STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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This might be one of the most unusual presentations of Christmas music you’re ever seen.
The seven-piece DePue Brothers Band — an ensemble with violinist virtuoso brothers — plays what they call “grassical,” a hybrid of bluegrass, classical, jazz and rock. Having a hard time imagining the sound? Think of Aaron Copland’s composition “Hoedown,” and its memorable 1972 transformation by rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer. “It’s kind of second nature for us to play country music or play jazz or play rock style music,” said Jason DePue, a first violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The DePue Brothers Band’s “A Magical Grassical Christmas” show at 8 p.m. Dec. 11 at Sellersville Theater will feature selections from their 2014 album, “When It’s Christmas Time,” and on-stage cameos by members of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra and the Youth Orchestra of Bucks County during the second half of the program.
DePue said the teen musicians will join them for “Sleigh Ride” and the carol “O Holy Night.”
“On ‘Sleigh Ride’ we do audience participation as well,” said DePue, an Elkins Park resident. So if you go, maybe you’ll be called upon to jingle some sleigh bells.
The band’s lineup also features Wallace DePue, a former Philly POPS and Philadelphia Orchestra violinist who has fiddled for country singer Chris Cagle; Alex DePue, who played violin on albums by rock guitarist Steve Vai; Philadelphia Orchestra timpanist Don Liuzzi, who lives in Jenkintown; University of the Arts faculty member and Spring City resident Kevin MacConnell on bass; flat picking guitarist Jordan Tice; and Mike Munford on banjo.
DePue added that his other brother, Zach, who occasionally performs with the band, graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and is the concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
He said the title of the album “When It’s Christmas Time” comes from a carol written by the brothers’ father, Wallace DePue Sr. The brothers, who have been playing Christmas programs together since they were old enough to hold violins, recorded the CD, and the carol, as a tribute to him. “We have a lot of arrangements that are very original,” DePue said of traditional favorites like “Good King Wenceslas,” and originals like Alex DePue’s ode to Santa Claus, “The Fat Man.”
Once named “Musical Family of America” in a presidential decree from George H.W. Bush, the band is most definitely a family affair, albeit one that sometimes has to be on hold until the holidays due to individual musical endeavors and duties. “The best time of the year (to revive The DePue Brothers Band) is this time of year,” DePue said, crediting Liuzzi with spearheading a recent effort to get the band back together to play some concerts.
The band’s other two albums are called “Classical Grass” and “Weapons of Grass Construction.”
Check out videos, photos, social media links and more at www.depuebrothersband.com.
“We’re very excited to do the concert in Sellersville,” DePue said.