Anderson and Roe: The best of both worlds


Pablo Medina

Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe performed at the Recital Hall on Feb. 17, sharing with the audience their interpretation of popular music from Queen, the Beatles and Radiohead.

Pablo Medina, Editor

Once in a blue moon, a solid act comes around that not only delivers on its program, but doubles down and gives more reasons to love it.

The Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe duo performed at the Recital Hall for the Jewel Box series on Feb. 17. With a packed audience and an energetic atmosphere, Anderson and Roe played a colorful set of compositions, from the classical and romantic periods to contemporary tango including their unique arrangements of popular music from Queen, The Beatles and Radiohead.

Anderson and Roe met 14 years ago at The Juilliard School in New York, NY. They united in their shared mission to strengthen classical music’s place in the new millennium.

“We both were obviously close friends and we wanted to spend more time together, but we also had a shared vision for music’s role in society, which was to make classical music a relevant and powerful force in society,” Anderson said.

In addition, Anderson produced many music videos of their own performances that highlighted their spirited playing styles and bold personalities.

“People often ask us how we have (the) energy that one needs to get through an entire concert, especially when we endure the struggles of jet lag and travel that limit our hours of sleep,” Anderson said. “I always say, the easy part is just being on stage because the music you play, that very first note, brings so much energy out of us.”

Part of the energy seen in the duo’s performances came from their enthusiastic talks with the audience. They shared humorous stories and heartfelt attachments with the music they played.

“The opportunity to connect meaningfully with our audiences is another factor that inspires us and keeps us motivated,” Roe said. “It’s very gratifying to feel a powerful and visceral connection with our audiences during a performance and also to hear the warm and generous comments from them after the concerts.”

“We love Chicago, it’s actually my hometown, and it’s great to play in a hall with such lovely acoustics,” Roe said. “It’s rightfully called the Jewel Box.”

With regards to the Jewel Box performance, the group’s take on “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen was especially beautiful. It was a perfect incorporation of the composition mixed with gorgeous embellishments and dynamics that hit hard and landed gracefully.

“The composers themselves lived such fascinating lives and they experienced suffering and love,” Roe said. “The more we try to tap into the humanity of the music, we hope that that humanity becomes revealed to our audiences, so it’s not merely this untouchable vestige but it’s a living, breathing experience.”

Once the duo finished their soulful rendition of “Let It Be” by The Beatles, the audience gave a standing ovation to their work. The duo played a four-hand piano encore of “The Dance at the Gym” from West Side Story, with the audience providing the “Mambo” shout each time they played the familiar theme.

After that came another standing ovation and a second encore, with a sweet performance of “What a Wonderful World”, made famous by Louis Armstrong. Finally, after another standing ovation came a third and final encore of the frantic Sabre Dance from Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Gayane.

Much like Lennon and McCartney, Anderson and Roe are not just a musical duo or a professional partnership, but a charming and talented group on a mission to unite people through music.