Lucy and Ricky. Laverne and Shirley. Bert and Ernie. Ben and Jerry.
Hard to imagine one without the other, right? It was their duality that made them dynamic and iconic figures. Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe know a thing or two about duality, duos, pairings, one being the loneliest number, and all that jazz. Although in their case, it’s not jazz, it’s classical music.
The Juilliard-trained concert pianists formed their partnership, Anderson & Roe, in 2002 while students at the famed New York conservatory. Three Billboard chart-topping albums later, they’ve toured the world disseminating original compositions while also paying homage with an accessible, vivacious energy that appeal to both the classical savant and the kazoo novice.
The power of duos permeates the performances and creative processes of Anderson & Roe. They’ve even thought to couple cocktails with concertos. What began as a blog feature called “Musical Mixology,” which according to Anderson, sprung from the premise that “the effective pairing of music and cocktails can enhance the potency of both” has developed into a live concert model. In the same manner that those with synesthesia perceive color while listening to music, Anderson & Roe may be aiming for their wrapped audiences to taste sound and hear taste. Chilled sat down to chat with the duo:
The Miami Herald calls you the “rock stars of the classical music world.” Talk to us about what that means.
GREG: We stay busy performing 80 to 100 concerts a year, creating wild music videos (flaming pianos, roller rinks, bugs, mountaintops, etc.), and composing avant-garde covers of pop music. It’s all in service of our mission to make classical music a relevant and powerful force in society. We like to say we serve our music piping hot with an unhealthy dose of adrenaline, two to four servings of sexual tension, and a dash of the unexpected.
LIZ: In other words, we value supreme variety in our programming and have pushed the boundaries of what can be performed in a classical concert. It is totally natural for us to pair a masterwork from the standard classical repertoire with our own avant-garde pop hit covers. We believe that great music is great music, regardless of genre, style, etc. In that sense, we’re not attached to labels or concerned with fitting in the “classical” box. What’s important to us is the music itself—its capacity to move, excite, soothe, and uplift.
Who are your greatest musical influences?
LIZ: One of my earliest—and greatest—influences is The Beatles. I grew up loving their classic albums and films, such as A Hard Day’s Night. I also idolized the incredible pianist Glenn Gould, who was ahead of his time. His iconic recordings (especially of Bach’s music), singular performance style, and utter devotion to his craft inspired me to take risks with my own artistic approach.
GREG: Two of my favorite pianists are Alfred Cortot and Ignaz Friedman. Unfortunately, I never heard either pianist perform live (they died before I was born), but their tremendous personalities live on in their recordings. Both were deeply sensitive and soulful performers.
Talk to us about “Musical Mixology.”
GREG: Our “Musical Mixology” blog features cocktails we’ve crafted to complement the music of classical composers (or, in some cases, specific pieces of music). It’s our premise that music plus the properly paired cocktail will lead to new revelations in sound, taste, and smell.
As a result of these online recipes, fans frequently bring us interesting and rare liquors as gifts, which we find hilarious and enjoy tremendously. We’ve also been invited to perform Musical Mixology concert events all around the world, in which we perform several sets of music with complementary cocktails. These performance experiences are the direct (and fun!) result of our blog and social media activities.
What inspired you to mix drinks and music?
LIZ: We’re always looking for new creative outlets to demystify and integrate classical music for those who normally don’t listen to Brahms or Boulez. It’s an essential part of our creative existence and ethos. The content we create for social media—whether it be our music videos, listening tips, or cocktail recipes—ultimately serves our mission and amplifies the listening experience for our fans, but we’ve found that it enhances our performances as well, causing us to interact with our music from fresh and unique points of view.
GREG: I love a mean drink, and I love listening to music! The idea to consciously pair the two seemed completely natural and innate to me.
What are your backgrounds in the spirits/mixology industry?
GREG: We spend hours at the piano and behind the bar. Although we don’t have any formal training or industry experience, we began reading cocktail literature years ago and then began experimenting obsessively at home, testing several drinks a day during practice breaks.
LIZ: Of course, this may have affected the quality of our practicing…
Tell us a bit about the projects you’re working on.
GREG: Excitingly, we’ve just wrapped up the first phase of our New Music New Video composition competition. At the end of 2017, we put out a call for new piano duo compositions and offered to collaborate on a music video with the winning composer. We’re currently judging the entries and we can’t wait to select a winner!
LIZ: We also have a few Musical Mixology concerts to look forward to this year, which we’ve discovered to be joyful experiences for both ourselves and our audiences!
What types of drinks do you order when out?
GREG: I love drinking, and I’m always looking for inspiration for “Musical Mixology.” At bars or restaurants, I’ll usually ask the bartender or server about his or her favorite drinks, and then I’ll try them all!
LIZ: I’ve been on a sparkling wine kick lately, though I typically lean toward citrusy, herbal concoctions.
Do you prepare drinks at home?
GREG: Yes, our “Musical Mixology” series grew out of my curiosity and creativity while crafting cocktails at home.
Do you own a home bar?
GREG: I do. And as a result of our “Musical Mixology” blog posts, our fans frequently bring us interesting and rare liquors as gifts. Because of their generosity, my home bar has practically overtaken my living space!
LIZ: He’s not kidding! Most of the gifts end up in Greg’s bar to inspire us in our “Musical Mixology” experiments, and since we’re constantly on the road it’s fun to discover places that make you feel at home. Recent favorites include the Little Red Door in Paris and a Liverpool speakeasy called Berry & Rye.
What is your favorite cocktail?
GREG: When in doubt, I stick to a simple Hendrick’s Gin Martini served dry with a cucumber slice. But my favorite drink, undoubtedly, is a Vesper. It’s such a classic cocktail, evoking all the nostalgia of a Bond film–sexy with a dash of danger.
LIZ: I love a good Vesper! It’s not too sweet, and I love the subtle floral and fruity notes from the Lillet Blanc.
The Amadeus Affair
Sit back and enjoy while listening to Anderson & Roe’s album An Amadeus Affair, available on Amazon, iTunes and Spotify, and via their website. As Anderson states, “it’s the perfect tipple to compliment Mozart’s sonic whirl of intrigue, scandal, exhilaration, and mischief.”
- 1 1/2 oz. Gin
- 1 1/3 oz. St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
- 1-2 sprigs Tarragon
- .75 tsp. Granulated Sugar
- 2/3 oz. fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
- 2 drops Absinthe
- 2 oz. Soda Water
Preparation: Muddle tarragon and granulated sugar in dry cocktail shaker. Add gin, St-Germain, lemon juice and absinthe. Top with ice, shake, and strain into a tall glass filled halfway with ice. Top glass with soda water and stir.