • The amount of performers and collaborators involved

Develop: Play the following video of the performance:

What elements of the production do you think required extra work to prepare, especially in a live one-time production?

  • The smooth transition from the stage to the pianist’s solo
  • Choreography and planned movement for dancers and instrumentalists, that enables 50 performers to be on stage doing a variety of actions without chaos or collision
  • Costume design and fitting, so that dress is not only appropriate but visually appealing

What performers that you can think of have productions like these as part of their typical performances?