So much more than just a catchy beat Friesen and friends accompany workshop with concert celebrating rhythm in all its richness

Thursday August 15, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- Rhythm -- it’s all about the guy with the drumsticks whose steady beat is the thumping platform on which the real music takes place, right?

Not so, says multiple Grammy-winning cellist Eugene Friesen, who is welcoming musicians of all stripes to his "Your Rhythm, Your Life" workshop taking place Thursday through Sunday at The Stone Church (Imannuel Episcopal Church), 20 Church St.

The third in a summer series of workshops conducted by Friesen at The Stone Church, "Your Rhythm, Your Life" is about how much more there is to rhythm than a catchy beat.

"Rhythm has as much dimensionality to it as harmony does," said Friesen, who has spent much of his career studying and absorbing the rhythms of many musical traditions and many world cultures. "These things are as dimensional and complex rhythmically as Johann Sebastian Bach’s music is in terms of harmony."

Delving into that complexity is the aim of the "Your Rhythm, Your Life" workshop, which currently has eight participants, only two of whom are percussionists. There is still room for more, if anyone wants to jump in at the 11th hour, said Friesen. To do so, visit

Aiding Friesen in the workshop is legendary frame drummer and four-time Grammy-winner Glenn Velez, a longtime musical partner of Friesen’s, through many ventures including their work with Howard Levy as Trio Globo.

"He has been a tremendous influence on my artistic development," said Friesen. "For him, rhythm is something that has very, very deep dimensions. ... A person’s relationship to rhythm has everything to do with breathing and physical coordination. ... Breathing and rhythm are intimately tied together."

On Friday, Velez and vocal phenomenon LOIRE will perform with Friesen at The Stone Church at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to the concert are $17 in advance at and $20 at the door.

Velez is considered the founding father of the modern frame drum movement and is regarded as a legendary figure among musicians and audiences world-wide. His virtuosic combinations of hand movements, finger techniques, along with his original compositional style, which incorporates stepping, drum language and Central Asian overtone singing (split-tone singing), has opened new possibilities for musicians around the globe.

Velez is the first percussionist to gain international recognition as a successful solo artist using frame drums. In 1989, Velez’s mastery caught the attention of composer John Cage, who wrote "Composed Improvisation for One-Sided Drum with or without Jingles" especially for Velez.

Velez has also collaborated with Steve Reich, the Paul Winter Consort, Suzanne Vega, Pat Metheny, the Israel Philharmonia, Brooklyn Philharmonia, Opera Orchestra of New York, Taipei Chinese Orchestra, Sonny Fortune, New York City Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet Orchestra and Coleman Barks.

Velez maintains an international touring schedule as a soloist and continues to collaborate with prominent artists in many styles. His Ta Ka Di Mi Duo with virtuoso rhythm vocalist LOIRE (Lori Cotler) has garnered critical and audience acclaim around the world.

"Using her voice in mystically percussive ways" (The New Yorker), LOIRE is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the most captivating and original vocalists of our time. Using exotic rhythms as her muse she is able to execute with the human voice phrases that do not seem possible in their rhythmic speed and clarity. Her unusual artistry combines world music, jazz and pop elements with jazz scat improvisations and her original reworking of the sophisticated and rare vocal art of Konnakol (South Indian drum language).

"You just drop your jaw. You can’t believe the human voice can do this kind of improvisation," said Friesen.

On Saturday, at 7:30 p.m., there will be a free concert in The Stone Church. Hosted by, and including performances by workshop directors Velez, LOIRE and Friesen, the concert will feature solos, duos, trios as well as new music for diverse ensembles of workshop participants.


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