Time For Three

July 11, 2006, 2:07 PM · Every summer, the San Francisco Symphony plays a free concert at Stern Grove. My husband and I went only occasionally when we first moved here, but now that we have the girls, it's becoming a family tradition. We arrive in the morning, find a choice spot, spread out blankets, and spend the day eating, chatting, and playing until the afternoon concert.

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I find these performances especially enjoyable because they tend to feature crowd-pleasing works and, in the past few years, have been conducted by the extremely talented and handsome Resident Conductor, Edwin Outwater. I've been introduced to some great soloists at these summer concerts, including pianists Jon Nakamatsu (who has since fallen off my list of favorites, but that's a different story) and Adam Neiman.

I admit I wasn't quite as excited about this year's program, particularly since they were featuring a group I'd never heard of, the string trio Time For Three. Classically trained musicians vary widely in their enthusiasm for crossover music, and I admit to having fairly narrow tastes. When an ensemble is described as "unique" or "unconventional", my first instinct is to turn away.

I should have had more faith, because I ended up eating my words big time. These guys are PHENOMENAL. They came out a couple of hours before the concert for a sound check and warmup, and within seconds I was transfixed, watching and listening with eyes wide and mouth open. Their stage presence is mesmerizing, the music intriguing, and their technique is unbelievable. I immediately began gushing to my husband about how I thought violinist Nick Kendall was incredibly hot even though his physical looks didn't attract me, and he---having endured my Joshua Bell infatuation for years---sighed and said, "Maybe I should just learn to play the violin really well." (Easier said than done, dear...)

During the actual concert, my three-year-old daughter had to go to the bathroom, so I didn't get to see them play their final work in its entirety. But Kiera and I stayed just outside the meadow and just danced to the music, which we could still hear quite well. And we found ourselves right outside the area where the guys would be signing CDs at intermission, so we ended up being first in line. Kiera asked them to autograph the album I'd just bought, and they were incredibly sweet to her, asking her how to spell her name and listening patiently as she babbled on about how her little sister was going to learn to play the cello when she got older so our family could be a quartet. I don't always expect twenty-something guys to be so wonderful with little kids, so after watching them with her, in combination with the immense talent I'd just observed, I was completely blown away.

Check these guys out; you won't be disappointed!

Replies

July 11, 2006 at 10:42 PM · I find that most musicians are always encouraging to young kids who want to play. We know how hard it is, we know what a joy it is and we want to share that. Not only can we share it through performing, but by encouraging others to join in.

July 11, 2006 at 10:55 PM · We have "Time for Three's" debut album...got it this Christmas. They are a Philadelphia phenomenon, and in fact they appear in the movie "Rittenhouse Square" as well as in the movie (I forget its name) which is about being a musician, and is essentially a documentary of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The latter movie was making limited showings around the country and in Toronto a few months back.

Ranaan Meyer does really cool stuff on the bass and shows how much range the instrument can have. It is an interesting trio--with no mid-range instruments--and yet the range of the bass sees to make it work just great. I wonder if he is an Edgar Meyer fan:-)

On their recording, I like their "Orange Blossom Special," though I like the Stanley Brothers better. However they have some great stuff of their own, which is what I am really happy about, such as Ranaan's "Mohawk" and their group composition "Samuel."

I look forward to hearing them live!

July 12, 2006 at 12:51 AM · Listen to the original 1939 recording, available with this book. Also read the reviews of the book there:)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1574241044/103-4599506-0541434?n=283155

July 12, 2006 at 02:30 AM · That is cute (about Kiera and her little sister). Does that mean your hubby will get to play the viola?

July 12, 2006 at 04:03 AM · Karen,

Nice day..it reminds me of my own "picnics" at Kenwood House (Hampstead Heath) in London during my university days...there's a lake and the orcehstra sat on the stage on the other side.

They always ended with Tchaikosky's Firework display music with Fireworks to accompany.

However I just googled after reading your blog, and the tickets have gone up from the 1 pound and grass seats to deck chairs starting from 18 pounds. And the music is no longer all classical either.

Sigh!

July 12, 2006 at 04:18 AM · Ben: I agree that most musicians try to be encouraging to little kids, but not all of them have a way with them. These guys definitely did, and it was a pleasure to see.

Bill: I've definitely got to get hold of "Rittenhouse Square" since Caeli is in it too! Ranaan Meyer is great. I was actually going to ask him if he was related to Edgar, but decided it was a stupid question and he was probably sick of answering it. (Further research confirmed that the answer is probably no.) Definitely see them live when you can; it's a magnificent experience!

Clare: Cade can only play a little violin, so I'll probably end up playing the viola, which I don't like. Or maybe I'll convince him to take up the cello. There's some wiggle room, depending on what Kyla wants to do. :)

July 12, 2006 at 07:09 AM · Thank you so much fr posting these photos, Karin! I really liked seeing you and your family; it puts everything in a personal perspective.

July 12, 2006 at 07:15 AM · Wow! That trio sounds great! Ahhhhh, your daughters are so cute!!

A family quartet...you guys could be like the Von Traps. I wish my parents played instruments.

July 12, 2006 at 07:47 AM · I love your concert review and the photos of you and your family. You all look great.

July 12, 2006 at 03:58 PM · Thanks for the nice comments about the pictures, everyone. Sydney, we'd need to have FIVE more kids to be like the Von Trapps...eeee! :) At least you've got one sibling who plays.

Raija, I envy your boyfriend for being able to study with Ranaan! He seems like he would be a wonderful teacher.

July 12, 2006 at 08:44 PM · Karin!!! I was there!!!

And I second all your comments about Time For Three. Wasn't expecting to be blown away, and I was. Yup, the guy you mentioned was soooooo charismatic. My friend and I were on the hill behind the main seating (foolishly thinking arriving at 12:30pm was arriving early), so we couldn't see actual faces, but boy, did this guy know how to play out to a crowd. Very much a Josh-like charisma. The other two were wonderful as well, but that's what happens sometimes - one member's energy draws the attention in.

Okay, next time I'm making you put up a flag and I'll come seek you out. : ) (That was my first visit to Stern Grove, BTW.)

July 12, 2006 at 08:57 PM · Oooh, Terez! Too bad we didn't get to meet! Next year, for sure, okay? We'll save you a spot and hopefully we'll get to discover yet another talented new group or soloist.

July 12, 2006 at 10:08 PM · Now that I think about it, I remember this group from a live in the studio show on NPR. Cute kids I guess, but I'm tellin you, the 1939 recording is the one you want:)

July 13, 2006 at 02:17 AM · Jim, can you be more specific about the 1939 recording?

July 13, 2006 at 02:59 AM · Oops...by Ervin and Gordon Rouse, DBA "The Rouse Brothers."

July 13, 2006 at 03:14 AM · Didnt Caeli like play with that trio...? You should ask her!

Cute pictures... That is SO cute about her talking about your family quartet!!! :) You're not the only one looking foward to that! haha

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