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Trey and the Vermont Youth Orchestra         

The Vermont Youth Orchestra with Special Guests Stires and Anastasio

By Brian Lane Knight

To start off, this afternoon performance was a lot more about seeing Trey Anastasio, the guitar wizard. This performance was about seeing a collaboration of many performers, composers and music fans. There was the collaboration of eight five high school students who came together from different parts of the state to participate in the orchestra. There was collaboration between Anastasio and the VYO’s Conductor, Troy Peters who have been working together towards this date for a very long time. There was a collaboration between Trey and Troy with the eight five talented students and there was a collaboration between Anastasio and Peters and the Orchestra with the compositions of Ernie Stires, Maurice Ravel, Richard Strauss and Samuel Barber. In particular, the show brought together the student, Anastasio and the mentor, Stires for a rare stage collaboration.

Although the presence of Trey Anastasio contributed to the quick sell outs of both events, Anastasio was far from the spotlight and he was not on the stage for many of the evening’ highlights. Burlington High School senior Jocelyn Crawford performance on the horn for Strauss’s Concerto No. 1 was absolutely amazing. While her playing was superb, it was her ability to work under pressure that was astonishing. Prior to her final solo of the performance, she needed to do some minor adjustments to her spit valve. While the rest of the orchestra was building up to Crawford’s intro, she was hastily but effectively disassembling her horn. She managed to get everything back in order just seconds for the cue. I have seen many a guitarist fix a broken string on the fly with little stress but for young Crawford to do such a thing during an important performance without stressing or flinching was truly an remarkable sight. The Orchestra also performed Samuel Barber’s "First essay" and Maurice Ravel’s "Pavane". These two songs also displayed the collaborative spirit of the evening - Anastasio and Peters predetermined the Ravel piece, as a common influence between the two musicians while Samuel Barber was a cousin of Ernie Stires’ mother.

Trey Anastasio did not enter the stage until the piece before the intermission which was the world premier performance of Ernie Stires’ "Chat Rooms" - a three part piece that brought together the worlds of Count Basie, Robert Fripp and Samuel Barber. There were feelings of swing, full orchestration and virtuoso playing all wrapped together in fine suite. The same can be said for the other Stires piece that featured Anastasio — "Samson Riffs". This song displayed the three-part collaboration of Stires, Anastasio and Peters as the piece contained three variations of the same theme written by each composer. "Samson Riffs" can be found on a CD by the same title but it will, have neither the Vermont Youth Orchestra nor the third variation written by Peters.

Of course there was reason for Phish fans to be excited with the clever combination of the intro of "My Friend, My Friend" and the entirety of "Guyute", but what this performance truly displayed was the discipline and talent of the Orchestra, the leadership qualities of Troy Peters and the compositional abilities of Anastasio. Hearing the two Phish songs in the orchestrated context made the fan think twice of how the Phish songs should be heard. With cellos, violas, bassoons, violins and horns each taking major parts of the song and guiding the listener through the various movements and crescendos, the songs may now seem incomplete hearing them in a simplified four instrument electric environment. Maybe all this time, Anastasio has been compromising "Guyute’s" real beauty by playing with Phish and that it took until the performances in Burlington and Troy for the song to take on its true shape and form. To add to it all, Anastasio was not even on the stage for the performance of "My Friend/Guyute". While one can appreciate Anastasio’s compositional skills, the performance belonged to Peters and the Orchestra. The show was capped with Anastasio playing his instrumental "Inlaw Josey Wales" with three violins, a viola and a cello. A perfect intimate finale to a perfectly intimate afternoon.

As Troy Peters conveyed to the crowd throughout the afternoon, the performance was about relationships. Every single piece that the orchestra performed fit in perfectly. The works Samuel Barber, Maurice Ravel, Ernie Stires, Richard Strauss, Troy Peters and Trey Anastasio have all affected a slew of musicians. To see the ‘classical orchestration" of Barber and Strauss, the jump jazz of Stires and the rock and roll of Anastasio all combined together provided a new look on the relationships of music itself. It showed that music had no boundaries and parameters. There are no set rules in music and if there is the passion to bring different forms of music together, than it will happen. These performances were a testament to that fact.