Evelyn Glennie and the King's Singers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Evelyn Glennie and the King's Singers


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Among the busiest and most versatile of classical percussionists, Evelyn Glennie has amassed a collection of over a thousand instruments--tam-tams, Peking Opera gongs, thunder sheets, steel pans, taiko drums, flexatones, ceramic bells, rototoms, even jury-rigged contraptions fashioned from automobile exhaust pipes or kitchen utensils--and she often brings dozens of them to a performance. Composers eager to try out a panoply of percussive sounds have written almost 90 pieces for Glennie since her professional debut in 1985, which puts the Scottish native in a league with the Kronos Quartet as an inspiration for new music. She's been deaf since childhood, and has learned to "listen" to vibrations through her feet and lower body. Her stamina, precision, and keen dynamic control are animated by an enormous curiosity and openness to experimentation: crossover projects don't often raise eyebrows these days, but she's played with artists as diverse as the Japanese taiko troupe Kodo and dance-pop star Bjork. Glennie recently recorded Street Songs (RCA) with the King's Singers, usually an a cappella sextet; the disc features new pieces from Steve Martland, a leading light of the punky British new wave, and Peter Klatzow, a Cape Town scholar of southern African tribal music, as well as Zulu songs transcribed by Stanley Glasser. The music shows off not only Glennie's sure grasp of tricky rhythms--especially on "Rainmaking With a Bowstring" and "Uhambo Ngesitimela"--but also the wonderful phrasing of the King's Singers (think of them as a hipper Chanticleer). The program for this show consists of selections from the CD, plus a medley from the Broadway version of The Lion King that's bound to sound a little silly next to the real African music. Sunday, 3 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Trevor Ray Harr.

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