A little Jack Benny, a little Victor Borge - a lot of Classical Gas. The pianist and violinist duo of Rich Ridenour and Steve Brook, will perform famous classical pieces interspersed with their own comedic effects tonight at 7 p.m. at the Montezuma-Cortez High School auditorium.
As the third installment in the Southwest Colorado Concert series, Classical Gas is sure to provide a night of enjoyable entertainment to an audience of all ages. Ridenour and Brook's affiliation with the Grand Rapids Symphony in Grand Rapids, Mich. is how their collaboration officially began. A few gigs led to more, which eventually led to a concert duet for a New Year's Eve Festival in Kalamazoo, Mich. titled "Comedy in Music." From there, Classical Gas was formed.
"Our program is a result of our convictions about music and performing, and our desire to share our lives, our joys, and our passions with others," Brook said. "We enjoy many different styles of music, and try to weave them into an eclectic blend of entertainment. We help people to laugh and to cry, and everything in between."
Classical Gas brings a touch of comedy to such hits like "At the Old Ballgame" and Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony" but will also play a few pieces straight forward to tug at every emotion. Brook sees music as their way of communicating with the audience on a deeper level. The comedy is used to reflect their personalities. Brook feels the masters of these well-known scores would be tickled to see their variations. Finding humor in the music may be a difficult task but it's one they are comfortable with - and the timing is everything.
"I've been doing comedy since I was about 7 or 8 years old," Brook said. "I continue to be the class clown. Working together and finding the right balance are two of the more delicate areas."
Ridenour primarily had a solo career playing pop shows with orchestras around the country, but said he wouldn't be able to do what he does without the basics of classical music. He holds a master's degree from the Julliard School of Music, helped co-found the Grand Rapids Musician's League and is an international Steinway Artist. He cites Horowitz, Oscar Levant and Marvin Hamlisch as a few of his inspirations.
Brook has spent 34 years with the Grand Rapids Symphony and has been a para-professional with the string program in Jenison Public Schools (Michigan) for 15 years. Brook is also a music arranger, proofer and editor for Alfred Music, the world's largest educational music publisher. He spends his spare time presenting programs and plays at various different functions.
In addition to making substantial careers as musicians, Ridenour and Brook are also proactive when it comes to music education. Ridenour spent two years developing educational programs as an Education Director for the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo. During that time he developed Camp Gilmore, Keys Fest and educational piano programs in the public schools and juvenile center.
Brook is first violinist with the Super Nova String Quartet, a Grand Rapids Symphony educational ensemble that performs in area schools. Both men agree that spreading music throughout small communities and towns is a good way to touch lives.
"Most of the communities we visit don't have regular access to concerts, something which is often taken for granted in larger cities," Brook explained. "To hear the laughs and the sighs of joy as we play can be inspirational. But to see the smiling faces after the program of people whose lives have been touched, that is where the true satisfaction comes from. Especially so, because of their lack of opportunity."
Concert-goers are sure to leave with a smile and fond memories of a modern day "Abbott and Costello." The audience can expect to hear the theme from "Schindler's List," Brahms' "Hungarian Dance No. 5.3," Piazzola's "Tango," "Debussy's "Golliwog Cakewalk" and many more.
The Southwest Colorado Concert Series is approaching its 60th season of bringing unique and talented musical acts to the Four Corners community. Tickets for Classical Gas will be on sale at the door at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the 2013-14 season are also available. For more information contact Paul Bostrom at 565-9127 or Joyce Stephenson at 565-4757.