Washignton, D.C. --
Last October, the percussion section of the U.S. Air Force Concert Band partnered with a local violinist to present a truly unique concert on the campus of George Mason University as part of the band’s ongoing Chamber Players Series.
The centerpiece of the program was a large-scale work entitled “Concerto for Violin with Percussion Orchestra,” by American contemporary composer Lou Harrison. In an unprecedented moment for the Chamber Players Series, the percussion ensemble welcomed National Symphony Orchestra violinist Heather Green, who joined them as the featured soloist for the concerto.
“This project was particularly fun for me,” said Green. “Being a symphony musician, I always enjoy the change of scenery that chamber music provides. But it is a rare treat to perform a piece with such unusual instruments.”
The composer calls for a combination of "junk" and traditional percussion instruments to accompany the violinist. Among the instruments used are brake drums, galvanized washtubs, clock coils set in a base made from an old guitar body, coffee cans, wind chimes, flower pots, and plumber's pipes.
Not surprisingly, musicians often find it difficult to assemble the various instruments called for in the score. Equally, the violinist must work hard to meld into the wide variety of percussion sounds.
“Since the violin is the only melodic line, it was a challenge to blend into the percussion orchestra, including clay flower pots, wash tubs, and double bass strings, all within mixed meters,” explained Green.
Some musicians would find the task overwhelming, to jump into such an unusual type of musical situation. For Green, the experience was very rewarding.
“I loved working with the Air Force Band percussion section, as they are amazing musicians and great to work with,” shared Green. “And as with most pieces you learn, I want to play it again!”
The full live performance of Lou Harrison’s “Concerto for Violin With Percussion Orchestra” can be viewed below. We hope you enjoy this special collaborative effort!
Videography by Senior Master Sgt. Dennis Hoffmann.