Canadian Music Hall of Famer to rock with Williamsport Symphony

The Williamsport Symphony Orchestra will welcome Canadian Music Hall of Fame member Rik Emmett for it’s “Let’s Rock!” concert, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 16 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.

Emmett will present a program filled with songs by guitar heroes, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Santana.

WSO Maestro Gerardo Edelstein wanted to organized a rock-themed concert to appeal to fans outside of the sphere of classical music.

“There are so many different genres in music,” he said. “Just only concentrating on classical music is a mistake. The main goal here is for me to introduce the symphony to people who otherwise would never come to a concert.”

Emmett likes to bridge the gap between different genres as well.

“I think I’ve always felt that one of the beautiful things about music is that it’s not about borders and boundaries,” he said.

Emmett knows, however, that people don’t always see it that way.

“There’s no getting around human nature,” he said. “Humans run the gamut from people who are open-minded and interested in experiencing things they’re unfamiliar with to people who sort of like stylistic fascists, who think, ‘Nope. I only like what I like and I don’t want to hear anything else.’ “

As the world of music changes, Emmett thinks there’s less resistance to musical hybrids.

“Generally speaking, the way of the music world has become more eclectic, and slowly-but-surely, it’s embraced more progressive, evolutionary, liberal ways of thinking,” he said.

The program for the concert, featuring hits like “All Along the Watchtower,” “Layla” and “Black Magic Woman,” also won’t include anything that’ll be shocking to the classical music audience.

“It’s not like we’re coming to Williamsport and playing radical rock,” Emmett said. “This show is a pop thing. It’s easy to take. We try to be accessible and fun. It’s light. It’s not heavy.”

Emmett made his name by performing with the band Triumph, a “power trio” that formed in the ’70s and had hit songs in the ’80s, including “Hold On,” “Lay it on the Line” and “Somebody’s Out There.” Through the group’s career, it has accumulated 18 gold and nine platinum awards in the United States and Canada.

Since leaving Triumph in 1988, Emmett has established himself as a jack-of-all-trades, performing Christmas songs, pop music and jazz as well.

In 2005, Emmett won the Canadian Smooth Jazz Award for Guitarist of the Year.

About Emmett, Edelstein said, “I’ve watched him perform several songs and it’s no doubt that he’s a virtuoso guitar player … he’s one of the big names in the world of guitar-playing and it’s no wonder that the program he’s going to present is called ‘Guitar Heroes.’ “

Emmett has performed with orchestras for “as many as 10 years now.” He has performed an Eric Clapton tribute show as well as a “Woodstock”-themed concert, which gave birth to the “Guitar Heroes” show.

He was recruited to perform concerts such as these by Peter Brennan, who owns Jeans’ n Classics, the company that has organized this show, which presents rock music in a classical music setting.

“[Classical music audiences] love the whole thing that Peter [has] started,” Emmett said. “Classical music had to go through a paradigm shift like rock music has and Peter’s thing was kind of a solution made in heaven for them. It’s not too challenging or weird and it doesn’t go too far.”

“Good music is good music no matter the genre,” Edelstein added. “My preference will always be classical music, but I also know how to appreciate music from other genres and I encourage other people to do that too. It’s a different world but different can be very good.”

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