Ensemble Promises Classical Music Without the Stuffiness

Spektrum Ensemble in Southampton
Spektrum Ensemble, performing tomorrow at the Southampton Cultural Center, wants to take the stuffiness out of classical music, said Trudy Craney, third from left.

Those of us who missed out on debut performances of Johann Sebastian Bach’s secular cantatas at the Cafe Zimmermann in Leipzig or Edith Piaf’s singing at celebrated Parisian cabarets have a chance to attend a concert that promises to be pioneering in Southampton tomorrow when Spektrum Ensemble presents “The Cafe Connection: Music in Intimate Settings Through the Years” at 7 p.m. at the Southampton Cultural Center. 

The quartet, a group of like-minded musicians who are based in New York City and on Long Island, offers more than classical music. It evokes the atmosphere of European cafes, incorporating diverse musical forms and improvisation, and, depending on the particular program, guest performers may join in. 

“Spektrum Ensemble is unique in that we want to take the stuffiness out of classical music,” said Trudy Craney, a Grammy and Emmy Award-winning soprano who performs internationally. “It doesn’t just have to be classical, it can be popular, jazz. This concert is about the history of cafe society, how it came to fruition in Europe.” 

As an example, the group might juxtapose a Chopin mazurka arranged as a song by Pauline Viardot, a mezzo-soprano and pianist with whom Chopin collaborated, with a Piaf song, followed by a cello sonata by the Belgian composer Eugene Ysaye. The approach creates “a very dynamic atmosphere,” Ms. Craney said.

 “We talk about it and then perform a very broad smattering of music. We feel you can have a rather complicated piece right next to a piece that is so beautiful and acceptable that people start making an association between the two.” 

The other members of Spektrum Ensemble are Alex Pryrodny, a pianist who comes from Ukraine, Andrew Perea, a conductor, composer, and performer who has collaborated with Ray Charles, Itzhak Perlman, and Yanni, among others, and Rebecca Perea, a cellist who plays with numerous ensembles and also has performed intsernationally. 

“I come from a purely classical background,” Ms. Craney said. “Some of my colleagues do a lot of improvisation. Alex is a phenomenal pianist. Rebecca and Andrew, who are married, are so comfortable with improvisation and orchestrating.” 

“The Cafe Connection” will feature music by Chopin, Bach, and Puccini, among other selections, as well as Piaf songs, Ms. Craney said. “We want to build an audience, and recapture the excitement of live music.”

To that end, Ms. Craney said, she and Ellen Johansen, a pianist and teacher who lives in East Hampton, “have this vision of starting a loosely based ensemble of local, high-level musicians and performing in various combinations.” 

“We are so grateful to the executive director of the Southampton Cultural Center, Kirsten Lonnie, who is a real lover of music, especially classical, for affording us this opportunity to build music making on the East End,” Ms. Craney said. 

Admission to the concert is by free-will donation.