The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
As members of the University of Kentucky Percussion Group rehearse Jennifer Higdon’s Splendid Wood, conductor James Campbell notes a recent New York Times piece that said percussion ensembles are the new string quartets.
Later, he exhorts the six musicians to be more “theatrical” in their playing.
Violins and theater are not topics that the musicians often hear discussed in their percussion studies. But the topics are welcome.
“As percussion majors, we’ve played with bands in high school,” says Michael Hardin, 21, a senior music major from Pickerington, Ohio, “and when you’re in an ensemble like that or an orchestra, where there’s 60-plus people and you’re in the back of the room with four to eight other people, all playing the same thing or similar instruments to what you’re playing, you get hidden a lot.
“In chamber ensemble, everyone is a soloist.”
A chamber ensemble is exactly what Hardin and his fellow percussionists will be Thursday night in the Singletary Center for the Arts’ Recital Hall.
The chamber percussion performance will feature small ensembles playing works on various instruments, including three marimbas played by six musicians in the Higdon work, from 2006. They’ll also perform John Cage’s Third Construction, an iconic percussion work from 1941 that employs found objects including the jawbone of an ass.
“Hear how the teeth rattle,” says Campbell, UK’s director of percussion studies, tapping UK’s jawbone. “You can’t manufacture that.”
The Cage piece is iconic for its structure — 24 sections of 24 measures each — and the use of cricket calls and conch shells in addition to the jawbone.
“A while back, we said, ‘Before you guys get out of here, we have to do Cage’s Third Construction,’” Campbell says. “We’ve been collecting instruments for a year.”
That piece and the overall concert are important experiences for the musicians, Campbell says.
“This is a very different kind of playing for these guys,” he says. “They’re without a conductor, and there is a lot of movement and choreography. And since there are so few people on stage, everyone is under a microscope and everyone really has to communicate.”
Mar6Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion; Tagged as: Born Again, Breakfast, dc talk, Duncan Phillips, Fireflight, Ichthus Festival, In the Light, Jeff Frankenstein, Jody Davis, Mac Powell, Michael Tait, Newsboys, Peter Furler, Rupp Arena, Shine, Something Beautiful, Tenth Avenue North, Third Day, TobyMac, Winter Jam
Last winter, Christian music fans received some of the most shocking news in the genre’s history: Newsboys frontman Peter Furler was stepping down from the microphone, and former dc Talk singer Michael Tait was taking over.
Third Day frontman Mac Powell said the move, fusing two of the biggest bands in Christian rock history, was like McDonald’s joining Burger King.
Tait was as surprised as anyone when he got the call.
“It was a pretty heavy mantle,” Tait, 43, recalls. “They said, Peter wants to step down and spend more time with his family — his mom and dad are getting older, living in Australia. But the Newsboys don’t want to quit, and you’re at the top of a very short list of able cats. I thought, ‘Oh boy.’ Newsboys were my old competitors, if you will, back in the day.
“So I prayed about it, and thought about it and said, ‘This could be fun. Let’s see what happens.’ But to tell the truth, I went into it with one eye open thinking, we’ll see how it goes.’
“Now, 130 shows later, I freaking love it.”
The singer says it’s like being in a garage band without the hassle of hauling amplifiers and sleeping in the back of a van.
Central Kentucky audiences have their first chance to see the Tait-fronted Newsboys on March 13, when the band plays the annual Winter Jam concert that is stopping at Rupp Arena for the third straight year.
They’ll be joined by headliners Third Day and supporting acts such as Fireflight and Tenth Avenue North.
Out of all those acts, Newsboys definitely sports the biggest curiosity factor, particularly since it has not released a new album since Tait took over. Read the rest of this entry »
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich