A beautiful rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow with Simple Gifts medley by the Piano Guys in a nod to the late Israel “Iz” Kamakawio’ole.
Story behind the song:
Jon Schmidt and Steven Sharp Nelson were booked for a Piano Guys show in Hawaii. How could we resist filming our next video in the land of Aloha — beautiful beaches, green mountains, and fresh pineapple?? We went to our Founders and Facebook fans to ask what song they wanted us to play there. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was the nearly-unanimous response. But you know how we are … we couldn’t “just” do this tune by itself…so in the studio we found a made-in-heaven matchup in the timeless melody from the Shaker Hymn “Simple Gifts” written in the 1800’s (also used by Aaron Copland in his Ballet “Appalachian Spring”). We feel it’s an especially appropriate mash-up because of our profound love and respect for the Hawaiian culture — a people who are so good at finding happiness in simplicity. As you probably could hear we borrowed a lot of ideas from Iz’s version which has become the stuff of legend. This arrangement is, in part, a tribute to him.
Getting a piano onto a sandy beach and then onto a big hill in a famous ranch within the SAME day (we only had 8 hours to film) was no small feat. The only thing harder would be to be predict Hawaiian weather, which ended up being our biggest challenge.
“We had a little extra help on this one. My mother, Lynne Sanders Nelson — a main source of my inspiration for pursuing music — passed away early in life from the effects of a brain tumor. She was an incredibly-gifted musician and taught me to play music passionately rather than just playing ‘notes’ on a page. ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ was one of her favorite songs. We finished this arrangement on what would have been her 70th birthday. Somehow she helped. I miss her so very much, but when I play songs like this I feel like I get to be with her again. This song is dedicated to her.”
-Steven Sharp Nelson
Over the Rainbow music written by Harold E. Arlen in 1939 for the movie “Wizard of Oz” — originally performed by Judy Garland
Published by EMI Feist Catalog, Inc.
Inspired, in part, by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s cover
Simple Gifts written by Joseph Brackett in 1848
Arrangement produced by Al van der Beek & Steven Sharp Nelson
Arrangement written by Jon Schmidt, Al van der Beek & Steven Sharp Nelson
Video produced by Paul Anderson and Tel Stewart
Piano: Jon Schmidt
Electric/Acoustic Cellos: Steven Sharp Nelson
Vocals: Al van der Beek
Percussion: Steven Sharp Nelson & Al van der Beek
Recorded, mixed & mastered by Al van der Beek at TPG Studio