Victor Caccesse: Percussions
Evan Chapman: Percussions
David Degge: Percussions
Yumi Tamashiro: Percussions
Jude Traxler: Percussions
Beth Meyers: Soprano
Daisy Press: Soprano
Jessica Schmitz: Piccolo
For the last couple of weeks I had been looking forward to celebrating Bastille Day with a relaxing four-day weekend, but alas July 14 started with brutally high temperatures in New York and ended with brutally distressing news from France, which was more than enough to seriously dampen even the most unbreakable spirit and then some.
So a little but powerful pick-me-up was in order, and I figured that a ticket to Drumming, the first concert of The Lincoln Center Festival's Reich/Reverberations series, on Saturday evening in the Alice Tully Hall might do the trick. Performed by the immensely talented and genuinely hip So Percussion ensemble accompanied by eight equally intrepid musicians and singers, the intriguing work from the early 1970s promised one hour and ten minutes of non-stop drumming, which sounded like the perfect remedy to keep my mind temporarily off the seemingly out-of-control madness of the real world while fully indulging in a unique musical adventure.
As its title indicates, the entire piece was about drumming, and this the music artists on the stage did at a level I had rarely witnessed. Starting innocuously enough with two members of So Percussion on the bongo drums, the endlessly morphing musical web started becoming more complex and more fascinating as additional musicians joined in and out of the various instrument sections and all those intricate rhythms were slowly but surely casting an irresistible and powerful spell on the eager audience.
As the performance progressed the music focus imperceptibly moved forward within each section and from one section to another without ever missing a beat. From the drums' primitive assertiveness to the marimbas' tropical light-heartedness to the glockenspiels' crystalline chimes, with the human voices occasionally echoing the marimbas and the piccolo making sporadic appearances with the glockenspiels, all was hyper-concentrated energy, razor-sharp precision and detailed clarity.
This clever and attractive combination of Western, African and Balinese traditions played with impressive ease and unwavering dedication resulted in a timelessly organic, infectious and life-affirming celebration of the joys of multi-culturism. The grand finale, which eventually involved all twelve artists, steadily grew ever denser before coming to a sudden end in a remarkable display of flawless coordination.
The spontaneous standing ovation that followed was long and loud, and earned us an exciting encore during which all performers as well as an understandably beaming Steve Reich gleefully joined forces for a virtuosic and fun clapping number.
The concert was literally and figuratively a welcome breath of fresh air on that hot summer night, although most of us did not enjoy it as much as we could have as late-comers kept on streaming in and disturbing audience members during the performance, despite the ubiquitous "No late seating" warnings and the generous ten-minute grace period before the performance started. Seriously, what's the point of having a "No late seating" policy if you are not going to enforce it?