Dame Evelyn Glennie captivated a capacity audience of more than 600 at Dauntsey’s School recently with an extraordinary exploration of percussion, sound and performance. A range of percussion instruments were used to illustrate her ideas, including a snare drum, marimba, waterphone, temple blocks and a halo.
Dame Evelyn, who has been deaf since the age of 12, always plays in bare feet so that she can feel the music vibrating through the floor. She performed at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics and is the first person in musical history to successfully create and sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist.
During her performance at Dauntsey’s, she suggested how to explore sound, without being constrained by convention. Dame Evelyn has a collection of more than 2,000 percussion instruments and explained that when she finds a new one she always experiments with it to determine its personality before looking at the ‘instruction manual’.
A fascinating point of discussion was her distinction between ‘practice’ and ‘rehearsal’ – she practises a little but rehearses a great deal. She defined practice as learning the mechanics of a piece, whereas rehearsal captures the musical, emotional and expressive preparation for communication to an audience, including consideration of every aspect of the venue: from the acoustics of the space to the character of the audience.
Ben Gudgeon, director of music at Dauntsey’s, said: “This was a wonderful opportunity for pupils and the wider community to join a world class percussionist on an amazing journey of sound. Dame Evelyn was extremely generous with her time, having been interviewed by pupils earlier in the day and then taking questions from the audience after her performance.
“Over half of our pupils play a musical instrument and many of us went away feeling inspired by her ideas. I feel certain there will be a great demand for percussion instruments in our music department in the coming months!”