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O’Connor to ‘build bridges’ in Utah

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Mark O'Connor

Mark O’Connor

"I've always been my own person when it comes to style, and in many ways, I've really developed or invented the music that I do," says violinist/fiddler Mark O'Connor.

Combining a good dose of Texas fiddle and a dash of Appalachian folk music with some classical influences, and jazz violin thrown in for good measure, O'Connor has always defined his own boundaries in the music world.

And the music world has responded.

From Stephane Grappelli to Yo-Yo Ma, some of the world's premium talent has recognized O'Connor's unusual gift — a gift O'Connor refers to as "creating bridges between styles and ideas."

Next weekend, O'Connor will be "building bridges" with the Utah Symphony in a program that will include excerpts from his "Fiddle Concerto," "Appalachia Waltz" and "Surrender the Sword." The orchestra will also be featured in Copland's "Hoe Down" from "Rodeo," Nelson's Savannah River Holiday and conductor Scott O'Neil's composition "Dueling Orchestra."

"I'm going to do a variety of things, a potpourri of my orchestral offerings," O'Connor said during a telephone interview. "The fiddle concerto is probably the biggest piece, and I'll probably do the finale of it." He added that the piece is likely the most performed violin concerto — and usually performed by him — that has been written in the past 50 years. "It's one of my most popular pieces with audiences."

He also said that "Surrender the Sword" is one of his most romantic pieces and was used in the PBS documentary "Liberty: the American Revolution."

"Appalachia Waltz" is an orchestral version of the plaintive tune recorded by Yo-Yo Ma on the "Appalachia Waltz" CD.

"I love orchestrating," said O'Connor of his classical creations. "And I have a talent to write for orchestra. But the style of violin that I play is different than you would commonly hear in a modern or a traditional classical setting. So, in one respect, I'm using the tools that God has given me, and I'm using those tools to create my music, and that includes a unique musical language. I bring that musical language into the orchestra, and try to impact the orchestra with my creation."

Over the years, O'Connor has carved his own niche in other genres as well, recording CDs and doing concerts in venues ranging from jazz clubs to concert halls.

This year marks his 30th as a recording artist, and to celebrate, O'Connor will be releasing a new album next month, "Mark O'Connor: 30 Year Retrospective."

Rather than take the easy route and do a "best-of" CD, O'Connor said he is taking a couple of tracks from every previously released album and re-recording them in quartet arrangements. "The emphasis is on bluegrass and "newgrass, but we do touch on some of the jazz and classical things, as well — and also the old-time fiddling music I used to do. So it really is a career retrospective."

E-MAIL: rcline@desnews.com

If you go . . .

What: Mark O'Connor, Utah Symphony

Where: Abravanel Hall

When: Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.

How much: $22-$45

Phone: 355-2787 or


Web: www.symphonyopera.org