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Trio Ghidorah releases debut album Saturday as part of Bop Shop concert livestream 

click to enlarge Trio Ghidorah is (left to right) Bernardo Marcondes Rodrigues, Ken Luk, and Erik Gibelyou. - PHOTO BY BYRON FONG
  • PHOTO BY BYRON FONG
  • Trio Ghidorah is (left to right) Bernardo Marcondes Rodrigues, Ken Luk, and Erik Gibelyou.
The experience of hearing music composed or arranged for three guitars performed in concert doesn’t come around that often. But that’s exactly what those who attend the Front Row at Bop Shop Records livestream on Saturday, Mar. 13 will get, when Trio Ghidorah releases its debut album “Dances & Fantasies.”

The album, as realized by three doctoral graduates from Eastman School of Music, contains plenty of lush and unexpected arrangements of compositions, ranging from Renaissance music by John Dowland to a Mozart string quartet, to the 20th-century Minimalism of Philip Glass.

But the source of the trio’s name might be just as unexpected.

Guitarists Erik Gibelyou, Ken Luk, and Bernardo Marcondes Rodrigues had just finished playing their second performance as a trio, and as they drove home on the I-90 toward Rochester, they struggled to find a suitable name for the group.

“A lot of names were thrown and left on the highway where they were conceived,” Rodrigues says.

Gibelyou laughingly remembers “Snap Crackle Pop” as a possible moniker. Rodrigues recalls an awkward portmanteau including each musician’s first name, something akin to “Berkenrik.” Greek and Latin names were considered, but the ensemble couldn’t settle on a name that was simultaneously unpretentious and cool, Gibelyou says.

They finally settled on Trio Ghidorah, a reference to the three-headed dragon monster King Ghidorah, a frequent foe of Godzilla since the former’s first film appearance in 1964. Despite its lighthearted pop culture origin, the name has a certain gravitas.

“It sounds enough like a serious classical name that it passes for one, but it actually isn’t at all,” says Gibelyou.

The chamber ensemble’s likeness to a rare creature extends beyond its name to its instrumentation. While guitar quartets and music written specifically for that configuration are relatively common, the guitar trio is a decidedly more unlikely, but distinctly expressive musical organism.

In solo guitar music, the player is tasked with playing the melody, harmonic accompaniment, and bass line simultaneously. By dividing these roles among three different musicians, each component can be focused on and developed separately, Gibelyou says.

That said, those roles often intersect, with two guitar parts woven together to play one cohesive part. Rodrigues calls arranging music for the trio a “game of organization,” in which the elements of melody, texture, and bass must be balanced.

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The goal, as he puts it, is rather straightforward: “How can we make two people — in fact, three people — mingle in to make this bigger sound, like a bigger guitar?”

“The trio seemed a very clear vessel to find music that’s not written for the guitar, to try to fit it,” Rodrigues says.

Turning music not typically associated with guitars into integral pieces of the trio’s repertoire is not relegated to its new album, but is also apparent in music the group will play at the Bop Shop show.

One example is Rodrigues’ arrangement of Sechs kleine Klavierstücke, or “Six Little Piano Pieces,” by 20th century modernist composer Arnold Schoenberg. The music is highly abstract and enigmatic, with nearly atonal melodies that occur in short two- or three-note fragments.

These compositions are “very short, very condensed, filled with gestures,” says Rodrigues, who sees their inclusion on the livestream as a “palate cleanser,” between Ghidorah’s typical classical, Romantic-era, and folk music fare.

Trio Ghidorah’s album release show for “Dances & Fantasies'' will be streamed live at 8 p.m. on Mar. 13, at bopshop.com/live, as well as on the record store’s Facebook and YouTube pages. While the concert is free, virtual tips can be sent via Venmo, @ErikGibelyou, and Paypal.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s arts editor. He can be reached at dkushner@rochester-citynews.com.
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