Chris Thile Celebrates ‘Bachtober’ in Upstate, NY

World renowned mandolin master Chris Thile held a special solo performance this past Sunday October 27th, at The College of Saint Rose’s Massry Center for the Arts. The venue is a 400 seat capacity recital hall, ranked high in the Capital Region for its energy efficiency and Earth-friendly structure. With such an intimate setting, Chris Thile was able to interact more closely with the audience, conveying his sense of humor and gifted story telling thru music.

When Thile isn’t performing solo, he is touring with his bluegrass band the Punch Brothers in addition to and most recently also performing with, pianist Brad Mehldau, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, guitarist Michael Daves and double bassist Edgar Meyer – to name a few. Thile paid tribute to one of his favorite musicians, Johann Sebastian Bach by performing pieces from Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1 and by dubbing October as his personal Bachtober.

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Chris Thile took the stage, singing aloud some scales as he tuned himself as well as his mandolin with the room grossly quiet. He laid out the agenda for the evening with explaining the layers of Bach, his “stuff”, Bach, more “stuff” and Bach in a friendly disposition. Thile was happy to celebrate the last Sunday of Bachtober in Upstate New York as he joked about the correct pronunciation of Albany. His Bach covers were observed in dead silence and a deep respect where as his original pieces caused rowdy outbursts from the crowd with delight and laughter.

The music brought out the best in Thile whether he was balancing on the tips of his toes, stomping the stage, or in a wide and strong stance. The audience could feel everything that he was feeling, just by watching the countless facial expressions with every note. Despite being seated the entire time, Thile made the room spin and soar as he jerked recklessly on the stage with complete control of his instrument.

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Chris threw in a curveball when he covered Fiona Apple’s “Fast as You Can”, getting laughs as he sang, “And I’ll be your girl, if you say it’s a gift” and smiling at the crowd saying, “this is gonna be a fun night.” He took a moment to joke about how performers especially soloists must perform at least one  but no more than three songs about the Civil War.

With that intro, he went into “Richmond is a hard road to travel”, an upbeat, catchy tune with fast spoken lyrics from Divided and United: The Songs of The Civil War, a collection of 32 Civil War era compositions with musicians from all generations. The audience was then asked to hunker down for the “Partita No. 1 in B minor”, a piece that Thile “absolutely adores” due the endless satisfaction he gets from how each movement has a double movement. He pushes himself to the limit with each note, occasionally wiping the sweat off his fingers onto his pants, receiving applause and a standing ovation that was deafening and well deserved.

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Chris Thile concluded the evening with some light-hearted songs, “If You are Gonna Leave Me (Set Me Up with One of Your Friends)” also known as his campaign song if he were a politician and “Play You a Song on The Mandolin”. He commented on his love for the sound of the Massry Center, maybe due to its “waviness of things” noting on the protruding curved red wooden panels. Whether it’s Bach or bluegrass, Chris Thile is a spellbinding musician that brings life to contemporary and classic pieces as well as to his audiences around the globe.