Trillium Salon series brings classical music out of the concert hall, into the living room

Ryan Cockerham and Er-Gene Kahng performing a world premiere at an office loft space of Dickson.

Photo: Sophia-Odelia Bauer.

Singer-songwriters playing acoustic guitars, folk groups, loud punk rock, garage bands, and metal. More than likely, anyone who has attended a house concert in Fayetteville over the years has probably seen musicians that fall into one of the aforementioned categories.

What’s probably less likely is that these house show attendees have seen classically trained musicians playing Mozart, Brahms, or Haydn up close and personal in someone’s living room. Unless of course, they’ve attended one of the Trillium Salon Series shows that have happened in town recently.

The series, created by local radio host Katy Henriksen and friends Glenn France and Ron Chioldi, has already included a handful of shows showcasing musicians playing classical music in intimate settings around town, and there’s another one planned for this Saturday, April 15 at “The Lab,” home of local theatre troupe The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre at 1030 S. College Ave.

This weekend’s show will feature a showing of the 1927 German expressionist science fiction film Metropolis with a live score played by local musicians The Shadow Ensemble, made up of local composer Ryan Cockerham and students from the Northwest Arkansas Community College.

The show is free to attend and open to all ages, with donations encouraged for musicians and The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre. A donation bar and concessions will be available.

A performance by Aaron Ragsdale from a Trillium Salon Series held at KUAF last June.

Photo: Matt Faries

To stay in the loop on future Trillium performances, you can sign up here.

We got in touch with Henriksen to find out more about the Trillium Salon Series and the show coming up this weekend, and she was nice enough to answer some questions for us.

Tell us about about the Trillium series. How did you get the idea / when did you get started?
A listener to my classical music show “Of Note” that airs on KUAF 91.3 fm connected with me on social media to discuss pieces I played. We became friends through our mutual love of classical music. He’d recently moved to Arkansas after many years in NYC and had heard about a new national project called Groupmuse, dedicated to creating house concerts for classical music. He asked me if I was interested in launching a series here. I was thrilled at the idea and brought another classical music friend who is a piano professor on board and the three of us met over many coffees to decide the shape of what would become Trillium Salon Series. Glenn France, Ron Chioldi and I discussed whether it made sense to begin a chapter of Groupmuse here or to come up with our very own plan. We decided on the latter because I already had so many classical musician contacts and we were interested in collaborating the burgeoning local food and drinks culture here. We realized we’d have more flexibility if we went out on our own. I’m friends with a cellist who performs each year as a member of Walton Arts Center’s Artosphere Festival Orchestra, so I reached out to him to see if he and other friends in the orchestra would be interested in playing a house concert while in town. Indeed he was. We brought Apple Blossom beer and bread on board, Conscious Cocoa vegan chocolates, Ozark Natural Foods provided local produce and cheeses and Foxhole Public House donated a boozy punch. We set up in my living room and had a grand time listening to a cellist, two violists and a violinist jam out performing Mozart alongside arrangements of pop tunes from the likes of Adele and the Beatles. That was last May. It was a huge hit that had performers and attendees raving about the experience.

How many shows have you guys hosted so far, and about how many folks have attended?
We’ve hosted seven now at locations ranging from the lobby of KUAF public radio, an office loft space off Dickson Street, living rooms, Artist’s Laboratory Theatre for a New Year’s Day potluck and most recently Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale, which launched their new “Just a Hint” series. For the living room shows we’ve got very limited room, so 20-25 guests max out the space. In public places such as KUAF, ACO and Artist’s Laboratory Theatre we’re able to bring more folks into the fold. Those concerts have ranged from 30-50 attendees. There’s been overwhelming feedback from attendees who say that the experience is unlike anything else and that they plan to attend every single Trillium they’re able to. The idea is to take classical music outside the concert hall into intimate and unusual settings redefining the role of performer and audience to invite connectivity and interaction. We never want there to be a traditional stage and audience and we don’t ever want the crowd to get too large. Intimacy and interaction are key.

How do you find musicians that are willing to travel and perform in such intimate settings? Is this something they do regularly?
We’re very DIY at the moment, meaning we don’t have a budget to offer traveling musicians money to come play here. We align with musicians who are already coming through for another paid gig who are interested in being a part of a classical music house concert, playing for donations from attendees. Other concerts have been from local classical musicians. There’s a cross pollination between those passing through and the wealth of classical musicians here in Northwest Arkansas. This summer’s marimba concert featured percussionist Aaron Ragsdale, who I went to high school with here in Fayetteville, though he currently teaches percussion at South Dakota State University. He comes through each summer to teach at the UA music camps, so I approached him about the possibility of a solo concert while he was in town. It also happened to be our 20th class reunion for FHS so a lot of classmates showed up from all over the country to experience the concert. Aaron enjoyed the performance so much that he decided to start his own pop-up series in South Dakota, playing marimba concerts in places like yoga studios. As we look to the future we’re looking into a model that will allow us to offer musicians money up front to come play for Trillium Salon Series, but we’re not there yet. The musicians who’ve participated say the concert is unlike anything else they’ve ever done, a rewarding experience for musicians and concertgoers alike.

Tell us about about the event coming up this weekend.
We’re collaborating with Artist’s Laboratory Theatre for a one-of-a-kind event Saturday night beginning at 8 p.m. We’ll be screening Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi silent film masterpiece Metropolis with a live improvised score from The Shadow Ensemble, a new group founded by composer and musician Ryan Cockerham. Cockerham teaches music theory at Northwest Arkansas Community College and the members of the ensemble are his students. Instrumentation will be unusual with prepared piano, old synths, zither, theramin, odd non-traditional percussion instruments, ukulele and electric bass. I’m floored to host this one-of-a-kind screening of one of my very favorite movies. We’ll set up lounge style with rugs and bean bags and throw pillows and will have Fossil Cove beer available, a boozy punch from Foxhole and snacks. We’re inviting folks to bring their own loungy floor hanging out rugs, pillows, etc. for enjoying this art deco masterpiece. The Shadow Ensemble is not following a score, so the entire performance will be improvisational, with the group relying on hand signals and facial expressions from Cockherham and the players.

How can folks stay up to date and find out about future Trillium series shows? Are there other ways to get involved?
We are active with social media using #trilliumsalonseries. At each concert there are many audience posts/documentation of the performances. We’re at work building our site, and until then invite you to connect via email by writing [email protected] or signing up here. We’ll get you on the invite list to stay in the know. Because of the the structure there’s often not a long lead time before concerts. Sometimes all the final elements including performer and venue don’t come together until two weeks prior to a show. We’re also keeping track of musicians who would like to participate, venues who would like to be considered for a future Trillium concert, as well as food/drink makers who would like to participate. Simply write us to connect.