Shut Up 'N Play Your Violin

Red {an orchestra} pays tribute to Frank Zappa.

Orchestras typically shy away from rock music. But Red {an orchestra} isn’t your typical ensemble, as it proves this weekend when it performs The Importance of Being Zappa, a tribute to experimental-rock weirdo Frank Zappa. Non-traditional repertoire is Red’s hallmark, and Jonathan Sheffer, the local group’s artistic director, is constantly game for such ventures. “Zappa’s music has always been high on my curiosity list,” he says. “I’m definitely a fan -- in the sense that I’m fascinated by it.”

But Sheffer didn’t simply let his fascination run wild. Given Zappa’s vast output, complex writing, and huge range of influences, Sheffer saw a chance to really explore the subject in depth and from multiple angles. The Importance of Being Zappa includes four major pieces by Zappa: “Dog Breath Variations/Uncle Meat,” “Be-Bop Tango,” “Naval Aviation in Art?,” and “G-Spot Tornado.”

In addition to the Zappa tunes, Red will perform three works by classical composers who had a profound impact on the songwriter, who died in 1993. Listen for Zappa’s musical architecture in Edgar Varèse’s “Integrales, his rhythmic voice in Igor Stravinsky’s “Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments,” and his predilection for odd instrumentation and multi-tracking in Anton Webern’s Op. 10 “Five Pieces for Orchestra.” None of these compositions is likely to appear on another orchestra’s program anytime soon -- let alone within this context. “This concert is really getting into some stuff that’s not performed often,” says Sheffer. “It crosses into a million different areas.”
Feb. 16-17, 8 p.m.