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28.09.2017

Walk to the beat of your own drum!

On 26 November in the dress circle foyer, we will be hosting an intimate evening of percussion performance.

The concert will showcase the Theatres newly acquired, one-of-a-kind Concorde marimba, says percussionist Alexander Shalimov. "The marimba is unique in its range as an extra third has been added to the bass end of the instruments usual five octaves. It is a valuable instrument which is similar in structure to the xylophone. It sounds very cool, and Im sure our audience will appreciate it and really get to like it. As I have never come across a piece written for a marimba with this sort of range, we decided to play Flight of the Bumblebee arranged for a single instrument and two performers. In order to make this piece even more exciting, we will be moving continuously around the instrument, so it will be a feast for not just the ears, but also the eyes.

Aside from the marimba, the concert will also showcase the vibraphone, the snare drum, the Hang, the Spanish cajón, the Cuban congas, the goblet drum, and multiple-instrument percussion sets.

"To most people, when they hear the word percussion, it is the drums that jump first to mind. People rarely think about the fact that drums have notes; they dont notice the melodic structure, they just hear the rhythm. Incidentally, this is how they were regarded by the whole academic music tradition up until the second half of the twentieth century. Thus it was only very recently that conservatory graduates started penning melodic compositions for percussion instruments. However, such pieces are still rarely performed as they require considerable skill from the musicians. For the record, this will be the first percussion concert in the history of the Mikhailovsky Theatre.

Another unusual instrument on display will be the Hang. It entered the music scene less than twenty years ago and was originally made to order only in Switzerland, requiring a wait time of a few years for every order. Now they are made all around the world, and one of the best craftsmen lives in Vyborg. The Hang looks a lot like a flying saucer from a 1960s sci-fi show. It is played with the hands and has eight tone fields, which correspond to a specific set of notes.

"The issue with percussion entering into the mainstream of classical music, I think, stems from the fact that many of the instruments have their own ethnic past and cultural associations, thus denying them the universal character expected of classical music. In the concert programme, there are two pieces by Serbian composer Nebojša Jovan Živković, one of which, Elias, was written for marimba. We have added Arabic percussion to this piece. Though the Serbian motifs are obviously present in Živkovićs melody, the piece is performed on instruments that you dont often come across in Serbian music. It is a similar story with Japanese composer Minoru Mikis Marimba Spiritual. In this piece, which he dedicated to the starving children of Africa, there are some obvious ethnic roots. It was written ten years ago for one marimbist and three percussionists. Our new arrangement is for just two performers, so the percussion section has been cut from three to one. We hope that the concert will show that the percussion section is about a lot more than just rhythm, and can convey quite complex emotions.
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