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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

From Bach to Rock

Gufs, MSO offer free summer concert series

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   In 1969, the band Deep Purple made history by performing Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. Since then, Metallica has performed live with the San Francisco Symphony, KISS has collaborated with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and indie groups like Belle & Sebastian and The Decemberists have joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic on stage.

  Milwaukee adds a new chapter to the history of symphony-rock this summer with a series of four free concerts featuring live performances by The Gufs and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The beloved local band and world-renowned orchestra will join forces at BoernerBotanical Gardens at 7 p.m., June 25; the Lake Michigan shoreline, near the BradyStreetBridge, at 8:30 p.m. on June 26 (just before the Summerfest fireworks display); WashingtonPark at 7 p.m., June 27; and the Milwaukee County Zoo at 2:30 p.m. on June 29.

  All four of the concerts are free and open to the public thanks to sponsorship by U.S. Bank and Target, as well as support from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

  The concerts grew out of The Gufs’ most recent album, 2006’s A Different Sea, which featured several tracks with string arrangements performed by MSO musicians. Pleased with the sound of the album and anticipating their 20th anniversary this year, the band proposed a joint performance. The symphony loved the idea and found sponsors to bring the music out of Uihlein Hall and into the local parks.

  MSO Resident Conductor Stuart Chafetz, who has spent the past 20 years conducting and performing timpani in Hawaii, is excited to experience his first summer in Wisconsin and to bring symphonic music to a new audience.

  “I’ve survived winter in Milwaukee, and I can definitely feel the electricity in the air now that the weather is nice,” he says. “I think that will only add to the festive spirit in a venue such as WashingtonPark, where you can wear shorts, hang out and not feel as stuffy as you might in a tux.”

  Milwaukee native Andrew Raciti, the MSO’s assistant principal bassist, recalls just how festive the symphony’s outdoor concerts were last year.

  “I love playing outdoor concerts because people are having such a good time grilling out, drinking beer and taking it all in,” he says. “The crowd last year at WhitnallPark was amazing and huge—3,000 or 4,000 people.”

  The MSO is hoping to top those numbers this summer with the help of some of the world’s catchiest melodies.

  The concerts will begin with symphony performances of upbeat classics such as Dvorak’s Carnival Overture and John Williams’ Raiders March, which many concertgoers will recognize from the Indiana Jones film franchise, Chafetz says.

  “We’ve chosen pieces that will have people singing, dancing and whistling throughout the concerts and all the way home,” he says.

  Gufs singer Goran Kralj says the band will perform crowd favorites “Smile” and “Crash (Into Me),” plus a handful of other Gufs songs, with the MSO in the second half.

  Kralj says he expects that the performance will be a “real Guns N’ Roses moment, with the fans rocking along with The Gufs and the orchestra.”

  MSO fans may be surprised to discover that Chafetz knows how to rock with the best of ’em: He’s performed with a long list of rock legends, including Yes, Three Dog Night and Pat Benatar, in addition to being an unabashed fan of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

  The arrangements of the music—done by Hal Leonard veteran Larry Moore—are a key to making the concert a true rock experience as well.

  But biggest and best of all will be the sound.

  As Raciti puts it: “An electric guitar is made to be recorded, but there’s no way to reproduce the wallop that a 100-piece orchestra packs in a live performance. You hear it once, and you’re hooked for life.”

  The MSO is giving away 2,000 tickets to the zoo for the June 29 concert. These tickets may be obtained by calling the MSO ticket office at (414) 291-7605 before June 29.

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