“Two classical pianists and a Steinway walk into a bar … “
That is not the start of a high-brow version of a time-honored joke. Instead it is what the Cliburn plans to do with its Cliburn Sessions series — an offering of piano recitals and other classical music at the Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge in Fort Worth’s Near Southside neighborhood.
The first concert in that series will feature piano duo Anderson & Roe on Thursday.
“The concept behind Cliburn Sessions is to present classically trained artists in a very relaxed environment, where they are free to be casual, to blend genres, to interact with the audience,” said Jacques Marquis, president and CEO of the Cliburn Foundation, an organization best known for its quadrennial presentation of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and its star-studded series of classical concerts at Bass Hall.
“The Live Oak is an intimate, cool environment — and will allow us to bring even more great talent to Fort Worth. Many of these musicians may venture outside of the classical idiom during the course of the concert — into jazz, pop, world, alternative. In the hands of exceptional artists, good music is good music.”
Anderson & Roe, who are known for their unfettered approaches to classical works in piano for four hands and duo arrangements, would seem to be the ideal choice to make Marquis’ point.
“We have always had a very multifaceted approach to music. We like to kind of loosen things up and have a lot of fun,” said Elizabeth Joy Roe, who performs with fellow Juilliard grad Greg Anderson, a Minnesota native who lives in Los Angeles. “Our goal is to transform our audience’s perception of music.”
One of the ways the duo achieves that end is with a playlist that would not likely be found at a more traditional piano recital.
“We will play music by Radiohead, Michael Jackson and then segue into [Igor Stravinsky’s ballet] The Rite of Spring,” Anderson said.
The pair, who have been performing together since 2002, did not set out to be a duo.
“It just arose organically,” said Roe, who grew up in Chicago and makes her home in California’s Bay Area. “We always had a lot of respect for each other as pianists. So we decided that we had so much fun together as people, we might as well share music together as well. It was kind of like this magical chemistry from the beginning.”
But where Anderson & Roe found one another almost by accident, the Live Oak’s owner and operator has been planning for this concert for quite some time.
“This is something I dreamed about doing for 30 years,” said Bill Smith, about the bar-restaurant-music venue that has been offering a wide range of rock, pop, jazz, folk and country acts since it opened in 2011. “When I sought to build the Live Oak, I saw a void that could be filled after Caravan of Dreams left. I wanted to target a little different demographic.”
Indeed, all parties involved hope presenting this kind of act in an unusual venue will bring more young ears to classical music. The second concert in the Cliburn Sessions series will feature Time for Three, a string trio that performs Bach to the Beatles, on April 29.