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'Dancing with the Stars' firing 28-member orchestra after 17 seasons


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 02/04/2014 

ABC has fired Dancing with the Stars' infamous Harold Wheeler Orchestra and Singers after 17 seasons and both the orchestra and the union representing the 28-member musical ensemble are very displeased.

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"Our talented music director, Harold Wheeler, will not be joining us for Season 18 of Dancing With the Stars," BBC Worldwide Productions and ABC said in joint media statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

"Since Season 1, Harold and his band have performed brilliant music in our ballroom for our dancers and the American viewers at home. We are grateful to him and his band for their amazing work and years of collaboration. We wish him the best of luck."

Wheeler, 70, reportedly believes his orchestra will be replaced by a "small electric band" to "attract a younger demographic" and the new band will be selected by Wheeler's replacement. However, a source told The Reporter live music will still continue to be a large component on the show.

Meanwhile, Ray Hair, the president of American Federation of Musicians, an entertainment industry union, slammed ABC for getting rid of the longtime Dancing with the Stars orchestra.

"People who love Dancing with the Stars also love the superb performances of the orchestra because it is such an integral part of the show. The tight, elaborate musical productions that catapulted the show into the top 10 in 17 countries can't be duplicated by recordings and a small combo. Viewers, whether they are young or old, will reject that as artistic fraud," Hair said in a press release.

"It's not like ABC and Disney don't have any money and can't afford an orchestra. It's about the insatiable thirst for profits at the expense of music, art, and those who create it. Firing the band, using recordings, and hiring fewer musicians won't boost ratings. It will kill the show."

Dancing with the Stars executive producer Conrad Green hinted a big change may be coming to the show's music back in September when the series fall season began utilizing pre-recorded music.

"We feel that there are some types of music and types of songs, a lot of modern music particularly, is so produced that it's impossible for an 18-piece band to replicate that sound. You get to a point where you're forcing a band to try and do sound that they just literally can't pull off," Green told The Reporter at the time.

"It took hundreds of hours in a studio to get some of those sounds. So in some cases we're thinking, let's just use that song. What's the point in forcing a band to try to do something that's impossible to achieve?"

(Photo credit ABC)


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