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Olivia's Labour of Love

December 1, 2006, Toronto Sun

 Olivia Harrison still misses her beloved husband George -- the onetime Beatle who died far too soon. In fact, the fifth anniversary of George's death from cancer was just two days ago. But she has found comfort working on such Fab Four projects as the "new" Beatles album, LOVE -- the soundtrack to Cirque du Soleil's Las Vegas show of the same name. "He's just no less with me now than he was five years ago," Harrison said down the line this week from the couple's vacation home in Hawaii. "His presence is so powerful in my life, and having worked on this music has made it even more profound for me. It makes it tough but it's also such a gift." She explains that it was George's relationship with Cirque founder Guy LaLiberte -- they met through the Formula 1 auto-racing circuit in 1995 -- that got the LOVE ball rolling in the first place As far back as 1999 they began talking about a Beatles-themed Cirque show. In fact, Harrison says one of the last outings she and George had together with fellow Beatle Paul McCartney was to see the Cirque O show in Las Vegas. "George was very keen to inspire the others and, in fact, brought Guy together with Yoko (Ono), Paul, Ringo (Starr) and himself in June 2000, and Guy made sort of a proposal in his way that was so seductive, I think. He's bohemian," she said. Harrison says once legendary Beatles producer George Martin and his son Giles were brought on board four years ago to remix the existing master tapes of the Fab Four's music for the LOVE show, the project gained momentum. "We were all so excited. I think it really was the impetus that pushed it forward, what we heard what could be done. I think that really gave it a big boost." Harrison says she doesn't see protecting Harrion's musical legacy as pressure but she does take it seriously and it is "a responsibility." For example, Harrison reluctantly agreed to allow a demo version of My Guitar Gently Weeps to be part of LOVE, and then George Martin arranged strings for what would turn out to be the album's standout track.
"I think (the arrangements) were just completely appropriate and respectful and genius," she says. "Luckily, George had approved that one for the Anthology. I like to follow his instruction, and when they came to me with that demo, I actually didn't want them to use it, for the very reason they wanted to use it, (because) it was so intimate. "Maybe I didn't want to share it. And I wasn't sure it would sustain in a big theatre throughout the whole number and also it was a demo. And then Dhani, my son heard it, and he said, 'No, you have to let them use it, it's brilliant mom, you have to.' ' Cause I sort of defer to Dhani, he makes a lot of the musical decisions." At the end of the day,
Harrison
says George would have liked the way both the LOVE album and show turned out. "I think I can put my hand on my heart and say, 'Yes, he would have been thrilled,'" she said. "And he would have been back and forth to Vegas so many times, seeing that show, and taking everyone. He really liked to be with his friends and he liked a good party and a good time, and in that vein I took 60 people with me on that opening night 'cause that's what he would have done." Not that it wasn't heart wrenching at times.
"We had a really great time, and both John and George, their presence was very strong there. And you know I hate to use the word bittersweet but it really was and I know that Paul and Ringo were feeling that, missing them too, and for Yoko and I, it was very emotional, because you hear their voices and they're almost just right there."

 

Olivia Harrison feeling the 'Love'

December 01, 2006 Vancouver Sun

 This time of year is tough on Olivia Harrison. Her husband, former Beatle George Harrison, passed away on Nov. 29 five years ago, and Dec. 8 will mark the 26th anniversary of John Lennon's death. "You can't avoid those dates, you just can't," she says, her voice quiet on the other end of the phone. "I'm getting ready for that again." But this year, Harrison has a magic antidote up her sleeve -- the release of Love, an album of newly remixed Beatles songs, created for a Cirque du Soleil production with the same name. "I love the fact there's billboards all over the world with Love on them. I think that's the biggest coup of all," she says, her pleasure bubbling over into full-throated laughter. "As George said, everything they sang about, you know, the main theme was love," she adds, launching into a quote of George's song "Within You Without You": "With our love we can change the world, if they only knew." The Love album was produced by the Beatles' original producer George Martin and his son, Giles, using the entire archive of Beatles recordings. The 26 tracks include familiar favorites such as "Get Back," "I Am the Walrus," "Hey Jude" and "Revolution," as well as less well-known material such as "Glass Onion" and musical transitions designed to accompany the Cirque du Soleil production's scene changes. The Cirque du Soleil production is playing at The Mirage in Las Vegas. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" is a mix of original live and studio recordings of the song, edited together. "Help!" was hardly touched, and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" combines a very tender demo tape of George Harrison singing and playing the acoustic guitar, with a new orchestral backing. The Love project arose out of a friendship George Harrison developed with Cirque founder and Canadian former street performer Guy Laliberte. "Guy used to be an unofficial host of Montreal Grand Prix," Olivia says. "He used to have these parties and George came home and told me once, 'You won't believe it -- there was a couple sitting in a lagoon up to their waists in water, she in a ball gown and he in a tuxedo, having dinner all night,' he said. 'And there were people in feathered costumes swinging from trapezes in the trees and it was just great, and then I met Guy."' The idea of the Cirque show really "revived and inspired" George's creative juices when he first conceived of it in 1999, Olivia Harrison says. In time the project was developed with support from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison. The process turned out to require great trust and was very nerve-wracking, Harrison says. Watching the show itself was a very emotional experience for both Olivia and Yoko Ono. "It's meant to be close. That's the essence of the show. You're in a session. You're in a concert. Because you have speakers in the seats and one in front of you, you're just surrounded by sound and voices, so it's meant to be like that. But for us, it's a double whammy because you may hear somebody cough and you just know that cough. You hear someone say a countdown -- you know that voice. "They had a lot of tapes from the actual recording sessions that they were allowed to use. Talking. Conversation. They had a lot of images, so it's quite intimate. You hear voices. It's like they're there. You look around and you just can't find them." Harrison initially found it tough to watch the Cirque show, but says that once she stopped watching it critically and forced herself to just let go, she loved it. "This is a good show because you come out and you feel good. You feel great. People come out singing and in Las Vegas, what could be better? "I was thinking of John the other day and hearing his voice so pure on this album and in the show, and I think it's a nice way for them to be remembered, to be heard."