Rich Holly's Percussion Place

Assorted ramblings and occasional updates in the world of percussion.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Steve Reich's Drumming

I just got home from a concert that included Steve Reich's amazing work Drumming. Tonight was the spring concert of the Northern Illinois University Percussion Ensemble. I haven't been a director of the ensemble for more than 6 years, and this semester my colleague and good friend Greg Beyer was solely in charge of the ensemble (my other colleague and good friend Robert Chappell is on sabbatical).

The concert began with Nigel Westlake's Omphalo Centric Lecture, one of my favorite percussion ensemble pieces, and based on how many performances it's getting, clearly a favorite piece of many people. But the spotlight tonight was on the music of Steve Reich, and second on the program was Music for Pieces of Wood. The only thing is, it was performed on 5 berimbaus instead of 5 tuned pieces of wood - and it was awesome that way!

Greg proceeded to explain a great deal about Reich's music including an audio and video presentation, as well as a demonstration of the phasing that's a large part of Drumming.

Just before the beginning of the piece, Greg explained how tonight's performance was in memory of the students who lost their lives in the horrible shootings at Virginia Tech University yesterday, and further explained how Drumming is all about community and how each and every one of us, performers and audience alike, are included in the community and we will all experience Drumming together as one. It was a very touching and special moment.

Then Drumming began, and for just about 80 minutes of non-stop music the audience was totally transfixed. The Percussion Ensemble performed brilliantly, and it was clear that the audience was completely into the experience. I'm on a high right now, having heard the piece in its entirety played so wonderfully by our students. My hat's off to Greg and the students - what an incredible amount of work and dedication to put it together, and a huge Thank You to Greg for giving our students and our audience members the experience. Wow.