LENOX -- The musicians at the Goat Rodeo Show Thursday evening at Tanglewood appeared to be having as good a time as the adoring fans who thronged the Koussevitzky Music Shed.
As a matter of fact, a beaming Yo-Yo Ma, the group’s resident cellist, affirmed the fun enjoyed by him and his colleagues at the conclusion of a generous set of nearly 90 minutes. And Stuart Duncan, the multi-instrumentalist; Edgar Meyer, the double-bassist, and Chris Thile, another multi-instrumentalist and singer, nodded their agreement.
Meyer previously had collaborated with Ma on ""Appalachia Waltz" and "Appalachia Journey," and with Thile on "Edgar Meyer and Chris Thule." In 2008, Meyer and Thule performed on Ma’s "Songs of Joy and Peace," then discussed a future venture. Duncan joined them at Ma’s Cambridge home in an initial rehearsal of what became The Goat Rodeo Sessions.
Definitions first: According to an album note, a "goat rodeo" refers to a chaotic event in which many things must go right for the situation to work, a reference to the unusual and challenging aspects of blending classical and bluegrass music.
Things seemed to go right this time out, as Duncan moved easily from fiddle to banjo to mandolin in some of the numbers recognized by the assembled fans, such as the real hoedown piece, "Quarter Chicken Dark," "Helping Hand," the mellow James Taylor tune and "Hill Justice," another dirt-kicking piece.
Ma waxed lyrically, and he sawed in fetching blue grass style as though it were in his genes; Meyer, switching frequently from bow to pizzicato, also doubled on piano for a couple of numbers, including "Franz and the Eagle," which had a nice Schubertian cast to its bluegrass roots.
Chris Thile proved a most versatile player, shifting among violin, mandolin, guitar and gamba, and joining Ma and Meyer at one point in a glimpse of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gamba Sonata No. 1, which melded surprisingly well into the bluegrass milieu.
Thile also offered pleasant harmony, a third down the register from the group’s vocal soloist, Aoife O’Donovan, a comely blonde with a nice country lilt to her soprano, in songs that included the lovely ballad "Here and Heaven," a piece co-written by her.
Most of the evening’s tunes were written by Duncan, Meyer and Thile. Duncan, introducing his spirited "13:8," cautioned that the title refers not to an odd key signature, but to a biblical verse. Interestingly, it is a different citation -- Hebrews, or sometimes Chronicles -- each time he tells the story.
Responding to a standing ovation, the team offered an encore, the lovely Welsh folk song, "All Through the Night," with Thile again joining O’Donovan in a vocal duet, surrounded by a delicate cantabile accompaniment from Duncan on violin, MA and Meyer.
And then, tendering sign mimicking a goat -- two fingers spread above the head -- the ensemble disappeared off stage, and Tanglewood’s first Goat Show was history.