Baltimore Rock Opera Society, Concert Artists of Baltimore converge for 'fun, crazy' event

Two musical worlds will collide this weekend. Concert Artists of Baltimore, a valued contributor to the area's classical scene for 28 years, will team up with the Baltimore Rock Opera Society for a program billed as "Convergence Maximus."

It could also be called (to borrow the inevitable line from Chuck Berry): "Roll over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news."
Works by both of those classical music giants will be featured in this event at 2640 Space, along with songs from "Grundlehammer," "Valhella" and other shows created over the past seven years by the Baltimore Rock Opera Society — popularly known as BROS. The concert won't be as extravagant as most BROS productions, but promises at least a touch of the company's theatricality. 
"We're opening and closing the program with arrangements of movements from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, a piece that shows how Beethoven felt about humankind and brotherhood," says conductor Edward Polochick, artistic director of Concert Artists, which consists of a professional orchestra and chorus. "If any composer would approve of Convergence Maximus, it would have to be Ludwig."
Those excerpts from Beethoven's Ninth have been freshly arranged to bring electric guitars from BROS players into the mix. On the flip side, some works by BROS have been given an orchestral makeover for the concert.
Helping to fashion this fusion is Zack Branch, a cellist who contributed arrangements to last year's "Murdercastle," a BROS show about a serial killer set during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, adding strings and horns to the company's rock band. 
Branch went through the whole BROS repertoire to select material for Convergence Maximus.
"Much of BROS' work is heavy metal, very aggressive, and I had to inject that vibrancy into the arrangements," Branch says. "I've got first violins doubling electric guitars and I'm using the orchestra's percussion section for blast beats. But there are also ballads just asking for big string accompaniment."
In addition to the BROS-inflected version of the Beethoven symphony, there will be straight classical items in the concert.
The virtuoso soprano aria "Glitter and Be Gay" from Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" will provide "vocal fireworks," says BROS artistic director Aran Keating. He expects the boisterous finale to Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, which also "has a lot fireworks," Branch says (Keating calls it "shred-tastic").
There will be room, too, for the tuneful, sweeping "Polovtsian Dances" from Alexander Borodin's "Prince Igor." And for something completely different, the Concert Artists chorus will sing the tender American folk song, "Shenandoah."
The impetus for Convergence Maximus started early this year with Polochick. He read about successful late-night classical concerts in Switzerland organized by for former Baltimore Symphony music director David Zinman when he was principal conductor of Zurich's Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich. Polochick sought funding from PNC Bank for a similar project here.
"Will Backstrom at PNC suggested a collaboration with BROS," Polochick said. "I had never heard of them, but I checked out their website and listened to their stuff. It is so refreshing. I thought it would be fun to see if there is a way to converge some of this with what we do."
The BROS were all ears.
"I didn't know much about Concert Artists of Baltimore," Keating says, "but when they approached us and said they want to do something big, that tickled all the right funny bones for us. Our motto is: Bigger is better. We want spectacle. We want it to be a party."
This party will not follow the Zurich model in terms of a late hour, but will start at a traditional 8 p.m. performance time to make it more comfortable for regular Concert Artists patrons who might want to check out the unusual action.
"We're going to show them a great, time, I'll tell you that," Keating says. "It's going to be fun and crazy. I hope the format takes off."
So does Polochick. "We will be thinking outside the box from now on," he says.