Richmond, VA – What do you get when you take a little classical, throw in some major hip hop and wrap it neatly with a Christmas bow on top? Black Violin‘s performance at the National in Richmond, VA on 11/27/2022 of course!!
This was not my first exposure to this classically trained duo, having first taken them in at the 2019 Richmond Jazz and Music Festival. I thought their fusion of hip hop and classical worked so well together I had to cover them again. Their ‘Give Thanks Tour‘ was the perfect opportunity.
The duo is made of of Wil B (viola) and Kev Marcus (violin). Rounding out the band is DJ SPS (DJ), Nat Stokes (drums), and Liston Gregory III (keys). They took to the stage to the sound of “Give Thanks“, the namesake for this tour and their most recent album. This is a wonderful piece with a unique adaptation of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy from his 9th Symphony. What a way to begin!!
From Thanks they transitioned to “Unbreakable” from their Grammy nominated Take the Stairs album. Shifting gears again, they delivered a wonderful rendition of “Carol of the Bells“, kicking the night into full Christmas mode.
Adding a little more Christmas spirit, their hip hop “Sugar Plum Fairy” from the Nutcracker came next. The modern version kicked butt and what was most noticeable to me was how DJ SPS brought the piece to the next level. Genius!!
As the night went on, Wil and Kev shared their love for music with the near sold-out National crowd. Early on we were asked how many brought their children because they were currently taking up violin. The duo had a wonderful story to tell. 2 classically trained violists who met and shared a passion for all music and wanted to share that with the masses. What a better way to do so than to take the classical style of yesteryear and fuse it with the popular musical style of today. The diversity and enthusiasm in the audience painted a clear picture that this formula was in high demand.
Their set consisted of many Christmas songs intertwined with classical adaptations added for good measure. Some of their Christmas songs included “Joy to the World“, “Christmas Time“, “Chestnuts” and “God Rest Ye“, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas“. Did I say that in addition to powerful strings Wil has some awesome pipes? His vocals on various pieces were outstanding!!
It was not all about planned music nor was it just about Wil and Kev. They highlighted the other musicians throughout the night. One thing that I understand to be a staple of their live shows is a freestyle performance where they all… well… wing it! The freestyle was a blast to watch and it was obvious they knew each other quite well as they made the random seem tight. DJ SPS did a solo set on the turntables and toward the end of the evening they did a fun medley of modern pop songs.
Some more classical pieces along with some original music was in the mix as well (this show really did appeal to everyone). I really enjoyed “Dirty Orchestra“, “A Flat“, “Serenade“, a Vivaldi mix, “Shaker“, and “Virtuoso“.
The night came to an end with a wonderful encore of “Impossible is Possible” which had the audience dancing at their seats. It was a great and powerful finishing touch (the bow so to speak) to a fun evening that had something for everyone.
As we left the National, I could see the Christmas spirit in the eyes and step of those around me. There was a time when classical, Christmas, and hip hop would never have been used in the same sentence (let alone a story about it). I guess they were right… if you put your mind to it, the Impossible is Possible.
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Black Violin Setlist
Carol of the Bells
Sugar Plumb Fairy
Joy to the World
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
God Rest Ye
Impossible is Possible
Show Date: 11/27/2022