in performance: lexington philharmonic with time for three

zach de pue, ranaan meyer and nick kendall of time for three. photo by journey group.

Timing, as the saying goes, is everything.

Take, for example, the promise made by Zach De Pue, co-violinist for the progressive string trio Time for Three at the conclusion of the Lexington Philharmonic’s Kicked Back Classics program Thursday night at the Downtown Arts Center. The deal? That the full collaborative performance the following evening at the Singletary Center for the Arts would finish prior to the start of the NCAA Sweet 16 square-off between Kentucky and Indiana.

As it turned out, Time for Three managed the impossible last night by deterring a sizable Singletary crowd from hoops in favor of a wildly eclectic bill labeled somewhat generically as Americana. In truth, the repertoire, and its frequently animated execution, often steered outside those boundaries.

Rooted as much in jazz, bluegrass and pre-bluegrass country as classical music, De Pue, fellow violinist Nick Kendall and double bassist Ranaan Meyer offered that rarest of combos in any genre – a mix of accessibility, youthful daring and serious chops. All were on display with and without the orchestra last night in compositions that luxuriated in stylistic variance and performance dynamics.

On the quieter side was a ballad-heavy medley titled The American Suite that opened with two Meyer works (Wyoming 307 and Forget About It) that morphed from cello-like expression on the bass to melodies reflecting the spirited playfulness of vintage Appalachian fiddle tunes. But the suite downshifted dramatically for Leonard Cohen’s sublime Hallelujah, a modern spiritual with a funereal feel. The chorus melody was passed among the trio members and, eventually, to the Philharmonic without losing the tune’s inherent but haunting intimacy. A light-hearted Orange Blossom Special (prefaced by an overly hot-doggish jazz bass intro by Meyer) closed the medley.

But for pure playfulness, nothing matched a free-for-all arrangement of Brahms’ familiar Hungarian Dance No. 5. Taken at a pace that ran from brisk to maddening, the arrangement detoured into a medley of Fiddler on the Roof tunes, some of which placed De Pue and Kendall in serious cross-bowed counterpoint on the same violin. Sure, it was showboating. But not once did the trio’s technical prowess slip during this wonderfully cartoon-like joyride.

The Philharmonic addressed the evening’s Americana feel in somewhat more traditional terms with a nicely expansive performance of the very compressed thematic/orchestral suite from the Aaron Copland ballet Billy the Kid. But music director and conductor Scott Terrell’s biggest treat was a beautifully performed arrangement of Kurt Weill’s Symphonic Nocturne (from Lady in the Dark), which deftly moved from wintry lyricism to bolero-like drama to robust melodic runs that possessed the melodic pageantry of a more traditionally minded show tune.

Terrell also deviated from the Americana-based program at the concert’s onset by dedicating an unannounced Nimrod (from Elgar’s Enigma Variations) to Lexington arts patron, pianist and philanthropist Teresa Garbulinska Saykaly, who died earlier this week. While Nimrod is a common memorial piece, the Philharmonic packed a lovely, reserved elegance into the composition’s brief (roughly four minute) running time.

Time for Three encored with a similarly pastoral reading of Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek that closed the performance at 9:41 p.m. – nearly 15 minutes before the UK-Indiana tip off.

 Timing, as it turned out, was indeed everything.

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