‘Barrage’ puts high-energy spin on blend of classical, pop music

“Barrage” gives new meaning to high-strung. The musical spectacle, which will stop at Proctors on Sa
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“Barrage” gives new meaning to high-strung.

The musical spectacle, which will stop at Proctors on Saturday night, is like none other — raining down rapid-fire reverberations in a sonic assault that has delighted audiences worldwide for a decade.

Certainly, “Barrage” is not your grandmother’s chamber string sextet. Yes, six classical violinists make up the core cast of the musical.

Barrage

WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday

HOW MUCH: $25 to $35 with $10 off for 17 and younger

MORE INFO: 346-6204 or proctors.org

Yet they are not performing just classics. The cast of twentysomethings plays jazz, worldbeat, folk, country and pop music, too.

But what makes “Barrage” really unusual is its staging. The fiddlers wear low-slung jeans and tank tops. They saw at their strings, not in chairs behind music stands, but while skipping about the stage. When they finally stand still, they spread their legs wide like gladiators waiting for the approach of their foe. And then they play with a fierce flourish.

And that’s not all. The violinists punctuate the downbeats with leaps, kicks and barrel turns. No wonder the Denver Post critic wrote: “it’s too wow for words.”

“No one goes to ‘Barrage’ to see a classical music program,” said Anthony Moore, producer and creator of the show based in Calgary. “It’s wild, not a buttoned-down thing. It’s quite electric.”

And not elitist. Anyone who appreciates music, Moore said, will delight in the broad musical approaches.

Consider the repertoire — it runs from Bizet’s “Carmen” to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” arranged as a fugue. The six, backed up by guitar, bass and drums, also perform well-known jazz standards such as “Birdland,” movie themes that include “Live and Let Die” and Celtic tunes such as “Anach Cuan.” Yet the majority of the show is driven by original music by Dean Marshall.

Wide range

“The palette is wide-ranging,” said Moore, who got the show rolling in 1996. “But it’s symphonic and high energy.”

The idea for “Barrage” got its start in the conservatory classrooms in Calgary, where Moore was a violin student in the 1980s. His teachers decided their students needed a jolt of inspiration. So in addition to bowing rote scales and exploring the nuances of Bach and Beethoven, they spiced up practice sessions with folk tunes such as “Turkey in the Straw” and “Old Joe Clark.” The result, said Moore, was a reinvigorated student body.

“Violin teachers used to think that folk music would destroy technique,” said Moore. “That’s not the case. It was an effective teaching aid because it would get the kids to stand up and move around and play something fun. It became a mini-movement.”

Once Moore started teaching, he handed down the same method, alternating between Brahms and bluegrass. He then teamed up with his friend, violin pedagogue and composer Marshall to create a show for their students at Mount Royal College.

They looked to form a nonbook musical. Marshall and Moore, with Brian Hansen, used “Stomp” and “Riverdance” as their template.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants,” Moore said. “The way the music is orchestrated, there is dramatic texture. The dance gives it a choreographic tableau. It’s modern dance meets classical music.”

It’s been a winning combination for the creative team. And it’s only grown more dazzling over the decade. Today’s “Barrage” performers are extreme musicians and movers who can play multipart harmonies and do flips at the same time.

On rocket fuel

One Los Angeles critic described it as “an evening of performing jigs on rocket fuel. It’s no wonder that more than a few horsehairs snapped on their bows.”

The spectacle’s high power has led to tours of Europe, Asia and North America. The crew currently travels 42 to 43 weeks, performing 250 shows a year. And everywhere they go, Moore said, audiences are usually pleasantly surprised.

“A lot of people tell me they come because they think it is an Irish show. But they are not disappointed. People say it’s cool and fun. But the thing I hear the most is unique. Everyone says, ‘That’s unique.’ ”

Categories: Life and Arts

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