Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A circle of bells


The day begins with Brian to catch up on his life in California.
And the day at the church is devoted to getting  ready for tonight’s concert. Brian drops by around noon and helps us load in some of our supplies. Red Bull has their own union production staff.

sound check
Around noon comes the full sound check with wall trembling bass. (We could bring that down a little...) and the inevitable visit from the neighbors. The hours draw nearer and the place has been transformed in to a real concert venue.

At 5:45, Stephen and Cynthia pull  us all together for crew assignments. Cynthia’s worried about  homeless man setting up camp, but it’s simply a man with his cart full of cans and bottles, an independent recycling entrepreneur, as I put it. But a few minutes alter, I  find a sleeping body and am shocked to discover its Keith. I tell him he can’t be there during the show and he seems in bad shape. Understanding but not well. 

Our folks are covering our bases. #OWS social worker Jessica is helping Leila at the industrial cool Red Bull bar. And at 6:30 the doors open and seats begin to fill. Good to see so many of our friends from Dzieci, Noche, Sky Orchestra and others heading towards our VIP section.  Jeremy and Priska are working  the balcony, I greet Beppe and Liljana and Carman Moore. And happily, soon Nate will get off work and join me. 

RL looks in to wish us all well just before it begins.

An earnest and sincere young singer songwriter from New Zealand with a soulful voice and fluid
Louie Baker
electric guitar to match, Louie Baker, opens. It’s his first American performance and he’s well received. 

Kazakh born Anya Kuts, part of the Russian duo Love Cult, follows with a moody shadowy set of electronica and vocal. Her first visit  as well and her music entrances with shades of darkness.

Then the main performer, Pantha du Prince (Hendrik Weber) and the Bell Laboratory come out dressed in la  coats and aprons. They begin with an English hand bell circle, then move into extended bell, marimba, xylophone, gong flourishes above, behind and with a steady driving drum beat and underflowing electronic bass. This is the American premiere (and only American performance)  of  their collaboration, Elements of Light. 

Bell Laboratory at work
In the middle of the piece, they come together in the center with rectangular tube hand chimes, the bell’s plainer incarnation, then back to their other percussion instruments then quietly finishing with the handbells again circling through the audience and then back to their final circle ending with a whisper of bells. Minimalism, repetition and the counter-intuitive idea of electronica played with real instruments. 

A rousing applause, one more song. And that’s it. Leaving the light guys non-plussed with a bag of tricks still to pull out. The strobes and lights behind the organ pipes and the Tiffany never came into play.

Beppe wanted more fluidity, more freedom with the gongs, instruments he loves. Jeremy noted that the whole group played with a click track in their headpieces. Impressive showmanship, presentation, classic German discipline. But a little short on soul.

Upstairs, we talk with Hendrik. Learn how he was in Oslo. Wanted to compose a piece for their town hall carillon. Was directed to the Bell Laboratory and finally recorded on a five ton mobile carillon.  The travelling collection of instruments is to mimic that sound.
Jeremy and Priska  beside Pantha du Prince (Hendrik Weber)

A few words about bells. In Junior and Senior High School I played in a church bell choir. The thought that these hand bells could ever be cool never occurred to me. The bells were Schulmerich from the foundry in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. Schulmerich also made the long vanished West-Park carillon. The bells disappeared sometime in the 70’s or ‘80s, no one remembers how or why.  But the keyboard to play them and the pain roll for automatic timed playing are still in the music room. After Hurricane Sandy, Schulmerich contacted us to find out if we’d suffered any carillon damage. They had a special fund for that purpose. I pondered asking for a full replacement, but thought better of it.  Pantha du Prince and the Bell Laboratory play Schulmerich bells. A circle begins in my teenage years, flows through the West-Park tower and is completed in the Sanctuary, the final peal of the bells hanging in the air. 

As we’re wrapping up it appears that Jay’s lap top and cell were stolen from his room. Sigh.

Our part, we handled well.

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