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Bows to the rafters

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Dar Williams has always been a tad too pleasant for me. Thoughtful, insightful, and guitar proficient are usually not quite enough. I need grit. I need entropy.

I was thrilled when Williams praised New York's trees for satisfying her need for things deciduous. It was a bit abstract but warmed me to her a little as she played the Record Archive Thursday afternoon for roughly 150 enthusiastic fans. Shows like this at the Archive (or "in-stores" as they refer to them in the industry) are great because they're truly for the fans who line up to meet and greet and fawn after the abbreviated sets. Sometimes, in the daylight, rock 'n' roll takes on a whole new meaning.

I caught some orchestral music in the dark this past Saturday night as The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra presented "Grand Premieres & Grand Finales" at The Eastman Theatre. Bill Dobbins' "Guitar Concerto" --- in its world premiere --- was the belle of this ball.

The opening piece, former Rochesterian Christopher Rouse's aptly titled "Rapture," built quickly with pleasant flourishes. And though orchestras are not generally regarded as visual affairs, when the strings struck the final note some 14 minutes later, the players followed through by thrusting their bows to the rafters. I know I'm a simpleton, classically speaking, but man, that looked cool.

Looking somewhat nervous (hey, you would too), guitarist Nicholas Goluses then joined the RPO for the Dobbins piece. Due to the dynamic dissimilarities between nylon-stringed guitar and a full-tilt orchestra, the piece offered a lot of dramatic hills and valleys. Yet within the hushed valleys of the orchestra's reserve, Goluses tore into his guitar voraciously one moment, emitting gentle, sweet runs the next. The whole piece would have been relegated to simply see-sawing were it not for several solo instruments that joined in at various intervals to duet with the guitar.

It was apparent that the composer is rooted in jazz as lush melodies poked their heads out now and then amidst the classical discipline. Dobbins even teased a waltz here and there.

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