Project Trio delights with semi-improvisational set

Photo by Ayla Safran '18

Photo by Ayla Safran '18

BY ANISHA PAI '19

Project Trio, the “high-energy chamber music” ensemble, received a standing ovation after a McCulloch Auditorium performance on Friday evening. Associate Professor of Flute Adrianne Greenbaum, a close friend of the three musicians, introduced them as the lights dimmed. “You’re going to have a constant smile on your face,” she told the audience.

Peter Seymour, double bass in hand, led his band mates, cellist Eric Stephenson and ‘beatbox flutist’ Greg Pattillo, on stage, all three grinning widely. They immediately began an energetic performance.

Pattillo, wearing bright yellow shoes, hopped in time to the music, beatboxing and playing the flute, simultaneously. Seymour and Stephenson, restricted by their large string instruments, were constantly bobbing their heads and tapping their toes.

Earlier that day, the Brooklyn-based trio had conducted an instrumental improv workshop with the Mount Holyoke music department.

Emma Atwood ’20 said, “I’d actually heard them before at a music show and then I went to their improv workshop so I wanted to come hear them again. It was great. I really like it when groups break that wall between the audience and the stage. They’re really expressive when they play.”

After their first song, an ode to Django Reinhardt, who Seymour described as “the father of gypsy jazz,” the group went straight into what seemed to be a dramatic rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor. Their theatrics garnered slight laughter from the crowd but the song was cut short. Seymour interrupted the song to introduce the band, as Pattillo and Stephenson transitioned into soft jazz.

“We have a background in classical music but we like playing music in every style,” said Seymour.

The trio’s entire set was original music and each song was introduced with a story about its inception. 

“Through hanging out together, touring and playing music, we collect quite a few stories and it’s really fun to integrate all those stories into the music. Then, engaging and interacting with the audience makes a little bit more fun of a concert,” said Stephenson.

Amongst the influences for individual songs were Indian ragas, Brazilian choro music, Jethro Tull, a surprise hail storm in June and a street performer in Washington Square Park.

 “I really appreciated the diversity of styles. That made it super interesting,” said Sage Mahannah ’20. 

A few of the pieces were twists on well-known songs such as Johannes Brahms’ Hungarian Dance in F minor, which, instead, they played in G. “I know them as classical pieces so it’s cool to see their spins on it,” said Atwood.

As the evening progressed, the trio became more theatrical, playing off each other’s energy and drawing many chuckles from the crowd. 

Their penultimate song, a Brooklynite version of the Russian “Peter and the Wolf,” was performed as a narrative. The instrumentalists recounted the story of four friends, Bird, Duckie, Cat and Peter, who befriended their local bully, Wolf. Told in narration and melody, the piece was written to supplement their performances at schools, in support of education. 

“We actually do a lot of stuff at universities,” said Seymour, speaking about the instrumental improv workshop.“We like to teach students to think outside the box, we take classical musicians and try to get them to jam and play all kinds of different styles of music.”

Stephenson said that a lot of the material played on Friday was semi-improvisational. “You really just hope you can connect with the people who are on stage and then, through the people on stage, you can connect to the audience,” he said.

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