The story begins with Bela Fleck, the world-renowned banjo player, known to fuse bluegrass, jazz, classical, rock, and music from around the globe into his own unique mashup of sound. One such genre-bender is “Doctor Gradus Ad Parnassum” by the late 19th- early 20th-century French composer, Claude Debussy, which Fleck and bass player Edgar Meyer arranged for banjo, cello, and violin and appeared on his album “Perpetual Motion.” Fleck and Meyer were awarded a Grammy for their arrangement.
Boston-based cellist Miranda Henne fell in love with that version of the piece. When she had an opportunity to mention it to Fleck directly, he recommended she perform it, and suggested for the banjo role one of the few other banjo players he knows who could actually play the fiendishly difficult part, Greg Liszt, banjoist for the progressive bluegrass/Americana band Crooked Still, and also a Bostonian. So Henne approached Liszt, who, after some prodding, agreed to learn the piece and perform it. But at what venue?
Henne suggested Phantom Theater, a small, “magical” (as Henne puts it) venue in a barn in Warren, VT, where she had performed several times previously. Liszt was intrigued and signed on. For the violin part, Henne reached out to Mariechristine Lopez, an old college friend who is recognized internationally for her solo and chamber playing. And so, a new trio was born, and dates were set, Friday and Saturday, August 4 and 5.
“I love Crooked Still’s music so much, so it’s an honor to be playing some of my favorite music with Greg Liszt,” said Henne. “His innovative four-finger picking technique earned him a place in Bruce Springsteen’s live band for Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions Tour in 2006.”
“And Mariechristine is a virtuoso violin player,” adds Henne. “When we played a Beethoven string quartet together in college, it was like having the most interesting and playful conversation through the language of music. I was totally hooked. Christie has a completely unique and powerful musical voice, and her creativity in how she thinks about and sculpts music is through the roof.”
In addition to the Debussy piece, the rest of the show will be equally eclectic. “We will play some of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons,’ the Swan by Saint-Saens, some Kodaly, some folk and fiddle numbers, some popular tunes, even some original music,” said Henne. “We’re exploring what happens when you bring together different musical backgrounds and styles together. Banjo, cello, and violin is a wonderful combination. You probably won’t ever hear this music performed live anywhere else — it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Showtime is 8 p.m. for the August 4 and 5 performances, and tickets are available at https://sevendaystickets.com/organizations/phantom-theater.