Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom with Time for Three
by Mike Telin
On Sunday, July 29 beginning at 7:00 PM at Blossom Music Center, The Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Steven Reineke, will be joined by the innovative and always entertaining trio Time for Three, Zach DePue, violin,Nick Kendall, violin, andRanaan Meyer, double bass. Described as “groundbreaking and category-shattering”, Time for Three defies traditional classification, combining elements of classical, country western, gypsy and jazz.
DePue, Kendall and Meyer began playing together for fun while students at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. De Pue and Kendall discovered they both shard a passion for country western and bluegrass fiddling. Zach DePue, who grew up in Bowling Green, Ohio, told us in a 2010 interview that he and his brothers toured and participated in fiddling contests; “the four of us played together throughout my entire childhood, and still do from time to time. All of us were classically trained, although we spent a lot of time, not playing jazz so much, but fiddling. My older brothers entered and won fiddle contests. I was the youngest but I had a wonderful time learning some fiddle tunes and being around a different genre outside of classical music. It was an eye opening, ear opening experience.”
It was Ranaan Meyer who introduced them to his deep roots in jazz and improvisation. During the same interview Nick Kendall remembered “when we first started we were not trying to be a language or genre specific band. We would take elements of different genres, and fuse them into our own interpretation. For example, in the beginning Zach would play a fiddle tune or maybe a famous bluegrass theme that he knew, but Ranaan and I had no idea what the piece was, so Ranaan would do a funky bass line and I would use my instrument as a percussion instrument, and we would just put a different take on the piece.”
All three members had difficulty describing the group's music, but Meyer spoke of it like this: “I do have to say that it is challenging for even us to describe our music to people without them actually hearing it. But, with that in mind, the way I usually think of it is, in addition to what Nick is saying, it is just thinking of us as a classically trained garage band. We went to the Curtis Institute of Music but we decided that in addition to all of the incredible music that has stood the test of time, we also want to produce our own stuff, and have a good time doing it. We want to do the same thing that all the great composers have done, which are getting into so many different emotions and telling so many wonderful stories through their music I think that no matter how basic or sophisticated music is, these two things are the goal.”
De Pue added his thoughts about the group's music by looking back; “I always imagine what it would be like if Mozart were alive today. What would his music sound like? What would Beethoven sound like? Because certainly during their time, these guys were cutting edge already. Look at Beethoven, that guy just wanted to mess with as many things as he could. He wanted to push the system. So you just have to wonder what a Beethoven event would be like. Back then the technology was candles and sheet music. Now there is so much technology out there, although very few people seem to be using it because it would be in some way not natural or organic. So what would Beethoven be doing with this technology? Would he use lights on stage the way that rock bands do? I am so curious about this, because we have so many more tools at our fingertips that symphony orchestras are leery of using because they don’t want to take the art form in a way that somehow isn’t natural. But I think that people like to experience music in a way that is of their time.”
We spoke to Violinist Zach De Pue by telephone this afternoon July, 24 and we began by asking him about Time for Three’s recent video project set to Stronger, by Kanye West and Daft Punk.
Mike Telin: It’s great to speak with you again and congratulations on all of the group's successes. I’m completely taken by your recent video; what kind of reactions have you been getting from it?
Zach De Pue: In general the reactions have been overwhelming. People from all walks of life have told us that it has meant a lot to them. Whether they have played an instrument or not, it’s amazing how many people have opened up about the message behind it. With bullying prevention being such a hot topic right now in the United States, which was not our objective for the video when we set out to do it, we just wanted to be sure that our music video had a message. But it has really moved us to see how many people have actually watched the video. It’s not just a viral thing but a digestion of what it is saying.
We have had non-profit organizations for bullying prevention approach us about teaming up, and it’s just been an exciting process for us.
MT: Are there plans for more videos?
ZDP: We have a few projects on the table right now and one of the things we are tying to do are other videos that won’t necessarily carry as deep a message but still have a fun message about them that we hope will an opportunity for people to get to know us. We continue to try to build the brand so to speak, and the ideas behind our instruments and demystify them.
MT: I was re-reading our interview from 2010 and it was interesting how much time we spent talking about how difficult it is to describe what Time for Three is all about if you have not been to a concert; do you find this still to be the case or have you developed the tag lines and elevator speech?
ZDP: We’re still developing the tag lines. We do go around with this idea that we’re a classically trained garage band, but in essence we do have different projects. We do the concerto work with Jennifer Higdon and Chris Brubeck’s pieces, and we have another coming up with William Bolcom. We do concerts with drums and keys and it has a string band kind of feel to it. And then there’s the solo show that you heard at Oberlin; we’ll never get away from the chamber music aspect of what we do. Then we do the shows that mash up Kanye West with Ginastera.
This is a long answer and I guess the answer is no, we haven’t figured out the elevator speech yet. But, when we return to venues where we have played we find that audiences are bringing friends and telling people that they just have to come and check it out.
MT: I saw a partial playlist for Sunday’s concert. Were these arranged specifically for orchestra or did that happen later?
ZDP: Some of them were, for example the American Suite; all of that repertoire was first conceived as trio repertoire — Wyoming 307, Forget About It, Hallelujah and Orange Blossom Special. But they have now been orchestrated. Orange Blossom Special still leaves a lot of room for the three of us to improvise. We mashed up the U-2 hit, With or Without You with the Sibelius violin concerto; we take the melody and it bridges well with the U-2.
The orchestrator for most of the charts is our friend, colleague, conductor and producer, Steve Hackman.
MT: I understand that things are going very well for you and the Trio with the Indianapolis Symphony.
ZDP: Yes, very well. The Trio has been signed on for a larger residency beginning this year. We’ll be spending more time in the community. It also give us more opportunity to create repertoire. We’ll continue with the Happy Hour Series, and our co-creator and conductor for that series is Steve Hackman. We’re also working in tandem with the Symphony board, management and players to help as much as we can to really be part of the community, and spread the word about the ISO and all that it does.
Obviously these are tough times for many orchestras, so we’re just trying to keep the energy up, in and around this institution that many people don’t know about.
MT: But you're still finding time for your concertmaster position there?
ZDP: I am indeed, and it’s a nice balance between the two worlds and obviously there has been some integration between the Trio and me with my passion as concertmaster. It’s all working out.
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Published on ClevelandClassical.com July 24, 2012
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