A natural - but not often heard - blend of orchestra and cowboy music will come together in the Don Edwards-Prescott POPS Symphony Benefit Concert on Saturday, April 6, at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center.
Edwards, known as "America's cowboy balladeer," is described by Bobby Weaver of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City as "the best purveyor of cowboy music in America today."
Paul Manz, director of Prescott POPS Symphony who will conduct the orchestra, said POPS members "are just thrilled" to play in the concert with Edwards. "I'm seeing a level of excitement you don't see very often. It's a new dimension for the orchestra to be working with a cowboy singer."
"Orchestra is ideal for performing cowboy music," Manz said. "When you're watching western movies, people always hear orchestra performing the soundtrack."
"Some of the greatest music" became memorable because of movies such as "Magnificent Seven" and "Bonanza," he mentioned in particular.
The POPS orchestra will be performing "Hoe Down," "Cowboy Fantasy," "The Overture to the Cowboys" for a John Wayne movie and the theme to "Wild Wild West."
Edwards calls the benefit "an orchestra show," a performance with a symphony orchestra that he does only a couple of times a year but has participated with many around the country over the years.
"It's a lot of fun," Edwards said of "taking some humble little cowboy song done with a cowboy and a guitar" and combining it with a 50- or 60-piece ensemble accompanying them.
"When you add all these pieces, it adds another dimension. It's not like you're playing the classics. The songs are simple and it gives the orchestra relief from doing classics, which are really involved."
The other half of Edwards' duo is Rich O'Brien, whom Acoustic Guitar Magazine calls "the house guitarist for the cowboy music revival."
Edwards and O'Brien plan to entertain the audience with "Cowboy Love Song," by Prescott pioneer Gail Gardner, which was used in the movie, "The Horse Whisperer," and "The West of Yesterday," which is about famous western movie star Tom Mix.
With the orchestra, the two will also do "Santa Rosa Serenade," which O'Brien wrote.
The flavor of the concert will reflect "the West of yesterday, both real and imagined," Edwards said. "the real West is the working cowboy. The imagined West is like a Hollywood movie."
The evening's special guest star will be local favorite Gail Steiger, Gail Gardner's grandson, who lives the ranching life as foreman of the remote Spider Ranch. He is a frequent performer at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering and at the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
The evening of cowboy, western and Arizona music is being presented by The Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering and the Phippen Museum of Western Art, which will both benefit from proceeds that will go toward their efforts to provide art, music and poetry to the community. The Prescott POPS will also receive a portion of the proceeds, which will go toward its youth scholarship program.
Tickets range from $20 to $45 and are available at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center box office, 1100 E. Sheldon St., Prescott, 776-2000 or by logging onto the PAC's website, www.ycpac.com.
Bob Greninger, a fan and old friend of Edwards, will be master of ceremonies for the concert.
Jim Buchanan, president of the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, said the evening promises "a very different and very enjoyable blend of music with old cowboy ballads and a symphony backing it up."