Barrage out to prove string music is fun, entertaining
EDGERTON—Anthony Moore points out that some of the biggest stars on TV shows such as “America's Got Talent” and “The Voice” are kids or teenagers.
“That's something that's become very popular with television shows,” he said. “You see 'America's Got Talent' winners are young singers and young ukulele players. There's a lot of young talent in America that's quite astounding how it's developed at a young age.”
Moore is co-creator and producer of Barrage, a professional string music performance group. He also manages Barrage offshoots, including Barrage: Next Generation, a new show comprising high school-aged string musicians.
Barrage: Next Generation will perform at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $25 each.
The show will be an opportunity to witness some of the country's young, artistic talent—the kind you might find on prime time, Moore said.
Like its parent version, Barrage: Next Generation will combine string renditions of different music genres, all performed with choreographed dance numbers, he said.
The adult version of Barrage can trace its origins to college campuses in Calgary, Alberta, in the 1980s. Early Barrage members worked with classical music students at a conservatory there, teaching them new ways to play the music of famed composers.
At the time, the idea of radicalizing Bach or Beethoven into an electropop performance was frowned upon. Moore and other early band members were “renegades,” he said.
But the concept grew, and Barrage continued to work with youth music organizations across the United States and Canada. When Barrage became a professional troupe in 1996, it continued its working relationship with amateur musicians, Moore said.
“What we've done over the last 20 years with Barrage is we've gone out with our troupe and interacted with programs struggling to keep kids interested in string music. If they're only playing Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, it's kind of hard to sometimes motivate the students to stay,” he said. “We had very extensive workshop and outreach programs where we'd go into communities around America, and we'd ignite, inspire and engage their programs and their teachers hoping to give their teachers ways to motivate the students.”
This is the first year of Barrage: Next Generation. Barrage leaders decided to work with youth groups they have a longstanding partnership with to introduce the concept to fans.
The troupe that will perform in Edgerton is Music City Strings, a Franklin, Tennessee, ensemble that has worked with Barrage for several years. Barrage helped turn the musicians into a premier performance group that has played shows with Vince Gill and Amy Grant at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Moore said.
In January, Barrage will open a formal audition process for future Next Generation artists. The teen musicians selected will enter a one-year program full of performances across Europe and the United States.
The youth artists who work with Barrage are often some of the most talented instrumentalists of their age group, so Moore looks beyond ability to find musicians who can connect with the audience through smiles or eye contact. The auditions will even include a basic dance number to ensure musicians can handle Barrage's energetic performance style, he said.
“Violinists have a tendency to stare down their fingers. It's hard to break that and engage their audiences with performance techniques,” Moore said. “It's important to throw them into the fire during the audition process, even if they laugh when they try to do it. Just something that shows they don't have a barrier to doing that.”
Two Barrage alumni will host the Edgerton show, which should last about two hours. It will include group numbers and solos, and it will use a variety of string instruments to put a spin on familiar melodies.
Audiences routinely tell Moore they are impressed by the performers' abilities to play complex music while performing choreographed dances. That connection shows string music can be fun while spanning different genres, he said.
“It's not like you have to be super challenged by classical concerts,” Moore said. “There's so much different repertoire played in our show that really, if you don't like what you're hearing, just wait one song and you'll hear a totally different approach to something.”