Happy New Year to you all! The last few months of 2019 treated us very well – and featured spectacular collaborations, too. In Eastman’s Kilbourn Hall – where this whole “NEXUS thing” began in 1971 – we were part of this year’s Rochester Fringe Festival.
Your fantastic reception as “NEXUS and Friends” walked onto that stage – the tremendous ovation – set off an exciting night of music-making with John H. Beck, Michael Burritt, Conrad Alexander, Ruth Cahn, Ray Dillard, Gordon Stout and Brian Stotz. Your reactions online made our hearts swell: “Rock stars!”, “Percussion Royalty”, “Awesome”, “The Greats”, “Legends of the percussion world”, “What a joy!”, “Cream of the Crop”, “Wonderful!”, “Role models”, “Star-studded”, “Epic!”, “All stars!!”, “Absolutely historic!” We can’t thank you enough. You are the reason we exist.
In Woodstock NY at the biennial Drum Boogie Festival we were joined by the awesome So Percussion in a full-length performance of Steve Reich’s Drumming. And then, for something completely different, NEXUS played “Dotty Dimples” as an encore! Gotta love it! Stay tuned in 2020 for news of more Steve Reich projects with So Percussion – and others! (Surprise!)
While we were south of the border, in between some great music hangs in Bill’s studio (Rochester) and Garry’s studio (Woodstock), we managed to fit in a special appearance at the Music on Market Concert Series in Ellenville, NY – a town that the Nature Conservancy considers to be one of the “75 Last Great Places on Earth”, and home to 3 major hang gliding schools! You never know where music will take you.
Another extraordinary collaboration was the recording of Russell Hartenberger’s 8-movement “Requiem for Percussion and Voices”, released in September. NEXUS and the wonderful percussion quartet TorQ joined forces along with vocalists Lindsay Kesselman and Cory Knight. We recorded at Toronto’s Noble Street Studios and at Ray Dillard’s Crush Studio in Springwater, Ontario. (Give a listen and download at https://nexuspercussion.hearnow.com)
The movements’ titles are Prelude, Birth of Time, Muffled Drums, Eternity, Bird of Paradise, Mist Covered Mountains, Allelluia, and Day is Done. Russell writes, “Requiem for Percussion and Voices is a personal reflection on time and timelessness. It does not follow the traditional setting of a requiem mass; instead, its eight movements have associations with death and nature including tolling bells, funeral drum beatings, a Bach chorale, Scottish pipe and drum music, bird songs, bugle calls, and March to the Scaffold from Belioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. “ Russell has drawn on exceptional musical memories – as a toddler being pulled up and down by the bell rope in his hometown church; loons he heard on a remote northern British Columbia lake; the drum beatings he played as part of the US Air Force Band stationed in Washington DC; a flute tune heard in Ghana; a bird song noticed in Arizona. The recording has been very well-received: Tom Brett calls the first movement, Prelude, “an extraordinary piece…you want the experience to keep going”. (You can hear Prelude at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRB4PFomi6A ) The Whole Note magazine says, “… it is vitally important to explore new material…This recording provides a splendid example of why this is: tuneful, contemporary (in its truest sense), and a fine display of vocal and instrumental ability, Requiem is worthwhile listening for all.” (Matthew Whitfield). Bonnie Sheckter has given the hard copy CDs of Requiem an elegant design, and Russell’s liner notes provide an evocative road-map to the listener. (If you would like to purchase hard copies, contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. )
Amazingly, there were other collaborations rounding out 2019 too:
Bill Cahn was interviewed on Josh Quillen’s podcast, “Concert Honesty” – (you can hear it at https://www.joshquillen.com/concert-honesty/2019/10/9/67-bill-cahn-nexus) and he enjoyed a fulfilling performance with the Emeritus Symphonic Percussion Section at PASIC19 – another stellar line-up.
Bob Becker’s “Music On The Moon” was performed in November by the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony and our good friends TorQ. About the piece, which was originally commissioned by Toronto’s Esprit Orchestra, Bob says, “The moon is known to exert a gravitational pull on the earth and everything on it, including our own bodies and, perhaps, our minds.” In 2010, Bob re-orchestrated the piece to include 4 percussion soloists. It is part of Bob’s evolving exploration of Indian tabla drums accompanied by traditional western percussion, and he says, “Rag Chandrakauns, traditionally linked to the full moon and late-night hours, and with the scale degrees tonic, minor third, fourth, minor sixth, major seventh, has always attracted me.”
Meanwile, Garry’s pride and joy, Woodstock Chimes, has been celebrating 40 years of making beautiful sounds. Garry travelled to Atlanta to receive an award from “One Coast” inscribed “Congratulations on 40 years of Industry Leadership, Passion, and Commitment to Excellence” – which truly sums it up! Garry and his Executive VP Stacey Bowers (who was also a member of Garry’s famous “Blackearth Percussion” in the ‘70s) managed to sneak a bit of Steve Reich into their acceptance speech! They performed Clapping Music. Hard to believe that Garry almost went into gymnastics instead of percussion – but that’s another story that you can read about on the NEXUS blog….
We look forward to seeing you all in the coming New Year, and New DECADE!!