We’re at t-minus three weeks from the first rehearsal for De Materie with Great Noise Ensemble. It’s been a little bit of a mad scramble since the Washington Post featured our October 24 performance in their Fall Arts Guide almost two weeks ago, which reminded us of the reality of this project and how widely anticipated it is in the Washington scene. This sense of mad scramble was especially accentuated by the recent discovery that our usual rehearsal space at the Catholic University of America would be unavailable thanks to their fall opera production going up during the same week that we’ll be rehearsing De Materie. No big deal, really. It’s all part of guerrilla music making. The problem isn’t so much the need to find any space, since we’ve been there before, but, rather, the sheer size of this ensemble.
Great Noise Ensemble’s core instrumentation is usually about 18-20 members. De Materie not only requires two more vocal soloists than we have in our core, but also an eight member chorus and an instrumental ensemble of 50 people. That’s meant recruiting a total of 42 more musicians than we usually perform with. Add to that the amount of equipment utilized: three marimbas, glockenspiel, two vibraphones, two drum sets, eight boo-bams, snare drum, two bass drums, lion’s roar, large rattle, three large cowbells, two large wooden crates with sheet metal nailed on the inside, two sets of tom-toms, chimes, bell tree, guiro, slapstick, two bell plates and metal “junk” percussion (which could conceivably include a kitchen sink)…and that’s just the percussion! We need to find a space that can fit all of that, along with the performers required to play all of those instruments, the personnel and their instruments in the “traditional” line up, and three pianos (two grands and an upright), two synthesizers, harp, two electric guitars and an electric bass and their amplifiers (oh yeah, and we have to amplify the singers, so there are those amplifiers and microphones to fit).

Whew! I’m tired just writing all of that!

In all seriousness and honesty, this process has not been nearly as painful or difficult as I just made it sound. Actually, it really has not been difficult at all, thanks to all of the people working behind the scenes to make this event (and it is an event) possible: from GNE principal percussionist Chris DeChiara, to our Executive Director, Alan Michels and our Managing Director, Katherine Kellert, to the staff at the music department of the National Gallery of Art, led by Stephen Ackert, and Stephen C. Stone and Steve Gorbos at the Peabody Institute and the Catholic University of America, respectively. Hardest working of all, perhaps, has been Annelisa Guries, GNE’s Personnel Manager. Hers has been the job of finding the forty extra players that we needed for this concert. She has excelled at that responsibility.

Up next (I hope): a rehearsal report!

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