PROJECT Trio’s appeal spans generations

PROJECT Trio's members met when they were at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

PROJECT Trio's members met when they were at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

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WALLA WALLA — It’s not your grandparent’s traditional classical symphony when PROJECT Trio’s flautist, bassist and cellist are the guest artists.

Then again grandmas and grandpas as well as their children and grandchildren around the nation and overseas have been rising as one with applause when Trio performs.

The classical crossover group will appear in three performances next week in Walla Walla, solo as well as with the Walla Walla Symphony.

“One of my favorite things about PROJECT Trio is our accessibility to audiences of all ages,” bassist Peter Seymour said in an email interview last week from Germany, where the Trio was concluding a week of performing six concerts from Bautzen to Munich to Potsdam.

And how do Teutonic audiences in the homeland of musical heroes like Beethoven, Bach and Wagner take to the Trio’s style of music when they perform with classical symphonies?

“We have found that European audiences love crossover music,” Seymour said. “But really, European audiences and all audiences around the world like good music. They like seeing performers perform at a high level and perform passionately ... and that is what we’re all about.”

If you go

Saturday, 2 p.m. at Whitman College’s Cordiner Hall — PROJECT Trio will perform in a family concert along with musicians from the Walla Walla Symphony and the Walla Walla Youth Orchestral. A pre-concert Instrument Petting Zoo will begin in the foyer at 1 p.m. Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for students, and free for youths 12 and younger.

Saturday, 7:30 p.m., at Walla Walla Community College’s Performing Arts Auditorium — PROJECT Trio will be featured in a solo performance as part of the symphony’s Guest Artist Soirée Series. Tickets: $20 for adults and $10 for students/youth. Price includes a post-concert reception with dessert and wine and an opportunity to meet the artists.

Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. at Cordiner Hall — The Walla Walla Symphony will perform with PROJECT Trio in a program that includes PROJECT Trio’s original “Winter in June,” “Fast” and “Random Roads Suite.” Other works on the program include John David Earnest’s “Chasing the Sun” and Ferde Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite,” with projected photographic images of the Grand Canyon by Ron Ruhoff Photography. A half-hour free “Inside the Music” pre-concert talk begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Reid Campus Center Ballroom. Ticket prices range from $8 to $28.

Tickets for all three events are available online at www.wwsymphony.org, by calling the Symphony office at 509-529-8020, or at the Symphony office at 13-1/2 E. Main, Suite 201. Tickets also are available at the door.

PROJECT Trio is Seymour, flautist Greg Pattillo and cellist Eric Stephenson, who met at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where they studied classical performance.

They’ve played together for 15 years and formed PROJECT Trio six years ago, Seymour said, to follow a mutual dream of writing their own material as well as playing the classical music they love to audiences around the world.

Their musical style is harder to describe. But for starters think of the strings in classic rock’s Electric Light Orchestra and the flute playing of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson melding with the full orchestral sounds of classical composition. Then mix in shades of jazz and hip-hop. Oh, and a little humor.

On stage, Seymour’s bass and Stephenson’s cello complement orchestral strings as much as they lend accents to the percussion section. As for Pattillo’s flute, it alternates from sweetly melodic to downright explosive in his hands as he plays in his “beatbox” style. To get a sense of what that style is, lend your ears to Pattillo’s solo rendition of Prokofiev’s “Peter and Wolf” on YouTube, as more than 3 million others have.

To them, it’s all about expanding symphony audiences across generation and to people who may not like pure classical music. “The YouTube presence of the PROJECT Trio, especially Greg’s beatbox flute videos, has a brought a totally new audience to the world of playing instruments,” Seymour said. “Unfortunately, in the pop music world singing is the only thing that is recognized. People do not hear many great instrumentalists. It is important to introduce this type of music making to the masses (and) our YouTube channel does its small part.”

Even though their videos have received millions of hits, they’re not leaving their outreach only to the impersonal online format. To them there is another also kind of crossover — the bridge-building kind they do at schools to attract youths to symphonic music. Part of their visit to Walla Walla will include just that when they visit with students at Blue Ridge Elementary School on Monday morning and perform for the entire school. Still, no matter how far the Trio pushes its own crossover borders, Seymour says, the three members will always maintain their love of the classics.

“It is important to continue to perform the masterworks of the great composers from the past, but bringing in a group like the PROJECT Trio for a weekend can bring a new and different energy to the concert hall experience,” he said. “It is the type of energy that can get people who don’t already love classical music excited to go to the orchestra.”

Thomas P. Skeen can be reached at tomskeen@wwub.com or 509-526-8320.

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