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Percussions et Claviers de Lyon

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Percussionists make a bang

By LAURA STEWART
NEWS-JOURNAL FINE ARTS WRITER

DAYTONA BEACH — Central Florida Cultural Endeavors billed the recent Percussions Claviers de Lyon concert as part of its "Totally Classical!" series. But even though the entertaining program featured transcribed works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, it was in its slam-bang encore that the French keyboard-percussion quintet came into its own.

The final free-wheeling medley of the Thursday evening show wove a myriad of musical snippets into the space between its faux-reverent evocation of the cliched theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey" — from "Also Sprach Zarathustra," Richard Strauss's tone poem. There was the fragment of "La Marseillaise," a languid refrain from Frank Sinatra's "I Did It My Way," cartoon music at breakneck speed and other shards of pop culture.

For its opening piece, the ensemble presented a four-movement riff by PCL founding member Gerard Lecointe based rather loosely on Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier." The occasional familiar motif melted quickly into the complex chords, insistent rhythms and overwhelming volume inherent in the masses of percussive instruments.

In the eye-opening, ear-stunning "Point Bak" the Percussions Claviers asserted their experimental, cerebral approach. Eerie harmonics reverberated in some passages, hinting at exquisite dissonances, while in others the insistent, childlike effect of massed percussive keyboards — xylophones, vibraphone, marimbas and others, punctuated with blows on tambourine, cymbals, drums and gongs — created a sort of monumental music-box effect.

The sprawling sounds produced in the lengthy "Point Bak" came into focus in the evening's second piece, a fairly straightforward transcription of "West Side Story." Their "Maria" was as yearningly muted as percussive instruments can be, "America" swayed with haunting calypso tones and "Somewhere" achieved an amazingly subdued, refined sound. Yet, however charming, the medley's tinkling, chiming music-box quality was also naggingly precious, and lacked the bite of Leonard Bernstein's original.

The works that followed, however, showed the ensemble's unique classical angle. The quintet's riffs on music by Debussy and Ravel were as vividly impressionistic as the compositions that inspired them.

That was true too of the Shostakovich folk dance that closed the program, but only the merest hint of the group's energetic grasp of contemporary music and unconventionalty.

So when they launched into a encore poking great fun at "Zarathustra," it was clear: PCL breaks new ground.


Percussions et Claviers de LyonPercussions et Clarvier de Lyon perform at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Daytona Beach, Fl., November 4, 2004 for school children from various schools. (Photo: News-Journal/Joanna Kaney Olivari)

Percussions et Claviers de Lyon

Sunday, October 31, 2004

French percussion ensemble creates full, vibrant sound

By LAURA STEWART
NEWS-JOURNAL FINE ARTS WRITER

DAYTONA BEACH — The French quintet’s name may not be especially resonant. But when the Percussions Claviers de Lyon – or the Keyboard Percussionists from Lyon – appear in Thursday’s Central Florida Cultural Endeavors concert and several other local programs, their music promises to be anything but humdrum.

“They will be giving some of the more unusual concerts we’ve heard,” said Doug Peterson, chairman of the Cultural, Performing and Studio Arts Department at Daytona Beach Community College. “It will be very eclectic music with an extremely lush sound.

“The coloristic nature of a percussion ensemble is something most people don’t get a chance to hear,” he said. “The sounds will be surprising – if (those in the audience) turned away from the instruments, they might sound like a symphonic concert.”

That’s because the five musicians in the ensemble that gave its first performance in 1983 use such diverse instruments as marimbas, xylophones, vibraphones, timbales, glockenspiels and gongs.

And their repertory ranges from works by Ravel, Debussy and Prokofiev to Frank Zappa’s “Theme from Lumpy Gravy” and “Ca Cartoon,” a musical revue that includes themes from Disney, Warner Bros.’ Bugs Bunny, the former TV series “Mission Impossible” and others.

It’s a mix that has taken the quintet – Gerard Lecointe, Sylvie Aubelle, Raphael Aggery, Henri-Charles Caget and Gilles Dumoulin – as far from France as China, their most recent trip, and the brief American tour that includes Daytona Beach and Nashville.

“They just performed at the conservatories of Beijing and Shanghai – this is ‘French year’ in China, and last year was ‘Chinese year’ in France,” said Percussions Claviers manager Sophie Scellier, speaking from her Lyon office.

“The quintet was one of the events at the Chinese conservatories, and now they are in Holland to play. They have been busy – they come back to Lyon for only two days. Then they fly to Daytona Beach before going on to Nashville, where they were invited to appear Nov. 11 in the greatest convention of percussion music. I was with them in China and will come to America too; it’s amazing.”

Just as amazing as the worldwide enthusiasm for the ensembles’ distinctive sound is the music they play. From the start, when the original quintet met at the National Superior Music Conservatoire de Lyon, their goal was to play music – some new but most transcribed from compositions written for more traditional instruments – with a percussive approach.

