What happens when a group of classically trained musicians combines a song like Britney Spears’ “Toxic” with sections from Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”?
You can find out for yourself when the convention-busting trio Time for Three performs at Star Hall on Saturday, May 27, in celebration of its 25th anniversary, and in conjunction with next week’s Moab Arts Festival.
Time for Three violinist Nick Kendall said the Philadelphia-based ensemble aims to get audiences thinking with its unusual fusion of melodies and genres that are seemingly at odds with each other.
“It’s meant to be like, ‘What the heck do these have in common?’” he said.
“It’s supposed to set alarm bells off,” he added. “But when we stitch these things together, we’re very proud of it.”
The trio’s Spears-Vivaldi mash-up takes two energies and combines them into one, yet perhaps the emotions behind them aren’t so different, after all: The first song, Kendall said, is red-hot, sexy and provocative, while some sections of “The Four Seasons” were reportedly designed to make women faint.
“It’s comical,” he said. “It’s really hard to play, but we love it.”
Another unlikely combination they’ve stitched together is less about virtuosic flair and more about finding poetry in the music. It combines The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” with “Lacrimosa” from Mozart’s Requiem, and Kendall said that Paul McCartney’s refrain of “look at all the lonely people” says something about the situation in which Mozart found himself toward the end of his life.
“We found a lot of connections with Mozart … There’s this feeling of juxtaposition, of how much he gave, and how alone he was when he died,” Kendall said.
While they aren’t necessarily committing themselves to performing either one of those mash-ups, Kendall said that concert attendees can expect to hear a couple of similar hybrids.
Time for Three has long performed its own arrangements by artists and composers as diverse as Led Zeppelin and Igor Stravinsky, but it has increasingly branched out to write, perform and record original compositions in recent years.
The trio has been together for well over a decade, although it experienced a shake-up when the founding member left the ensemble several years ago. Its lineup changed once again last year, when Moab Music Festival favorite and widely admired violinist Charles Yang joined Kendall and double-bassist Ranaan Miller – an addition that thrills Kendall, who said that Yang is also an incredible singer.
As a trio, Kendall said the musicians’ performances are never routine.
“That’s something that has been really important to us … and we pride ourselves on that,” he said.
Nor are their choices of performances: Last fall, they enthralled 10,000-plus concertgoers each night at stadiums in Europe, performing with the likes of funk diva Chaka Khan and 80s synth-poppers Simple Minds.
Their music is hard to classify: Their official biography says they combine elements of classical, country-western, gypsy and jazz idioms, forming a blend that is all its own.
Their unconventional style puts them on what Kendall called the fringes of the classical music community, yet all three musicians are classically trained: Yang went to Juilliard, while Miller and Kendall attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Kendall said that none of the trio’s members ever wants to leave the “core classical world,” although they strive to connect with listeners who might not otherwise be familiar with the genre.
“We feel like we grew as artists through classical music and that repertoire,” he said. “But we always had that desire to reach our neighbors and the people across the street.”
Their latest tour takes them even farther, from one end of the country to the other, and back again.
Just 72 hours or so after their performance at Star Hall, they’re set to perform their next concert at the Lincoln Center in New York City, where that night’s lineup also includes renowned opera singer and soprano Renee Fleming, and violinist and conductor Joshua Bell. From there, the trio heads west again, to Eugene, Oregon. Yet they won’t be there for long: from Eugene, they’re heading back to their home state to join the Pittsburgh Symphony.
Kendall – who performed at the Moab Music Festival about 10 years ago, and with Time for Three two years ago – said that while the venues are different, one performance is just as fun as the other.
All three musicians relish the chance to get out of the cultural centers and perform in a place like Moab that is, in his words, “pure nature.”
“There’s nothing like it on earth,” he said. “To make music out there is perfection.”
Zions Bank is underwriting the performance at Star Hall – Zions Bank President Scott Anderson happens to be “really good friends” with the trio, Kendall said, and so is Moab Music Festival co-founder Michael Barrett.
“When Michael Barrett calls us, we always want to play that show,” he said.
May 25 is Time for Three at Star Hall
What: The Moab Music Festival presents Time for Three in concert
When: Saturday, May 27, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.
Cost: $25 for adults; $5 for kids 18 and under
There’s nothing like (Moab) on earth … To make music out there is perfection.
Tickets for the trio’s May 27 performance are $25 for adults and $5 for kids 18 and under. For more information, call 435-259-7003.