YSO embarks on a season of musical collaboration ROCK FUSION


By GUY D’ASTOLFO

dastolfo@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The Youngstown Symphony Orchestra will begin its pops season this weekend with what Music Director Randall Craig Fleischer calls “the rock event of the year.”

Yes, you read that right. Rock.

Saturday at Powers Auditorium, Fleischer will lead the YSO and a rock band in “Rock Fusion,” a show that he conceived and arranged.

It’s a program that fuses a symphony with an electric rock band in performing classic rock songs such as Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and Pink Floyd’s “On the Turning Away.”

It’s a performance that will be special for Fleischer, who is a pioneer of the rock-symphony fusion format.

“Rock Fusion” has been a passion of mine for years,” he told The Vindicator. “I’ve been working on the creation of rock-related symphonic works and mounting concerts of this type since 1988.”

In addition to the full orchestra, “Rock Fusion” will include the Dana Chorale and a band with electric guitar, keyboards (played by Fleischer), drums and bass guitar.

Vocalist will be Rob Evan of rock-symphony torch-bearers Trans-Siberian Orchestra, while lead guitarist will be Alex Skolnick, formerly of TSO.

That’s a one-two punch that should put this show well over the top. But how did Fleischer score such a perfect duo for this show?

“Rob Evan is a close friend,” he said. “He and I have performed all over the world together. I was absolutely jumping up and down when Alex Skolnick agreed to join us. ... What a coup! Alex is a monster player with huge credits and all of the skills needed for this gig.”

Looking ahead, the rest of the YSO season will include more unique collaborations.

On Oct. 22, blind pianist Noboyuki Tsujii, a Van Cliburn Piano Competition gold medalist, will perform Chopin’s First Piano Concerto.

Broadway vocalist Carpathia Jenkins will accompany the YSO in the annual Holiday concert Dec. 10, with the Darren Thomas Gospel Ensemble.

An April 22 program will include Metropolitan Opera soprano Jane McMahon and New York Opera tenor Kip Wilborn.

And Three Broadway Divas will join the YSO to close the season April 28.

Fleischer relishes the opportunity to work with stars of diverse musical styles.

“I am a truly lucky guy in that I enjoy a musical life, which continually builds bridges between genres,” he said. “The YSO is really trying to bring the best of each of these genres to Youngstown.”

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