Barry McNamara  |  Published May 04, 2022

MLCCS May Musical Mash-Up

Final Maple Leaf Community Concert Series event of season to feature Branden & James.

BRANDEN & JAMES: Duo to perform May 10 for final Maple Leaf Community Concert Series event of... BRANDEN & JAMES: Duo to perform May 10 for final Maple Leaf Community Concert Series event of the 2021-22 season.MONMOUTH, Ill. – What would happen if Bach and Elton John were contemporaries? Or if Vivaldi had been contracted to compose a Disney theme?

The answers lie in the music of Branden & James – a duo composed of vocalist Branden James and cellist James Clark, who also provides background vocals.

The duo will take the stage at the final Maple Leaf Community Concert Series event of the season at 7 p.m. May 10 in the Kasch Performance Hall of Monmouth College’s Dahl Chapel and Auditorium.

Tickets are available at the door or at the Buchanan Center for the Arts, 64 Public Square, Monmouth. Individuals renewing their MLCCS membership for the 2022-23 season by May 31 will receive a free guest pass for a single show to share with a friend.

A classically trained pianist and cellist, Clark worked as a music teacher in Australia for five years before pursuing his master’s degree in cello performance at California State University, Long Beach.

The two met when James, who performed in Season 8 of America’s Got Talent, was appearing at a charity concert in the Los Angeles area, where Clark was hired as the music director. The two easily became friends, and soon James engaged Clark to arrange songs for him, which evolved into playing together.

Clark came with James to a five-week solo gig he’d been offered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and as soon as people heard the musicians together, the duo realized they had something. The opportunity turned into a seven-month gig for the two of them.

“We fuse Bach with Elton John or Vivaldi with a Disney song. We’re just trying to acknowledge our backgrounds in classical music, but play what we prefer, which is pop, rock and jazz.” James Clark

“Everything we do is so fused and there are so many mashups of everything, like EDM fused with classical,” said Clark. “We fuse Bach with Elton John or Vivaldi with a Disney song. We’re just trying to acknowledge our backgrounds in classical music, but play what we prefer, which is pop, rock and jazz.”

Shortly after their time in New Mexico, Branden & James were booked worldwide, with about 50% of their work coming on several upscale cruise ship lines.

“We are both well-versed in the harmonic language of choral music,” said Clark. “We tend to choose songs that are very melodic and lend themselves to a classical singing style. I think audiences sometimes expect that because I play cello, it’s going to be sad, slow music, which isn’t the case at all. A lot of pop bands have been incorporating cello on their recordings over the past 10 years or so.”

The musicians were married in 2018.

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