A Classical/Rock fusion

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

The worlds of classical music and rock ‘n’ roll will collide to produce a fusion of the two during Tupelo Symphony Orchestra’s next concert.
The first half of Saturday’s program at the Civic Auditorium will feature diverse works by Ludwig Van Beethoven, Aaron Copland and other classical composers.
After intermission, it’s time for the United States’ premiere of the “Rock Concerto.” It’s a musical concoction written by world-class violinist Alexander Markov in collaboration with James V. Remington and Neal Coomer.
“You’re not dealing with traditional rock ‘n’ roll music and you’re not dealing with a traditional classical composition,” Markov said during a phone interview from his home in New York. “Here we do both. The challenge is you’re entering new, uncharted territory.”
The “Rock Concerto” will feature the orchestra, the Tupelo Symphony Children’s Chorus and the Itawamba Community College Chorus, as well as Markov’s band.
“My band, they’re not your average rock band,” he said. “Every single person in that band is a soloist in his own right.”
Drummer Gregg Gerson has played with Roger Daltrey of The Who and David Bowie; bass player Ivan “Funkboy” Bodley has performed with 24 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees; and vocalist Coomer has crooned with everyone from Dolly Parton to Elton John.
“These guys, you’ll see why I only work with them,” Markov said. “They have incredible experience. On top of that, they are very versatile musicians, all of them.”

Before Carnegie Hall
The “Rock Concerto” was written in 2002, and it’s been performed in Turkey and Israel. The Tupelo concert will be the first performance of this version. It’s scheduled to debut at Carnegie Hall in the fall.
“I really want to thank the Tupelo Symphony and Margaret Anne Murphey,” Markov said. “I’ll never forget how open-minded Margaret Anne is. I’ve been discussing ‘Rock Concerto’ with quite a few symphony organizers and directors. They always talk about how important it is to do something for young people, but when it’s time to do something about it, they wimp out.”
Steven Byess, TSO musical director, said there’s no doubt the concerto might be jarring to some listeners.
But the program isn’t a rejection of classical music. Markov, whom Byess described as “freakishly talented,” will join the symphony for “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28,” by Camille Saint-Saens.
“When he picks up the classical violin, you just are dumbstruck,” Byess said. “He is really the most astonishing talent, especially to see it up close. He does things that seem impossible.
“Then he can pick up his electric violin and play almost everything that Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd ever wrote,” Byess continued, “and he’s a nice man.”

Reaching out
Markov said his goal for the “Rock Concerto” is to expand the impact of his beloved classical music.
“The ‘Rock Concerto,’ this type of music and this type of project attracts lots of young people. Usually, young people, when they hear the word symphony, they get scared,” he said. “They associate symphony with something too slow, too endless, boring. They have so many prejudices against the word symphony. We offer them something very different than they expect.”
The 38-minute “Rock Concerto” isn’t just a pop song with strings and horns added for effect. It’s meant to be a true blend of two distinct genres.
Plus, it’s supposed to rock the house.
“Are you bored with the same predictable concert?” he asked. “Are you interested in trying something fresh, something new? Come to our concert.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.

Mark your calendar
- What: Tupelo Symphony Orchestra with Alexander Markov
- When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Tupelo Civic Auditorium
- Tickets: $20/advance, $25/at the door, $10/students
- Info: (662) 842-8433
- Extra: From 5 to 7 p.m., Link Culinary Arts Program will serve Broccoli Salad, Prime Rib of Beef with Horseradish Sauce, Twice-Baked Potatoes, Spinach Madeline and Bananas Foster. The cost is $30/per person. Call 690-4011 for reservations.