This summer, 227 percussionists from 40 countries collaborated on a virtual performance of Eric Whitacre's "Sleep." The piece, originally composed for a cappella choir, was arranged for percussion choir by conductor Joby Burgess. You will see the familiar face of D. Thomas Toner, percussion head and director of Concert Band and Vermont Wind Ensemble, at about 1:35!
Burgess wrote of the project:
During the last week of March with the global COVID-19 Pandemic spreading alarmingly and my home (the United Kingdom) on the brink of lockdown, I began to play with the idea of creating a virtual performance project for percussionists.
With most of us quickly spending the majority of our time at home, there was (and still remains) little or no opportunity to perform as part of our regular percussion section, ensemble or group.
I was moved by the footage of quarantined Italians making music from balconies earlier in March, using music to both connect and bring solace as we so often do in difficult moments.
Having worked for several years with composer Eric Whitacre - the godfather of virtual music making - I decided to to build a project using my arrangement of Eric’s ‘Sleep’ to create a Virtual Marimba Choir.
With ‘No Click Track’ each player would perform and record their individual part following my virtual conductor video and a scrolling score.
The project launched on Monday the 20th of April with the challenge to get videos recorded and uploaded by Monday the 11th of May - just 3 weeks!
227 percussionists from 40 countries joined the party, submitting their individual performances on marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, glockenspiel, steel pan or electronic mallet synth.
Over the next 17 days myself and my incredible team - Nick Wollage (audio mix), Jack Mills (audio editing and mix preparation) and Howie Bailey (video design) - worked tirelessly to pull the audio and video into shape to present the first Virtual Marimba Choir performance.
Special thanks to all the percussionists who took part and those who supported them.
I hope you enjoy our performance.