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New York
The Crypt, Church of the Intercession
01/13/2020 -  
Mélange of Folk, Pop, Original, Baroque etc
Time For Three: Charles Yang, Nicolas Kendall (Violins, Vocals), Ranaan Meyer (Double Bass, Vocals)

C. Yang, R. Meyer, N. Kendall in the Crypt (© Kevin Condon)

A day is lost when we haven’t danced at least once. We have no truth unless it is accompanied by at least one laugh.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

He that has a merry heart hath a continual feast.
God (??-??), Proverbs, 15:15

Quick confession. I’d never heard of Time For Three, didn’t have the slightest idea what instruments they’d handle, what style, what music they’d perform or the slightest thing about them.

On the other hand, hey! Music in the crypt of the Church of the Intercession or the mausoleum in Greenwood Cemetery is invariably interesting (if not always successful), and–most essential of all for us stolid incorruptible New York serious-music critic–we get lotsa free wine, Camembert cheese and figs before the show.

So who could resist?

It wasn’t the wine or cheese, but the inebriating joy of Time For Three which made this evening memorable.

Don’t even think of the word “style” for these three happy virtuosi. “Crossover” is a decent pigeonhole adjective, I guess, for a group playing bluegrass and Bach and pop and a few measures of Vivaldi and rock about which I am totally ignorant. Yet one never thought of the styles. Rather, it was ecstasy they brought to everything.

One was always conscious of their expertise. But simultaneously came a feeling of love. How Ranaan Meyer took his battered old double bass, tacitally whispering to it, pounding it, embracing it. How Charles Yang pizzed and bowed and strummed his fiddle, sung in alto, came down to close three-voiced harmony with the others. Or how fellow fiddler Nicolas Kendall, with the same expertise, almost–almost–happily mocked the players and jested between numbers.

The joy of these three was reminiscent of a Vladimir Horowitz piano recital. Yes, he was emperor of all he surveyed, from Sousa to Scarlatti. More important, his attitudes, energies, happiness at the keyboard was so visceral that it made others if his generation seem almost anhedonic.

Those were the traits of this atomically-energized trio. They were neither intimidated nor particularly reverent of their ecclesiastical setting. Nor were they daunted by a New York audience more accustomed to Bach than Bluegrass. Rather, they were titillated by the environment and made the most of it.

Time For Three launched on stage, plucked a few chords, played songs I had never heard, with nearly-woven three-part harmony, with rhythms which weren’t “composed” for rhythm but written for natural velocity. And offering the most natural unassuming colors for their unnatural ensemble.

Yet was it unnatural? Go back a few centuries, and the combination of two violins and a double-bass was ideal for a Corelli, who used his upper solo-strings in thirds with a bass continuo. It sounded heavenly then, it did here.

Perhaps I should have done after-concert research for what they played, yet that seems meaningless, since it all fit together so well. And while I have never accepted the bromide of music as the “universal language” the last four-hundred years of Western composition can fit the bill.

Thus, bluegrass, thus folk, thus a truly beautiful Bach D Minor Chaconne with a few passages of Vivaldi thrown in for a few spicy Season-ings.

Let’s face it, these one-time students at the Curtis Institute well know that Bach was criticized by his contemporaries for being unable to write a good tune. Thus the Vivaldi, the lovely arrangement of Stand by Me, and a half-dozen other pieces by these three.

Not once did they show off the love of what they were doing or did they need to boast of their expertise. That was offered in love of their mutual movements, their exceptional talent and binding enthusiasm of pure delight.

Harry Rolnick



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