Making Classical Music Relevant

October 10, 2014

Last Friday I saw my friend, Greg Anderson, and his musical partner, Elizabeth Joy Roe, absolutely light up the Bedlam Theatre in downtown St. Paul.

A&RThey’re both Juilliard-trained, virtuoso pianists and amazing individual musicians in their own right. But together, as the Anderson & Roe Piano Duo, they’re out to make “classical music a relevant and powerful force in the world.” I’d say they’re killing it and pushing the relevance of classical music in some very interesting ways.

Unlike a lot of classical performers, Anderson & Roe don’t just sit behind their instruments. They’re constantly up and interacting with the audience, explaining the context of each piece, and sometimes even inviting audience members up on stage (fortunately, I was not one of them). By doing so, they’re knocking down some of the barriers to complex and, for a lot of people, what can seem like inaccessible music. For this reason alone, I can guarantee you’ve never seen a similar classical performance.

Then there’s the videos. They have a huge YouTube following and their work was even nominated for an Emmy. Here’s an example — clearly outside the genre of what you might consider a classical music video.

Of course, the main reason to see them is the music itself. In addition to a strong classical repertoire, Anderson & Roe are stretching boundaries by reinventing classical pieces and through their original, classical arrangements of popular songs. The latter, especially, shows how much they’re expanding their classical training into new realms.

You can find more videos on YouTube, but here’s are a few for your immediate viewing pleasure.

Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean for four hands on one piano.

Radiohead’s Paranoid Android for two pianos.

They even reimagined the music from the Star Wars trilogy and made it their own.

Ragtime Alla Turca (inspired by Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca).

Carmen Fantasy for two pianos.