ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — On Friday and Saturday night, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra will be heading country. This is only the second time the RPO will feature country music in its nearly 100-year history.
The program, “Country Hits: Songs From Nashville,” put together by Principal Pops bandleader Jeff Tyzik, features singer Rick Brantley, who also featured prominently in a previous Paul Simon showcase featured by Tyzik in last year’s Pops series. Tickets can be found here.
The music starts at 8 p.m. both nights, but will also feature a pre-concert conversation at 7 p.m., where Tyzik and Brantley discuss how they put on the show.
“Rick is a storyteller,” Tyzik said during Friday’s rehearsal. “On Simon’s gig when he sang ‘The Boxer.’ It was his own story. It was amazing. And I just knew he had the soul of that country music and he was the expert that I had to work with to really bring that to life.
This soul of country music was another key for Tyzik as he composed the program. Besides the full complement of the RPO, the core of the sound is a country band, with acoustic, electric and slide guitars, as well as bass and drums.
“Being able to tell these stories to perform these songs in a completely new way that I’ve never done before…And so few of us have had the opportunity to do that, on this level,” said Brantley said. “The hardest part is remembering to sing because you’re in the middle of this beautiful thing happening on stage.”
The program will start “at the beginning”, with a rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, and move on to Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and end with modern artists such as Tim McGraw and Kacey Musgraves.
Brantley said it was his third time paying Rochester and that he had come to love Western New York and even offered a “Go Bills!” at the end of the interview.