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Eclectic ensemble brings spring to festival
Things are a bit different with the Genkin Philharmonic

While most of the concerts of the June in Buffalo Festival feature works of music written by contemporary composers and performed by extremely talented musicians, the overall atmosphere is one of earnestness, enjoyment of the craft and appreciation of the difficulties involved in the process.

Audience members don't, as a rule, bubble over with joy during a performance.

Things are a bit different with the Genkin Philharmonic.

A few minutes before they took the stage on Friday night, the doors to the small auditorium at the Burchfield Penney Art Center opened and a modest stream of patrons began flowing through the entrance. By the time the group played its first notes, the seats were filled and some of the excess humanity found places to stand along the wall.

During the performance, some members of the audience actually shouted out their appreciation and, even as the music continued, clapped after solos were played. That kind of spontaneous interruption is something that you just don't hear in the course of a "normal" classical music program. It's something more common in the jazz and pop music worlds.

But the Genkin Philharmonic is a musically eclectic organization that refers to itself as "an electro-acoustic chamber ensemble" and plays music that ignores, to some extent, genre boundaries. It rearranges rock tunes, interprets works by contemporary composers and arranges scores by classical composers that were written long before electronics merged.

Friday night's program reflected this diversity.

The group began with a mash-up of selections from Bela Bartok's "Mikrokosmos" (a compendium of exercises originally written for the keyboard) before whipping into Frank Zappa's "Big Swifty."

Then came some arrangements of scores by Igor Stravinsky (including an arrangement of his take on a piece by the 16th century composer Carlo Gesualdo), two selections from Sergei Prokofiev's "Scythian Suite" and a world premiere by David Dominique ("Hostage and Release").

The evening ended up with some atonal pieces by Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, another pair of works by Zappa and an encore of King Crimson's "Thrak."

There were electric guitar solos, acoustic piano solos, trumpet solos and, of all things, a prominent slot in the Stravinsky/Gesualdo arrangement devoted to a slide didgeridoo.

Throughout it all, the Genkin Philharmonic proved that musical integrity, serious musicianship and a playful outlook aren't as incompatible as they may seem.

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Genkin Philharmonic    

Part of June in Buffalo. Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave.