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Harpist Andreas Volllenweider proves worthy of acclaim


At the Wang Center,

Tuesday, October 24.



ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER has been critically acclaimed for his particular brand of music over the years. He is a Grammy Award recipient and at Tuesday's show, it was clear why.

It is difficult to categorize his music on stage. It is not jazz, nor does it sound like what is now called "New Age." Rather, it was a very original and imaginative combination of elements that drew from all styles, including ethnic music from Africa, the Far East, and Latin America. This bright fusion created an exuberant sound that commanded attention.

The main instrument in Vollenweider's music is the harp, which he plays masterfully. He performs on the instrument with incredible technique and a passion that is felt throughout the auditorium. Equally skilled are all the members of his multi-talented band. Every single musician performed as if the instrument was an extension of his body. It was obvious that each band member could give an excellent solo performance, but what made the concert most delightful was the synergy produced by their combined efforts. In fact, it was hard to believe that the music we were hearing was coming from only five musicians.

The show began with the soothing sound of crickets while the musicians playfully moved around onstage with small fluorescent lights before taking their places. When Vollenweider came on the stage, he immediately started to solo on the harp and was later joined by the rest of the instruments.

The talented Swiss ensemble performed music from Vollenweider's latest album, Dancing with the Lion, as well as from his earlier efforts. The audience was also treated to some brilliant music which has not yet been recorded. The old pieces were not performed faithfully to the album originals, but these variations were welcomed by the audience. As Vollenweider eloquently said, "If we played exactly like the record, you might as well stay at home and play the album."

The Wang Center's ambiance was quite appropriate for this type of music. The stage mounting was sober, and the lights were well suited to the music. Unlike the vast majority of today's shows, Vollenweider's did not rely on fancy stages and intricate light shows. This does not imply that the light show was boring or overly simple; rather, it had been planned to complement the music rather than drawing attention to itself. The stage settings were also simple. Emphasis was always placed on the instruments and the musicians.

One of the highlights of the show was the most astonishing drum solo we have ever witnessed, which was delivered by the multi-talented percussionist Walter Keiser. Keiser is the only member of the ensemble who has accompanied Vollenweider throughout his 10-year career.

Tuesday's show proved that exuberant, beautiful, and innovative music is still possible today. We felt fortunate to have been there.