Troy Savings Bank Music Hall | 02.02.2001
High above a savings bank in the industrial town of Troy, New York lies the acoustical marvel known as the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Up until two years ago, I lived in upstate New York and had made it down to the hall on a number of occasions, mostly for bluegrass shows like the David Grisman Quintet, Bela Fleck, and Tony Trischka. On Friday night, the Vermont Youth Orchestra and Trey Anastasio took the stage at this historic venue before 1250 fans for an evening of classical music.
From an acoustical standpoint, the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall is a work of art. Revered by audio enthusiasts for having some of the best acoustics in the country, the Hall demonstrated how little sound reinforcement is necessary when a room is built with a focus on sound rather than seating and temperature control. A very basic PA was used to fill the rectangular hall with sound, made up of only two mid sized speakers located at each end of the stage.
At about 8:15pm, the VYO and conductor Troy Peters set into the first piece, First Essay for Orchestra. This piece had an eerie, moody feel to it. Rather than featuring one soloist, this work demonstrated the connection between all the different members of the group. The second work, Horn Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 11 is a piece by Richard Strauss, who also penned the Phish concert staple, Also Sprach Zarathustra. This piece featured an extensive horn solo by Jocelyn Crawford.
For the final piece of the set, Trey Anastasio joined the VYO on electric guitar for he world premier of Chat Rooms, by Ernie Stires. It quickly became clear why Stire’s was Trey’s compositional mentor. Chat Rooms had mixed elements of swing with the abstract jazz Trey explored with John Medeski on Surrender to the Air. Trey’s guitar playing was the focal point of the piece, which found him laying down a mixture of jazz chord progressions and chromatic leads.
After a brief intermission, the VYO and Trey kicked off the second set with Samson Riffs. Made up of three sections, Samson Riffs illustrated the compositional talent of Stires, Anastasio, and conductor Troy Peters. The first section was Ernie Stires original work Samson Riff, which featured some smooth soloing by Trey and a swinging rhythm section. Trey’s reworking of Samson Riff [also known as At the Barbecue, performed by a horns section on One Man's Trash and Phish on the Bearsville Outtakes tape] showed little resemblance to the original. The swing feel and jazz guitar riffs were replaced with a dissonant horn arrangement. Samson Counterpoint, Peters’ contribution to the piece, combined aspects of both Anastasio’s and Stires’ versions to produce something completely unique.
This was followed by a work by Maurice Ravel titled Pavane pour une infante defunte. This was one of the shorter pieces of the evening, clocking in at about six minutes. A slower, pensive piece, Pavane brought to mind images of a dramatic movie soundtrack.
Finally came the long awaited debut of the orchestral Guyute. Surprisingly enough, Anastasio did not play on Guyute and wasn’t even on stage during the performance. This Guyute united My Friend, My Friend from the Rift album with the familiar Guyute from The Story of the Ghost. Both songs were written in 1992 during a trip Trey took to Ireland. The intro and ending were based on the build up at the beginning of My Friend, the composed classical sounding section. This transitioned seamlessly into the second section of Guyute. The center portion of the song was classic Guyute, with the slow dreamy part leading into the Celtic sounding section. The dynamics of the VYO were at the center of the buildup section, their volume grew louder as the intensity and the tension grew. Finally the climax was reached, brought in with some excellent percussion work and ending with the strike of a gong. And then back into the intro of My Friend as the ending.
Following a standing ovation, the VYO took their places for one final number. Trey reappeared on stage, this time with his acoustic guitar. The Inlaw Josie Wales, a bluegrass instrumental would be the last song of the night. Friday’s version had less of bluegrass feel than the version on Farmhouse, with some soft accompaniment from the VYO’s string section.
Trey and the 80 member VYO provided a well planned and executed evening of classical music. It may not be the first time a rock star has crossed over to the world of classical music, but the evening was a definite success for the VYO, Trey Anastasio, Ernie Stires, and Troy Peters.
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