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Solo pecussionist, mestro march into FAC

Evelyn-glennie_wikicommonsWorld renowned solo percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie will be performing at the Fine Arts Center this weekend with Latin America’s premier orchestra, Orquestra de Sao Paulo. Rising star Kazen Abdullah, whose 2009 tour across the United States began with a notable debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan, New York, will conduct the act.

Glennie gained acclaim for herself as the first person ever to make a career as a solo percussionist. Glennie has travelled the world giving lectures and performing as a featured artist.  Her performances dazzle with wide ranging dynamics and a furious passion as she paints pictures with drums. 

Among the slew of performers that Glennie has collaborated with include Latin percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and Icelandic sing-songwriter Bjork. Glennie has also worked with jazz singer Bobby McFerrin, best known for the 1988 song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Glennie’s professional accomplishments stand in stark contrast to other difficulties; according to her website, by age 12 Glennie had lost all her hearing.

While this initially raises questions about Glennie, leading one to wonder how she can be a musician without having working ears, Glennie has developed her skills despite this.  She feels and interprets the vibrations of notes she plays, and uses this skill to play the marimba, xylophone and many pitched percussion instruments.  She spoke at the 2003 TED Conference, in Long Beach, Calif., explaining how most people listen with their ears, but she uses her whole body as a sensory organ to interpret vibrations. To strengthen this connection, Glennie performs without shoes to get more sensory input from the floor. 

Kazem Abdullah was tapped to conduct Orquestra de Sao Paulo after their initial pick for the 2009 tour was unable to make the whole schedule.  For Abdullah, who is 30 years old, this tour is only the latest in a series of conducting positions for a relatively young maestro. Abdullah’s 2008-2009 season included a highly anticipated debut with the Metropolitan Opera where he conducted Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, which New York Times writer Anthony Tommasini called, “a confident performance – impressively responsive to the singers during their long stretches of orchestra-accompanied recitative – a combination of urgency and flexibility.” His other projects include Treemonisha at the Théâtre du Châtelet de Paris, debuts with the Chicago Sinfonietta, Huntsville Symphony, Dayton Philharmonic and the Staatskapelle Weimar. 

Coming to the United States for their third performance, Orquestra de Sao Paulo will be touring from coast to coast, performing orchestral favorites with more modern, tonal and minimalist pieces by native Brazilian conductors.  “In the one work on the program in which the orchestra’s performance could be easily measured against the international standard – the Brahms Second Symphony – both the quality of the ensemble’s sound and the level of energy it brought to its playing were extremely high,” wrote Allan Kozinn of them The New York Times, following the 2009 United States debut at the Metropolitan Opera house.  

The ensemble comes to the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall this Sunday at 7:00 pm.  Tickets are $40, $30, $15, Five College/GCC/STCC students and Youth 17 and under: $15. 

Craig Holland can be reached at dcraigholland@gmail.com.

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