By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Those expecting garbage cans and dust brooms traversing the stage of the Morinville Community Cultural Centre during the Jan. 13 presentation of TorQ Percussion Quartet would have been disappointed because the quartet is considerably more than a scaled down version of Stomp. What the 60 concert goers who came out to see something a little different got was a highly polished performance that was part symphony, part musical education and part performance art.
Although TorQ’s four members Dan Morphy, Adam Campbell, Jamie Drake and Richard Burrows, made music with everything from paint cans and beer kegs to gongs and conch shells -with a little more cow bell thrown in for good measure – the first half of their 90-minute performance was almost completely performed on mallet instruments.
Using two marimbas and two vibraphones the four musicians traveled through four completely different musical genres, each completely and thoroughly explained by TorQ members. The opening piece, Steve Reich’s Mallet Quartet ran a solid fifteen minutes and tested the patience of the audience as much as it enthralled them with the music they were hearing. TorQ member Dan Murphy’s original piece Thrown for a Loop combined more traditional classical music styles with a completely accurate percussion rendition of the music of Radiohead. The four musicians moved on to perform a haunting choral piece on their two marimbas before ending the first half of the show with an original Mariachi-inspired piece titled El Mosquito Marron, a number that showed just how lively the instruments could be played.
The second half of the show included four pieces that were more in keeping with what many had expected to see in a percussion show. A highlight of the set involved two of the members striking a horizontal board in perfect time as the other two members placed a variety of musical and non-musical instruments beneath their drum sticks. TorQ’s sincle encore consisted of the quartet returning to the stage to perform a number on upturned garbage cans, a number that combined with the previous two sets brought the audience to their feet for a standing ovation.
TorQ was the winner of the Mississauga Arts Council’s Best Emerging Performing Arts Ensemble in 2009, and perform about 70 school shows per year in addition to their other shows. Their current tour, which began in Drayton Valley Jan. 12, is the groups’ first trip to Alberta. The 13-stop Prairie Tour was made possible by Prairie Debut, a Manitoba-based organization that works with classical and world music groups.
The cultural centre’s next performance is Feb. 10 with musician, comedian and story teller Lorne Elliott. tickets are $25 adults, $20 students and seniors.