Over the years, as the lives of those first five percussionists changed, new musicians replaced them, Scellier said. Of the founding members, only Lecointe still plays with the ensemble – and continues to transcribe scores as varied as Scott Joplin’s rags and Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” for the percussionists.

“Henri-Charles has been with us for 10 years, Raphael for three years and Sylvie and Gilles for two,” she said. All of the current ensemble’s musicians attended the Lyon conservatory and studied with Caget, winner of the 1987 Orleans Conservatoire’s first prize. Along the way, the French musicians began playing music composed for them – mostly by Jean-Luc Rimey-Meille, who stepped down from the ensemble two years ago.

Today, the quintet has a wide-ranging repertory of more than 100 works – all animated by the free-wheeling attitude expressed by Lecointe, their transcriber.

“The family of percussion instruments is of an extraordinary richness,” his formal statement says. “Colors, rhythms, effects, tempos... we have a panoply that is somewhat like that of a symphony orchestra... So it’s a pleasure to re-orchestrate for five musicians.”

All that appealed to Eric Lariviere, CFCE’s general manager/cultural and musical director.

“This is a big project, huge,” he said. “This is probably the only percussion group in the world that is playing a lot of transcribed music, and it is unique because of its programs – how many percussion groups play Ravel? And their work based on Frank Zappa is very virtuoso.

“I’ve know this ensemble for years, and wanted to present them,” Lariviere added. “They are just so good, and we are trying to bring music that people don’t usually hear in concert.”


Percussions et Claviers de Lyon

PRESS RELEASE

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 18, 2004) — Central Florida Cultural Endeavors (CFCE) hosts Percussions et Claviers de Lyon in their Daytona Beach debut as the second concert in the Totally Classical! Winter Season 2004/05. The group’s inaugural Daytona Beach concert takes place Thursday, Nov. 4, at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 201 University Boulevard, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The program for the evening “The Art of Transcription,” includes Deux Nocturnes, Nuages et Fetes by Claude Debussy; Alborada del gracioso by Maurice Ravel, and “Cinderella,” “The Love of Three Oranges”, and “Romeo and Juliet” by Sergei Prokofiev.

Percussions et Claviers de Lyon is considered one of the most prestigious percussion ensembles in the world. Formed on impulse in 1983, this eclectic group takes its listeners on a musical trip from Bach to Zappa, offering a new perspective on all genres of music – from classical to contemporary repertoire. The group creates extraordinary audio-visual productions with lights and costumes as players move from one instrument to another. Their instrumental collection includes marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel, gongs and timbales. Their objective is to support and illustrate original and transcribed music with a keyboard percussion quintet. The five musicians re-read the classics, illustrate contemporary music, explore new musical shows and write their own repertoire!

Percussions et Claviers serve as this year’s CFCE Artists in Residence and will be in Daytona Beach from Nov. 4 through Nov. 6. In addition to their opening night concert, they are slated to perform two additional shows with completely different programs: a matinee for students in Volusia County schools and a master class and workshop for percussion students in middle school, high school and college.

School Matinee, Workshop and Master Class

A school matinee begins at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Open to all Volusia County elementary and middle school students, the show features segments “The Art of Transcription” program and the “Ca Cartoon” program – a compilation of movie, cartoon and classical tunes.

At 1 p.m., Friday, Nov. 5, a workshop is slated at the DBCC Goddard Theater at Daytona Beach Community College, 1200 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach. Percussion students in middle school, high school and college are invited to attend, free of charge, an interactive learning session with the performers.

Performances

At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 5, the public is invited to the Goddard Theater at Daytona Beach Community College, 1200 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach for a one-of-a-kind performance of music composed by the late, great Frank Zappa. “We Are Not Alone” – Musically Incorrect Music of Frank Zappa, is played on keyboards of all sizes with as much cheekiness as when Zappa himself performed Ravel, Stravinsky or Bartok with his electric orchestra!

Saturday, Nov.6, beginning at 11 a.m., a special Family Matinee show takes place in the DBCC Goddard Theater Center. The program, “Ca Cartoon,” takes listeners on a musical odyssey composed of three, 20-minute medleys. The first medley features music from Disney movies from Snow White to Aladdin. The second medley features music dedicated to Tex Avery’s cartoons, including Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, Popeye and many others. The show is staged as though you are watching the actual cartoons. Medley three is a flamboyant and rhythmic presentation of popular television series and big-screen movie tunes combined with classical music. Ravel and Mozart are featured alongside the theme from Mission Impossible, while Beethoven has fun with Offenbach!

Tickets for the Thursday morning school matinee are $5 per student. For the Thursday evening performance at Our Lady of Lourdes, tickets are $25 for adults; $10 for students. All shows at Daytona Beach Community College are free to the public (donations welcomed). All seating is general admission. For concert tickets, contact the Box Office at (386) 257-7790 or visit at 210 S. Beach St., Daytona Beach or www.fif-lso.org.


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