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Breezy strains of violin fill Diamond Park on Saturday

Melanie Rodgers played several selections on her violins and viola Saturday as part of the Butler County Symphony’s A Taste of the Symphony Summer Concert Series.

The calming sound of a tinkling fountain in sweltering Diamond Park was augmented at noon on Saturday by the expert violin skills of Melanie Rodgers, who was the third musician to play so far in A Taste of the Symphony Summer Concert Series.

Thankfully, Rodgers and the other musicians who are lined up to play at noon each Saturday perform in air-conditioned comfort inside the Butler County Symphony office just across East Diamond Street, and the music is seamlessly piped into the park.

Chairs are set up in rows at the Symphony office for those who choose to enjoy the free concerts inside. About a dozen people swayed, clapped and even danced along to Rodgers’ selections on Saturday.

Rodgers was accompanied on the piano and guitar by her friend and Symphony board member, Chris Savannah, as she toured the globe on her violins and viola.

Rodgers began in Germany with a Bach selection, then moved to France to play a Gossec composition.

“I played it at Children’s Hospital one time and it made the children pop up in their beds,” Rodgers said. “It may have been used in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.”

Many heads bobbed in recognition when Rodgers began to play the familiar tune.

When Rodgers switched instruments to expertly play an Irish jig, a member of the audience couldn’t resist jumping up to ably perform an Irish stepdance, complete with arms straight at her sides and high kicks.

The audience in the Symphony audience roared its approval when the song ended.

Rodgers also played “Stars Fell on Alabama,” a jazz song from 1963, a song from the musical “Les Miserables,” and other tunes.

“I guess you can tell I like variety,” she said.

Outside, those in the park sat on benches or even sprawled in the grass with their shoes off while enjoying the stylings of Rodgers and Savannah.

“It helps me clear my mind and soothes my heart,” said Loretta Holmes, a 37-year resident of Butler.

She relaxed on a bench facing Main Street beside the light blue bicycle she had ridden to the park.

“The music makes me think of my grandparents, who I miss very much,” Holmes said. “They liked classical music.”

She said recorded classical music is played outside the Symphony office each day.

“I go past every day and stop to listen,” Holmes said.

Edward DeSantis, the new executive director of the Butler County Symphony, said the Saturday concert series is meant to lift up the art and entertainment community in Butler and expose folks to good music.

“Last Saturday, we had the cast of “Working” here. We had 40 people in the building and I’d say a half dozen walked in off the street and stayed the whole time,” DeSantis said. “I got chills as it happened.”

The Musical Theater Guild of Butler is performing the musical “Working” through June 29.

DeSantis equally appreciated the skills demonstrated by Rodgers on Saturday.

“She’s fantastic, isn’t she?” he said.

Next Saturday at noon, Need for Reeds Saxophone Quartet will perform.

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