New look should strike right chord

Evening Post, 15 March 2001

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Life isn't just about steel cages and comparing hubcap collections. The five members of Strike have also been working with a choreographer and a dramatist.

ANYONE that has a glimpse of the rehearsal space in Lyall Bay for percussion group Strike can't help but notice they use lots of hubcaps.

Small ones, big ones, shiny ones and a couple of slightly buckled ones are dotted among the drums and other percussion instruments inside three steel "cages" that are a big part of recent Strike shows.

And tucked away in a corner are two plastic containers full of even more hubcaps. Strike member Murray Hickman is especially enthusiastic about the hubcap collection. The group has about 60, most collected from car yards in Wellington and Auckland for their distinctive pitch and timbre. "No one made steel hubcaps any more after 1980," Hickman says. "The best are VWs."

Hubcaps are one of a myriad of things Strike's five members will bang on in its new show, which opens tomorrow in the Capital. There's traditional percussion instruments, ranging from hi-hat cymbals to an old water-filled timpanum drum, as well as the intoxicating sound of Cook Islands drums.

For the new show expect some new instruments, moves, sights and sounds. Jeremy Fitzsimons has constructed a giant instrument made out of PVC pipes, looking a bit like an upturned vibraphone. Similar instruments were used by the New Zealand group From Scratch, but Fitzsimons points out that his are slightly different - the pipes bend at angles at one end - which creates a slightly different sound.

Besides producing hair-raising music, including compositions by cutting-edge New Zealand composers such as Gareth Farr and David Downes, Strike have had people on their feet as much for their look and moving to the beat.

In the new show, Strike's worked with choreographer Wendy Wallace and dramatist Philippa Campbell to give the performances a more theatrical look. "We are all very different. We have tried (in the past) to look the same on stage, but we're a lot more interesting as different characters now," says Fitzsimons.

Basically the Strike team are thinking more about how they move as they play for impact. The theatrical element won't be full-on story, but link to what audiences will hear, especially the strong Pacific flavour.

Fitzsimons, Hickman, Tim Whitta, Steve Bremner and newcomer Kristie Ibrahim from Canada, who only joined for rehearsals six weeks ago, have all trained as classical musicians and had extensive experience with orchestras.

Last week Strike's debut album, NZ Percussion Music, won best classical album at the New Zealand Music awards. But it's a bit of finicky question: Is Strike a classical group? The consensus among the team is that their music doesn't fit easily into any category. Even a marketing term like "classical crossover" doesn't exactly fit. Strike takes in influences from all over - Samoan slap dancing, kapa haka, Indonesian gamelan, electronic dance music. Much traditional Pacific drumming is as much based on the movement of the drummers, as the drumming itself. The growing percussion and drumming scene in Wellington, such as the full moon drumming sessions at Zebos Bar, along with fire jugglers and dancers, have also been recent influences. The hypnotic twirling of burning steel rods will be a feature in the show, tying in with the theme of the ancient elements of fire, earth, air and water.

If mention of dance music and fire jugglers rings bells for some, Hickman and Whitta were at The Gathering dance party. Hickman says there's a possibility Strike will play at it one day, as they had many requests when they were there.

For Ibrahim, it's a case of Strike appealing to a broad range of people. "It's good (to see) someone who would be in the front row of a symphony orchestra concert to be in a Strike concert," she says.

"We've had subscribers from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra standing and clapping away."

Since it was formed in 1993, Strike has also been in demand overseas. "We've had two directions going," says Fitzsimons. "(Now it's) movement-based percussion and the (classical) recital merging together."

* Strike, Opera House, tomorrow and Saturday.

* Webwatch:

* Phone: Ticketek, (04) 384-3840


Caption: STRIKE A LIGHT - Strike performers Steve Bremner, left, and Murray Hickman practise their fire dancing routine. The hypnotic twirling of burning steel rods will also be a feature in the show. Picture: MAARTEN HOLL

Tom Cardy, Evening Post, 15 March 2001

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