The Berg Keeps the Beat

Berg Orchestra, Streno

Berg Orchestra Conductor Petr Vrabel and beatboxer ‘Streno’ share their expertise in an unusual concert.

They never miss a beat. So what will The Berg Orchestra think of next – after their ‘DJ Berg’ concert including beatboxers?

On June 16 the Roxy NoD dance club floor was strikingly equipped with lines of chairs.

And the stage that is mostly used by electronic and rock stars was fully filled up with The Berg Orchestra and its instruments.

Of course, computers and sound engineers were not missing.

The Metamorphosis of Voice
The Czech premiere of Scottish composer Anna Meredith’s Concerto for Beatboxer and Orchestra 2010 was paired with Czech composer Tomáš Reindl’s world premiere of Beatberg 2015. As you may know, but may not expect in an orchestra concert, the art of beatboxing lies in forming drum beats, rhythm, and musical sounds or simulating instruments with a performer’s lips, mouth, tongue, or voice.

Beatboxing also uses unusual techniques that date back to the 19th century and include early American rural music, by both black and white folk musicians. This evening’s program was additionally influenced by African music techniques.

T Reindl

Composer Tomáš Reindl added his expertise with percussion.

In Reindl’s Beatberg 2015 popular beatboxer Streno – Peter Strenáčik, known among the Czech public as a finalist in the “Czechoslovakia’s Got Talent“contest – took the solo part. He was backed up by part of the vocal group Skety (Veronika Vítová, Štěpán Janoušek), and Petr Wajsar and their beatboxing manager Lukáš Prchal.

Mr Strenáčik brilliantly amused the audience, the orchestra, and conductor Peter Vrábel with his vocal abilities, and wittily manipulated the audience during the finale by waving his hands to hush their cheers, then waving them again to ask them to cheer even more.

Watch some highlights from the concert in this slideshow of photos by Hana Blažková, accompanied by an audio excerpt of Beatberg 2015 from The Berg Orchestra:

Synthetic Perpetuum Mobile
Synths supported the violin and percussion during the Czech premiere of the composition Perpetuum Mobile by Estonian composer Mirjam Tally. The name itself evokes the repetitive theme of this music term for perpetual sounds; and the music was also pulsating like an unstoppable machine.

The Mesmerising Hum
This concert was dedicated to the grandfather of American minimalism, Terry Riley, who is celebrating his 80th birthday this year. Every performance of his In C, his most famous piece, is unique. It consists of several short musical fragments that are strictly played according to the notes, but the musicians are free to skip some parts and replay others as they prefer.

Endless hypnotic repetition was also part of the structure of this evening’s ″DJ Berg″ programme, a style which is nowadays widely used in pop and electronic music and connected with electronic instruments, synthesizers, and other devices.

Fall Season Starts Sept 16
The Berg Orchestra kicked off a fruitful 15th season with concerts as usual in unexpected spaces. And they continue to push the boundaries of the traditional: the opening concert this fall was chosen by the public, who voted for their favorite composition during the summer.

The next Berg Orchestra concert is Sept 16 at St Salvator Church (Charles Bridge) at 7:45 pm, and includes the voters’ winning composition, the silent movie The Passion of Joan of Arc, with Berg accompaniment.

— Hana Blažková, Opus Osm writer

Photo Credits: Article photos by Karel Šuster; slide show by Hana Blažková, compiled by Miroslav Setnička; audio by The Berg Orchestra.

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