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Yessian Music Ushers In The Olympics With Chart-Topping Ad
Brian Yessian
"Rhapsody in Blue" rendition meshes iconic Gershwin piece with Brazilian percussion

United’s latest Olympic commercial highlights its long-standing relationship with Team USA. The spot titled “One Journey, Two Teams”--conceived by a creative ensemble at mcgarrybown, New York--captures the feeling and emotion of the upcoming Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with real Olympians, actual United employees and a lively interpretation of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” The new arrangement of the iconic song comes compliments of Yessian Music. For more than 35 years now, United has been the official airline for Team USA and this latest ad has director Michael Haussman via Pulse Films helping to capture the Olympic spirit.

Olympians do their thing within the world of United--a martial artist flips baggage on the conveyor belt in the airline terminal, a woman pole vaults onto the plane, synchronized swimmers already on board go through their paces in workman like precision. United employees too, inspired by the athletes, perform their duties with a competitive panache.

Among the Olympians in the spot are gymnast Simone Biles, volleyball beach player Kerri Walsh Jennings, soccer player Carli Lloyd, swimmer Missy Franklin, decathlete Ashton Eaton, trampoline athlete Logan Dooley, and judo artist Dartanyon Crockett.

“Blue” challenge
“Musically this was a difficult charge--crafting an arrangement of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ that retains the energy, tradition, and nuance of Brazilian percussion as well as the iconic nature of the composition. Yessian accomplished this in a powerful way,” said Jerry Krenach, managing director, global music production at mcgarrybowen, NY.

In creating this new arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue,” the challenge for the Yessian coterie of talent was two fold. On one hand Yessian was tasked with creating a very unique and genre specific version of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody” while having to be respectful of the original piece that United Airlines has used as their brands sound for decades.  On the other hand, in creating an authentic Brazilian sound for the Rio Olympics, Yessian had to be 100 percent authentic in the musical approach and not just add a few Brazilian instruments to the orchestra score.  This piece needed street cred so Yessian built it from scratch.

“We’ve had the opportunity to work on the United brand with mcgarrybowen for several years recording and utilizing amazing orchestras,” related Yessian partner/chief creative officer Brian Yessian. “This was a completely new approach and in order to pull this off, we knew we had to work with real Brazilian street musicians.  We pulled in the best Brazilian Samba players and had an all out jam fest.

“With the number of authentic Brazilian instruments we had in the studio alone, it was almost as large as a full orchestra,” continued Yessian. “For this Rio Olympic campaign we injected the spirit of Brazilian music into ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and completely transformed it into a Samba festival. It was a tricky recording session and we spent a full day at Avatar Studios with dozens of microphones spread around the room to capture every possible tone of some of the most unique instruments we have had the pleasure to work with.  With that much instrumental power in the studio we had to be very delicate in the way we mixed this all so the style of music would translate well to television. It was an amazing process from concept to record to mix.  We just wanted to get up and dance every time we heard it.”

Yessian Music’s Dan Zank and Gerard Smerek were the arranger and record & mix engineer, respectively. Matt Damon provided the voiceover.

Audio post mixer was Michael Marinelli of Sonic Union, New York.

The mcgarrybowen creative team included managing director/executive creative director Haydn Morris, group creative directors David DiRienz and Erik Izo, managing director, content production Dante Piacenza, and executive producer Stacy Kay.

See top Ten Music Chart here.

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Music/Sound: Composition: “Rhapsody In  Blue” by George Gershwin; Yessian Music, New York; Dan Zank, arranger; Brian Yessian, partner/chief creative officer; Gerard Smerek, record and mix engineer. Audio Post: Sonic Union, New York; Michael Marinelli, mixer; Agency: mcgarrybowen, New York; Jerry Krenach, managing director, global music production; Production: Pulse Films, bicoastal/international; Michael Haussman, director