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Orchestra musicians play ‘grassical’ in Saratoga 'pop-up'

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Orchestra musicians play ‘grassical’ in Saratoga 'pop-up'

The string band in the Druthers Brewing courtyard Wednesday afternoon played with the foot-tapping p
Orchestra musicians play ‘grassical’ in Saratoga 'pop-up'
Members of the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra play Blue Grass music at Druther's Brew Pub on Broadway in Saratoga Springs Wednesday, August 19, 2015.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

The string band in the Druthers Brewing courtyard Wednesday afternoon played with the foot-tapping propulsive rhythms and Appalachian melancholy of great bluegrass music.

But for four of the seven members of the DePue Brothers Band, their real job this month is at night on the stage of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center — they’re in the Philadelphia Orchestra. While the customers gathered at the popular Broadway brew pub enjoyed their chicken wings or mac ‘n’ cheese, the musicians enjoyed playing something a little different as part of SPAC’s “Pop-Up” series of informal downtown concerts.

“Music is music,” said violinist (and bluegrass mandolinist) Jason DePue, who has been with the Philadelphia Orchestra for 15 years. “We’re specifically classical musicians, but we admire other kinds of music and we like to branch out and play other kinds of music.”

His brother Wallace DePue is a freelance classical musician in southwest Florida who also delves into country and bluegrass, and admires great bluegrass musicians like the late Bill Monroe. “A lot of classical musicians couldn’t do what Bill Monroe did,” he said before the show, in which he sang, led harmonies and even — yes — yodeled.

Other orchestra members in the band were Liz Hainen de Peters, harp; Hal Robinson, bass; and Don Liuzzi, percussionist. Jordan Tice on guitar and Don Shean on banjo rounded out the performers.

“I’ve always been a banjo nut, and when I heard these guys play fiddle, I [wet] my pants and said ‘I’ve got play with these guys,’ ” said Liuzzi, who has been a percussionist with the orchestra for 26 years.

Just as you may have heard, a violin and a fiddle are the same instrument — just played in different styles. The band proved it by shifting in one brief interval from Bach to Mozart to Paganini to Prokofiev to “grassical.” They closed out their first set with the “Green Acres” theme song, to smiles and applause all around.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 885-6705, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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