Choir director and church organist by day, rock 'n' roll musician by night.

Meet David Baranowski, a highly skilled and gifted musician who is the music ministry director and organist at St. Joseph Church in Danbury.

bard david church organistWhile that day job keeps him quite busy, Baranowski, 40, also makes time to tour Europe and other corners of the globe with Blackmore's Night, a rock 'n' Renaissance band with an international following.

The group was founded by Ritchie Blackmore, lead guitarist from the pioneering hard rock group Deep Purple, a band known for guitar riff classics like "Smoke On the Water."
Baranowski attended Purchase College Conservatory of Music, receiving both his bachelor's and master's there. Purchase is also where he met his wife, Jennifer. They now live in Danbury with their son.

It was about 11 years ago that Baranowski was first contacted about playing keyboards with Blackmore's Night. Since then, he's been touring all over with the band. Baranowski will have a rare home area gig with Blackmore's Night when the group performs at The Ridgefield Playhouse on Saturday, May 24.

In a recent chat with Baranowski, we talked about how he landed the gig with Blackmore's Night, how he manages two different lifestyles (church music director and touring rock musician) and some of the rewards he gets from both.

Q: How did you end up playing with Blackmore?
A: There was a guy that was touring with them as a violinist that I went to college with and the keyboard player before me left for some reason or another, and they usually replace the members by word of mouth. So this guy suggested me, which was surprising because I didn't really know him that well. I went down and did three auditions and then that was it, we went on tour.

Q: How do you mix the different lifestyles of church organist and rock 'n' roll musician?
A: Very carefully. As rock tours go, it fits into my schedule pretty well because it's mostly summertime, which is really a down season for church.

Q: Any similarities between the job at the church and touring?
A: Yeah, I suppose so, music is music, but it is pretty different as well. The style that we're playing in the Blackmore band isn't so completely different than what I'm used to. But, the whole nature of the thing is different. We're playing a two-hour show where there's no music (sheet music) involved, there's no charts or anything like that, and you're relating to the audience a hundred percent of the time instead of at church where you're trying to play a service the best you can and have it be accurate and have the choir sing all together. It's pretty different.

Q: What are some of the rewards you get from touring?
A: You get to play for big audiences, especially in Europe. Last year we played in Moscow for 6,000 seats and it was sold out. So that's a thrill for sure and also I'm a character (Bard David) in the show. I'm myself but I am also somewhat of a caricature of myself I guess, so you get to create that character a little bit and you get to horse around on stage.
You also get to sort of create your own parts, it's a lot more improvised and it develops over time. Since I've been in the band, I think it's my 11th year, what I actually play in the show has changed dramatically just because I wanted it to and it fit. So that part of it is a lot of fun

Q: What are some of your favorite shows?
A: The best ones are the open-air shows in the summer in Europe, because if the weather is nice the atmosphere is outrageously great. Everybody's outside having a good time. One time we played in Rothenburg, Germany, and it's kind of a tourist town; it's a walled city. We played there, and I mean everybody just comes out of their houses, the place is mobbed with people from end to end and everybody's just having a great time.

Q: What is one of your favorite songs to perform and why?
A: I like "The Circle."

Q: Why "The Circle?
A: Well "The Circle" has a guitar solo break that just has an awesome groove to it and it's just so much fun to groove along, and Ritchie's a killer guitar player so when he is really cranking it, that's a lot of fun.

Levon Ofgang is a freelance writer in Connecticut
Saturday, April 12, 2014