Showing posts with label orchestra. Show all posts
Showing posts with label orchestra. Show all posts

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Joy in the Democratic Republic of Congo: the only all-black orchestra in the world

Do yourself a favor and watch this 60-Minutes piece about a community orchestra and choir in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the capitol city of Kinshasa.

Some of the musicians have formal training, most do not. The founding musicians started off sharing donated and restored instruments. Since then they have been able to accumulate enough instruments, one gentleman taught himself to make violins. The conductor, Armand Diangienda, is an ex-pilot who taught himself to play music.

Two tenors walk 90 minutes each way to rehearsals. If I decided to walk to my rehearsals, it would probably take 35 minutes and I wouldn't have to traverse a river.

In this video, these folks perform bits of Orff's Carmina Burana, Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", and Verdi's Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mother Falcon at the Scottish Rite Theater - SxSW report #1

Mother Falcon (playing a previous show at Mohawk)

Just got into Austin yesterday morning, and last night I found myself with members of the Family Crest at the Scottish Rite Theater to see indie rock orchestra Mother Falcon.

Mother Falcon consists of dozens of members, with an ever rotating cast of musicians. Their music is something between the twee Sufjan Stevens and the exuberance of the Polyphonic Spree.

In an interesting converging of worlds, my friend Emily Marks who started the Austin Girls Rock Camp, now works as the Executive and Artistic Director of the Austin Scottish Rite Theater. It's the oldest theater in Austin, and with constellations painted on the ceiling and classy old school lounges encircling the theater space, it's gorgeous.

Take the visual tour here, link on lower left

Emily was hired on to bring new life into the theater, bringing in folks like Mother Falcon and Of Montreal. A year ago, after telling her about the Family Crest, she turned me onto Mother Falcon as a good pairing of bands.

First getting together as most high school kids, the age range is somewhere in the vicinity of 17-25. Members have ventured to other cities and come home for spring break to play. What's funny is that they, like the Family Crest, wear mostly black with highlights of red.

Issue #4: Sanctuary - Mother Falcon from Daniel Fabelo on Vimeo.

P.S. Already had Torchy's Tacos and some beers at Casino el Camino. It's going to be a fun week, and technically, the music portion of the festival hasn't even started yet.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why Symphonic Percussionists are Rockstars

I love the joke that percussionists wait around to hit things.

I've just come home from seeing the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform Mahler's 6th Symphony. Mahler pulls out all the stops for this piece, with something like a 100-person orchestra, including six percussionists.

I saw the San Francisco Symphony perform Verdi's Requiem a couple months ago, and the bass drummer stole much of my attention. This particular drummer hit the three climactic beats with two bass drums and then adjusted one drum to play the rest. He repeated the exact same procedure of tilting the drum and adjusting it each time that bit of the piece came around. Noticing the repetition of his process was fascinating. The movements were perfectly calculated.

Everyone in the hall had to be thinking that that guy is the coolest dude in the room. And that guy knew it. I figure, for a percussionist, it's the thrill of a lifetime. He's thinking, "yeah, I'm the badass that gets to play the bass drum in the Verdi Requiem. You're welcome."

Watching a world-class orchestra perform is watching lifetimes of practice, precision, timing and technique. And no one is so on display than a symphonic percussionist. They practice, practice, practice and then often hit something once, maybe twice (unless on timpani).

The photo above is an image I found online of a "hammer" used in Mahler's 6th Symphony. It is only played two times in the whole performance. The instrument I saw for this LA Phil performance (conducted by the 31-year-old Gustavo Dudamel, or as my Dad lovingly calls him, "Gus the Dude") was probably five feet tall and six feet wide, made out of simple, unfinished pine wood and had a giant whole in the middle of it. The mallet looked like something out of a Looney Toons cartoon. The percussionist (Perry Dreiman) had to walk up a couple of stairs to hit this thing.

There's also a moment in the last movement where five of the six percussionist bang the cymbals at the same time. The moments watching them prepare is exciting. I felt like a little kid waiting for this big bang, "Oh man! FIVE CYMBAL CRASHES!" And then it's over, and they move on to the next thing to hit, or wait for another 100 measures.

Two percussionists, including the same guy who played the hammer, also play off-stage bells. But I didn't realize what was going on. These guys kept exiting and entering stage, and I was thinking, "what the hell is going on here? This is so distracting!" But once I figured out what was going on could enjoy it as a super cool effect.

These guys have the best jobs.

(No offense to the rest of the orchestra, you guys are pretty fabulous yourselves, but you're not quite as amusing to watch way up in the balcony!)

Read about it from the source: the LA Phil blog.