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Kingston Trio, BPO join forces for evening of favorites at Artpark

Folk and classical music collided Saturday night as the Kingston Trio paired with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Artpark to bring a packed night of musical favorites. Yet despite the full concert bill, one concertgoer noticed something was missing.

"There won't be any young kids here tonight," one fan predicted as he surveyed the audience walking in. "I play this music for my grandchildren, and they're like 'What is this?' "

Grandchildren and an appreciation for folk music seemed to be the talk of the night for the mostly older crowd, who still turned up despite the daylong showers plaguing the park.

The event seemed to bridge two audiences that might not normally have been together under one roof -- the regular Philharmonic enthusiasts and fans of folk musicians the Kingston Trio.

As usual during Pops performances, the BPO owned the first half of the night, and opened with an impressive and flawless performance of the overture to "West Side Story."

After the piece, resident conductor Robert Franz explained that he chose the night's pieces to be in the form of trios, in special honor of the night's guests. The overture was the only exception; Franz said he couldn't resist including the piece, as it was the 50th anniversary of "West Side Story." (For those looking to hear more than the five-minute selection played Saturday, look for an October 20th show celebrating all of the magic of the famed musical.)

The highlight of the Philharmonic's set was their take on music from popular superhero classics. With the recent craze of webcrawlers and caped crusaders at the box office, it was entertaining to see the BPO draw on that current success and offer music from Batman, Spider-man and Superman. The only thing before the audience was talented men and women in black-and-white ensembles, yet all one had to do was close their eyes to see the comic characters come alive.

"I wanted to play this in preparation for the three superheroes that will be out here later tonight," joked Franz.

He might have been kidding, but he wasn't lying. As promised, the Kingston Trio proved their superhuman musical abilities during the second half of the show. The three received a warm welcome right off the bat. It was clear that many fans were ready for old favorites, and the band didn't deprive them of any.

"Let's see if they remember this one," the band mused before launching into a Paris Hilton-dedicated "Tijuana Jail," and the thunderous applause that followed proved that yes, in fact, they did remember.

"We know that when you learned this material is dependent upon when you were born," banjo player and 31-year Trio member George Grove commented while surveying the audience. "From the looks of it, it seems that would be from the original albums for most of you."

The good-natured jokes and the great sounding hits continued throughout the night, and the crowd seemed to enjoy the Trio's talkative banter as much as they liked to give it. Whether they were poking fun at each other and the audience or explaining the history of songs, the interaction they had with the crowd was one of the main factors that made the night so enjoyable.

"Chilly Winds," "M.T.A," and the 1963 hit "Greenback Dollar" were all contributors to the night's success. A cover of folk godfather Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" inspired instant clapping and one of the night's gems came with the mellow, slightly jazzy "Scotch and Soda," sung by guitarist Bill Zorn and complimented beautifully by the Philharmonic.

Despite the thunderstorms, the night was a success. On top of a variety of excellent music, the audience was able to take away an entertaining evening full of endless laughs and unforgettable stories.

e-mail: mhirschbeck@buffnews.com

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Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra With the Kingston Trio on Saturday night in Artpark Mainstage Theater.

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