Time for Three looks like a classical string trio, but their style and creative process have more in common with popular music.
Violinist Nick Kendall said the group mostly adheres to a “garage band” style of working. The three musicians meet to jam and riff together, record their ideas, then come back later with fresh ears to see what sticks.
“It’s mostly sharing ideas, playing with each other and at each other,” Kendall said.
Those ideas are then sent off to a composer or orchestrator, who spins them into a cohesive, fully realized piece. It’s a highly collaborative workflow that’s likely more familiar to Broadway composers and record producers than it is to classical musicians. Kendall said Time for Three doesn’t consider itself a classical band, even though all three members studied at elite music schools.
Time for Three will join the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Rossen Milanov at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater for an evening of mashups and original music.
Founding member and violinist Zach DePue left the group last year to focus on his job as concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. His replacement, Charles Yang, has since joined Kendall and double-bassist Ranaan Meyer and expanded the group’s creative horizon into vocal music.
“Charles has an incredible voice,” Kendall said. “Ranaan and I discovered we can sing backup.”
The group’s latest foray into songwriting is a three-movement work called “Songs of Joy,” which will receive its second performance ever at Saturday’s concert. According to Meyer, the music came first.
“There were periods where the three of us sat around writing verse, pre-chorus, chorus sections with the harmonies and melodies without words,” Meyer said.
The lyrics, which touch on familiar themes of love and despondence, were written by all three musicians.
“It’s all fantasy tales based on life’s experiences or feelings that the three of us have all had, and it’s also character sketches,” Kendall said.
Once the songs were written, they were sent to composer TJ Cole, who created complementary music for orchestra based on the songs.
“She basically took the main thematic material of these three songs and created these orchestral interludes,” Kendall said.
The rest of Time for Three’s program with the CSO will consist of mashups, a sort of speciality for the group. For example, the group came up with an arrangement that combines Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” with the third movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and his song cycle, “Kindertotenlieder.” Kendall said there is a conceptual thread that links the three pieces of music.
“ ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ talks about childhood memories, and one of the last lines in ‘Kindertotenlieder’ is that the memory is greater than the loss itself,” Kendall said.
The third movement of Mahler’s First Symphony is based on a minor version of the children’s song “Frère Jacques.”
“We’re kind of a multilingual group,” Meyer said. “We speak a lot of genres, and we can easily find connections between all sorts of music.”