I may be in the minority of adult concertgoers when I state that I like an audience filled with kids. On occasion, I even prefer it. With kids, you know right away if they like it, and the energy, good or bad, is right out there on the surface. Last Saturday afternoon at Zankel Hall (ticket price $9 for all seats), I attended a family concert by Time For Three—a string trio consisting of violinists Zach de Pue and Nick Kendall and bassist Ranaan Meyer.
There were no music stands or sheet music in this concert—the trio took the stage for an hour, in a seemingly free-form but actually carefully planned format that balanced talk and music. These three classically trained musicians met when they were students at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, but when they perform as a trio they blend everything from bluegrass to country-and-western fiddling to jazz. Intensity and energy onstage are their trademarks. They started the Zankel concert with a rollicking fiddling medley, followed that up with a gypsy czardas, and a bit pulled from Tom & Jerry—“Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” On his bass, Meyer played around with the theme from Jaws—as a way to explain how just two notes can make a powerful musical statement. They didn’t always hold their instruments in the usual way—Meyer at one point held his bass like a guitar, and one bit of pyrotechnics toward the end involved one violin, held by De Pue, who bowed the A and E strings, with Kendall bowing on the G and D strings. The most intense player is probably Kendall—as soon as he started playing, hairs from his bow came undone, à la Charlie Daniels.
The trio also talked about their backgrounds. De Pue and Kendall, the two violinists, both come from musical families; De Pue and his three siblings all make their living playing the violin, and Kendall turns out to be the grandson of the founder of the Suzuki violin method, with a sister who plays cello in the Philadelphia Orchestra and a cousin who plays viola in the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Meyer explained that as a kid he kept starting and quitting different musical instruments, finally settling on playing the bass after promising his parents he would stick with it.
There are some pieces that don’t go over well with kids—usually it’s the slow ones. There was a lot of fidgeting and talking during Jay Ungar’s “Ashokan Farewell,” which was absolutely beautifully played, but appreciated mainly by the adults. The kids preferred “Orange Blossom Special,” with its bluesy start, accelerating tempo, and wild train effects. One little girl in Row A danced wildly for most of that song, and for several other up-tempo numbers as well. And that’s what I like about family concerts—not just sitting in your seat, but getting up and actually doing something to the music.
Image: Time For Three, photo courtesy Journey Group.