Ladies and gentlemen, this ain’t your grandparents’ classical music.

The Portland Symphony Orchestra had the privilege of sharing the stage Sunday afternoon with Time for Three, a self-described “classical garage band.” From the stage there was a little jazz, a little blues, a little gypsy and a little classical. From the audience there was a whole lot foot tapping, looks of amazement and cheering.

Black tie and tails? Try again. How about jeans and untucked Oxford shirts? Time for Three certainly set the stage in the second half of the concert with their relaxed smiles and gentle swagger. What followed was a musical tour de force.

The 27-minute “Travels in Time for Three” by Chris Brubek took listeners on a virtuosic musical journey of the highest degree. Brubek seamlessly crosses musical genres while simultaneously drawing the classical listener in by showcasing the far-reaching technical limits by which the violin and the bass can be stretched.

Time for Three treated the audience to not one but two encores, which were both equally entertaining and technically dazzling. They summoned their inner Vassar Clements for a raucous version of “Orange Blossom Special,” highlighted by an extremely intelligent tease of the third movement of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto. This brought many smiles and nods of approval from the symphony members as they sat and watched with amazement.

The first half of the concert was your traditional classical concert. The symphony opened with Hindemith’s “Symphonic Metamorphosis” followed by Bernstein’s “West Side Story: Symphonic Dances.” Both pieces were played with precision and emotion.

Hindemith was a master of compositional arranging and the orchestra and conductor alike did a fantastic job of creating the textures and layers of sound needed to bring this masterwork to life. Robert Moody perfectly contrasted the Hindemith with the Bernstein to finish the first half of the concert. The orchestra played the rhythmically challenging and musically endearing Bernstein brilliantly.

The concert was followed by a lively Q&A session in which Time for Three also performed several more astounding pieces.

Time for Three certainly challenges the limits of the term “western classical music.” They have now expanded that title to more accurately describe themselves: “country western gypsy jazz classical blues music.”

 

Andrew Martelle is a freelance writer.