The Dark Rose Trio from left, Grant Ruiz, Steve Berman and Joseph Thompson. - Photo by Jim Craven

Three guitars

After wrapping up a year and a half of rehearsals and recordings, local classical guitar ensemble The Dark Rose Trio is ready to introduce a CD of its music to the public.

Joseph Thompson, Grant Ruiz and Steve Berman will celebrate the release of their first CD as a group with a performance at 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 22, at the First Congregational Church in Ashland.

The trio will perform tracks from the CD, simply titled "Dark Rose Trio," and "Barefoot Dance," an original composition by Thompson.

"It's a thrilling time," said Thompson, who heads the Jefferson Classical Guitar Society, the event's sponsor. "We've been practicing a lot individually and getting together regularly for rehearsals. The material is really ready."

Thompson led the formation of the Dark Rose Trio in October 2002. He had played separately, with both Ruiz and Berman, until suggesting that the musicians start performing together.

"The aspect of the music that's really brought us together as a trio is the romance music from Spain, France and Russia," Thompson said. "Specifically the music from Spain."

The Trio's album features material avid listeners have heard in concert. The CD includes original arrangements of Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead Princess," "Spanish Dances" by Granados, "Sinfonias" by J.S. Bach, and "Milonga" by Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla.

The music on the CD was recorded just as it was composed, with some slight modifications so that it can be played by more than one guitar.

"There's not a lot of music written for three guitars," Thompson said.

"We would finish with some trio pieces and people really enjoyed it," Ruiz said of the Jefferson Classical Guitar Society's meetings at the Paschal Winery on the first Tuesday of every month in Talent. "Three guitars really fills a whole room."

The Jefferson Classical Guitar Society is an organization dedicated to promoting the classical guitar throughout the region.

The recording of the "Milonga" required a transcription of the arrangement so that it could be played on classical guitar.

Despite its lack of mainstream popularity, Berman insists that classical music, specifically classical guitar music, is more popular than ever. He believes that is evident in the nation's university system.

"When I started studying classical guitar there were no universities teaching classical guitars," Berman said. "Now almost every university of size has a music program and teaches it — including Southern Oregon University."

Ruiz said the trio is trying to help the music gain momentum and popularity.

"Classical music, jazz, pop, rock, it's all about the feeling it conveys," Ruiz said. "We're trying to build some momentum to bring back (classical) music."

The Dark Rose Trio, named for the sound hole on a classical guitar, which is called a rosette, decided to put its music on CD to help it secure performances in other cities. Berman said the trio wanted something encased and tangible.

"The more fundamental reason is that you spend a lot of time working on the program so it's kind of a monument to all of the work we've done to have it on hand," Berman said.

Thompson took on an even more philosophical approach toward his reasons for putting music on a CD.

"Music is kind of an ephemeral art," Thompson said. "You put it out there and once you finish the piece the music is gone, it's not frozen in time like a painting. Recording is one way to freeze it."

Following the upcoming concert and the CD's release, the trio is hoping to start lining up more performances in other cities.

Thompson added that the CD will allow The Dark Rose Trio to start working on different material.

"We're just excited to start working on a new repertoire," Thompson said.

Reach intern Bob Albrecht at 776-8791 or at intern1@mailtribune.com.

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