What do you get when you cross a global pandemic with immensely talented musicians looking for ways to cope with shuttered venues and cancelled gigs?
If you’re the Emmy Award-winning string trio Time for Three (tf3), you get the inspiration to create music virtually – music with quirky titles like “Slim Jim/Stinky Bee.” This work, which the group performs as part of the Tallahassee Symphony’s Valentine’s Day special this Sunday, is one of many that band has composed in isolation since last March.
Another little thing Time for Three’s done during COVID is compose and perform the score for Robin Wright’s new feature film “Land,” which she both stars in and directs.
Coincidentally, “Land” premiers nationwide Friday, Feb. 12. Wright approached the group to write and record the score in collaboration with singer/songwriter Ben Sollee after hearing them in concert and falling in love with their sound.
One of tf3’s violinists, Charles Yang, comments, “We were pretty lucky this project came to us at a time when we couldn’t tour – it would have been really difficult to try to do both at the same time. We mostly recorded individually in our home studios, which was a new challenge for us, and we benefitted a lot from Robin’s input. She was very articulate in describing what she wanted from us.”
When asked if the star is anything like her “House of Cards” character Claire Underwood, Yang laughs, “Not at all! Robin is great!”
This kind of musical diversity is the calling card of Time for Three. Classically trained but versed in genres from jazz to Americana, modern pop to bluegrass, Tf3 brings an infectious enthusiasm to all the music that graces the strings of their unusual combination of instruments.
In addition to Yang, the members are Nick Kendall, violin, and Ranaan Meyer, bass. The band’s concerts are a masterclass in extended techniques, basking in all the various ways their instruments can be plucked, bowed, tapped, and strung for a panoply of sounds, colors, and effects, often enhanced by their own vocals.
The guys proudly share that they “stand on the shoulders of tradition,” and their musical mash-ups combine composers such as Mozart with The Verve, Mahler with Guns-N-Roses, as well as original works that rely heavily on the formidable chops they mastered while studying at the nation’s leading music conservatories, namely the Curtis and Juilliard Institutes.
All this and more is on display in this weekend’s concert with the TSO. It’s Time for Three’s first in-person performance since late February, 2019, and Kendall can’t seem to stop marveling at how good it feels to be collaborating with other musicians again.
“This time of isolation has been wonderful in one way because you learn to value the things in your life that are most important, but as an artist you crave working with other musicians and we’ve desperately missed this aspect of music-making,” Kendall said. “It has been a real blessing to perform with the talented musicians of the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra this week. It was really special for us to finally perform with an ensemble again after all these months. I’d describe it as cathartic.”
For Darko Butorac, conductor of the Tallahassee Symphony, the feeling is mutual. “The guys are very spirited, lots of fun, and superb musicians. Because of the nature of the show – there are new arrangements written specifically for this performance – the music-making was very collaborative. It was a very rewarding process.”
Pre-pandemic, Time for Three spent its days on the road performing engagements as diverse as its music: from soloing with the Philadelphia Orchestra, to a gig at Club Yoshi’s in San Francisco; and from a residency at the Kennedy Center to an appearance on ABC’s primetime hit show “Dancing with the Stars.”
This weekend, however, Time for Three’s made time for Tallahassee. Sunday’s concert is the 5th of TSO’s all-virtual 40th anniversary season, and streaming will be available through Saturday, Feb. 20. Tickets are $25/household and can be found at www.tallahasseesymphony.org. Concert-goers may also order a special Valentine’s Day meal from Food Glorious Food, Mimi’s Table, or Sage by visiting the Symphony’s website.