Barrage’s performances used to feature talented 20-something musicians who blended eclectic violin music with high-energy physical choreography and top-notch lighting and production values.
All those elements will be present in the new show — except with even younger performers — when Barrage: Next Generation takes the stage Nov. 19 for a two-hour show at West Salem’s Marie W. Heider Center for the Arts.
Anthony Moore, co-creator of the original Barrage and director of the current show, explained that this incarnation of Barrage features a “super troupe” of teenage virtuoso string players from all over the U.S.
“People are going to be amazed at the skills these young people have,” Moore said. “They might be only 16, but they’ve been playing a violin for 13 years. They’re not only talented but extremely dedicated.”
According to Moore, the prototype for this group was the Music City Strings, a Suzuki school in Franklin, Tenn., with students ranging in age from 12 to 20. “We started working with them about five years ago to give them a more presentational style,” Moore said. “They became so popular that we took them on tour to China and Europe and they were very well received.”
The original Barrage began in Calgary, Canada. “We were using alternative kinds of string music as a teaching aide for classical studies — even though a lot of teachers at the time thought playing folk music would damage the development of classical players,” Moore said. “We wanted to get musicians out from behind their music stands.”
Like the original group, Barrage: Next Generation delights in pushing boundaries by playing old songs in new ways.
“The unique thing is you’ll hear songs you’ve heard before, but never in this way,” Moore said. “We’ll do everything from traditional fiddle tunes like ‘Turkey in the Straw’ to jazz, classical music and film scores — even contemporary rock. There really are no boundaries.”
To cite just one example, Bartok’s “Romanian Dances” will be performed with a pulsating back beat and multiple string parts. ‘We try to make things more accessible,” Moore said.
For the Heider Center show, Moore said there will be 21 musicians on stage. Most of them will be high school students, with a few slightly older Barrage “alumni” sprinkled in to act as guides and mentors.
From a director’s standpoint, Moore said, the most challenging part of the new show was making sure the alumni members could adapt their skill set to do more solos or trios as well as taking on more talking and announcing roles.
Still, the stars of the show are the incredibly skilled young musicians who are still in high school. “The kids will miss school on Friday and Monday,” Moore said, “but they tend to be high achieving kids anyway so they get a little more leeway from teachers.”
Moore said he believes these youngsters are destined to do great things. “We’re showing America the wonderful things just around the corner,” he said.