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The Indigo Girls launch 'BPO Rocks'

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is getting ready to rock the house next fall.

Just announced, "The BPO Rocks" is a new series welcoming, in some cases, the musicians themselves, not tribute artists.

The Indigo Girls kick off the series Sept. 28, with new arrangements of their well-known songs, including "Closer to Fine," "Least Complicated," "Galileo" and music from their latest disc, "Beauty Queen Sister."

Old-time rockers Three Dog Night will appear Oct. 12. The band will be presenting new orchestral arrangements to signature chart-topping hits.

Jamestown native Natalie Merchant appears Feb. 16, 2013. Accompanied by the BPO, the singer/songwriter will be performing songs from her recent and classic albums.

Dan Hart, the BPO's executive director, says the concerts grew out of the rock shows that have been a hit in the past. "They've met with such enthusiasm, we thought it would be wise to expand on the idea."

The upcoming concerts have a new twist. Pop artists, Hart says, are taking on new projects.

"Natalie Merchant, this is a new show she's done. She had a big career with 10,000 Maniacs, and she has done solo work -- now she wanted to pursue more projects broadening her scope, and she's come up with an orchestral show. That didn't exist a few years ago.

"The Indigo Girls, they've had a string of hits, but they've been off the radar screen. Now they're back with an orchestral show. I have a feeling the orchestra will play right into their genre. And I think Natalie Merchant will be the same way."

Completing "The BPO Rocks" is a pair of concerts with proven appeal. Pianist and vocalist Michael Cavanaugh, who teamed with the BPO recently in a tribute to Billy Joel, plays the songs of Elton John on Oct. 27. And on May 11, 2013, conductor and arranger Brent Havens reprises his popular tribute to Led Zeppelin.

"Led Zeppelin, that's our biggest seller," Hart says. He is a fan, he laughs. "In the '70s, in high school, 'Led Zeppelin II,' we wore the grooves out."

"BPO Rocks" concerts take place at 8 p.m. Tickets are available immediately and start at $29. Fans can save by buying tickets to all five concerts -- or "rock packs" of six, eight, 10 or 12 tickets, which may be used for any concerts, in any combination.

An informal and informative new concert series, "Know the Score," will welcome more audiences who might be new to classical music.

These three concerts take place on Thursdays. They will be shorter than conventional concerts, with an affordable ticket price of $25 (general admission).

"Know the Score" is geared toward young professionals, people more apt to spend their weekends on Chippewa, Elmwood or Hertel.

"We're hoping to position this as a different way of coming to the orchestra," says Susan Schwartz, the BPO's new director of marketing and communications. "The concerts start early -- you can come down after work."

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for "Know the Score" concerts, so patrons can relax over a drink at Kleinhans. Festivities continue after the music. "People can meet musicians in the orchestra," Schwartz says. "They can let their hair down, talk about music, whatever they want."

Here is the schedule for "Know the Score":

* Oct. 11, "Scheherazade": BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta introduces the exotic classic by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and guides the audience through a performance.

* Jan. 24, 2013: "French Impressionism in Art and Music": Conductor Paul Ferington explores the Impressionist era as it is reflected in the music of Faure, Debussy, Satie and Ravel, and the painting of Monet, Degas and Manet.

* May 23, 2013: "Eroica": Associate Conductor Matthew Kraemer explores Beethoven's euphoric, empowering masterpiece.

Hart is excited about the orchestra's expanded options.

"I just really feel like we have a very flexible orchestra. They've virtuosic. They can do anything," he says. "We also have a great desire to innovate, to find new ways to reach audiences. Our entire industry is thinking this way."

For information on BPO events, call 885-5000.