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O'Connor anchors Clowes 50th celebration

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Virtuoso folk fiddler/jazz and classical violinist Mark O'Connor elegantly traversed multiple genres Thursday night at Clowes Memorial Hall. And in so doing, he aptly represented the range and excitement of programming during the venue's first fifty years.

With the Butler Jazz Ensemble he delightfully winked at the humor Fred Sturm injected into his take-off on Miles Davis, the grassroots tinged "Kind of Blue(grass)."

Then, with Butler's Percussion Ensemble O'Connor, he drifted us along our rivers via Bela Fleck's sweeping "Big County."

The genuine treat came in experiencing O'Connor improvise spontaneously as the Butler Symphony Orchestra played written music in his ground-breaking, five-movement composition The Improvised Violin Concerto. At the intersection between classical and jazz, the piece invites us to imagine forays through fire, into air, under water, across earth and within faith.

But wait, there was more. Choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano created a premiere work, "En Camino," for Butler Ballet set on O'Connor's "Surrender the Sword" (yes, the music was familiar because you first heard on the PBS documentary Liberty! The American Revolution).

Sansano takes inspiration from the theme and Emerson's directive to abjure the paved path, and to "go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

With multiple variations, relationships and situation, one individual initially led the way, then others joined until, ultimately, an open avenue blazed forth to a new song, "Wonderful, Wonderful" (composed by Edwards, Meyer and Raleigh and sung by Johnny Mathis). Hopefully we get to experience this work again so as better to grasp its full intent.

The celebratory evening included proclamations by Mayor Ballard and Gov. Pence.

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