The Michal Palzewicz Trio — from left, banjo player Dan Sherrill, cellist Michal Palzewicz and percussionist Reed Bentley — will bring what they call “classical folk art” to Port Angeles on Saturday. (The Michal Palzewicz Trio)

The Michal Palzewicz Trio — from left, banjo player Dan Sherrill, cellist Michal Palzewicz and percussionist Reed Bentley — will bring what they call “classical folk art” to Port Angeles on Saturday. (The Michal Palzewicz Trio)

Classical-folk trio on its way to Port Angeles

Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts concert set for Saturday

PORT ANGELES — A cellist born in Bulgaria, a steel-pan player from Portland, Ore., and a clawhammer banjo man from Philadelphia: The three, each contributing his own style, set out to tell stories in music.

The Michal Palzewicz Trio, which bills itself as a “classical folk art” ensemble, will do the next show in the Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts’ Season Concerts series this Saturday.

The men are already alumni of the Juan de Fuca Festival; Marla Garr, a fan, discovered them at the 2022 event. They start out with familiar-sounding melodies, she said. Then they ease their listeners into a serenade.

“The trio ascends from any definable genre,” Garr added. “I rated them best of the fest in last year’s JFFA festival.”

Tickets to the show at 7 p.m. Saturday are available at JFFA.org and at the door of the Naval Elks Lodge, 131 E. First St. Advance prices range from $10 for ages 17 and younger and $15 for students age 18-21 to $30 for adults.

Palzewicz, a native of Sofia, Bulgaria, grew up in Warsaw, Poland, when it was still a socialist country. He recalled having free music education as a boy — though he did have to audition.

At first, he thought he’d become a pianist. But the orchestra director, needing cellists, told Palzewicz he had big hands — well-suited to those strings.

Owing to the cellist shortage, “they told me, play the cello or we won’t take you,” Palzewicz recalled with a smile.

It took only a few months for him to realize that the instrument was ideal for him.

Palzewicz went on to win a competition in Germany that led to his move to New York City as a young man. He’s been playing and traveling ever since, from his home base in Ashland, Ore.

Reed Bentley, who plays a variety of percussion instruments, and Dan Sherrill, who sings and plays banjo, complete the trio.

“When we first saw MPT perform in 2021, we were blown away,” said JFFA Operations Manager Kari Chance.

“We immediately knew that we wanted to bring them [to Port Angeles] and that our audience would love them. There’s something magical about the music they create. Their performances feel like a full-body experience.”

Bentley noted that, no matter the venue, the band seeks to make every concert feel intimate.

“We connect with the audience … There’s a lot of fun stuff, and music that draws you in, gets you moving, and feeling different emotions … Who knows where we’ll go? A lot of times we improvise. Every show’s a little different. We all connect really well as musicians,” he added.

The trio’s tunes range from originals to classical pieces: “Pegasus Flight,” “Ocean Breeze” and, with Sherrill’s vocals, “Easy to Fall in Love.” J.S. Bach’s “Sarabande” is also part of the repertoire.

A Michal Palzewicz Trio concert shows what happens, added Sherill, when “a banjo player integrates with two classically trained master musicians.”

With a fast-and-furious tour of Oregon, Washington and Idaho — the band will appear in nine cities inside of two weeks — Palzewicz said it’s a good thing the three get along.

“I waited [to start this group] till I found not only amazing musicians but also wonderful human beings. They’re wonderful people to be around,” he said.

And for the players and the audience, he added, “our music is good for the heart and for the soul. It’s really good organic food.”

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend.

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