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These guys don't simply keep the beat

A drummer in the Varying Degrees of Percussion Trio, which will perform at the Holmes and work with local students. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Drumming for Varying Degrees of Percussion. Submitted Photo2 / 2

What do you get when you combine three professional percussionists, dozens of instruments and multiple musical influences from all over the world?

You get an unforgettable concert by the Varying Degrees Percussion Trio, which comes to the stage of Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m.

This concert, which clocks in at approximately an hour and 15 minutes in length (with no intermission) will feature the talents of Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra (FMSO) percussionists Kenyon Williams, Thomas Christianson and Andrew Clemenson.

Though it's part of the official Polar Fest celebration in Detroit Lakes, Tuesday's concert will also mark the debut of a brand-new Classical Music Concert Series at the Historic Holmes Theatre, says the theater's executive director, Amy Stoller Stearns.

Once a month in February, March and April, the theater will be bringing in three different ensembles of the FMSO for a special concert, Stearns added.

First up is the Varying Degrees Percussion Trio. Kenyon Williams, a 10-year veteran of FMSO, said that it was late last summer when he and his fellow percussionists began toying with the idea of forming a trio and doing a concert series like this.

"I did a recital at MSUM last September," Williams said, "and as part of that concert, I needed to have a percussion trio to play a piece."

Enter Christianson and Clemenson, who began rehearsing with him in August.

"We were working on this piece together, and we thought, 'You know, this is fun,'" Williams said.

So they began thinking about putting together a small concert tour as a trio, and the next thing they knew, they had scheduled "five concerts in five days" during the month of February.

The five-day tour starts in Moorhead on Sunday, then continues to Grand Forks on Monday, Detroit Lakes on Tuesday, Jamestown on Wednesday and Dickinson on Thursday.

"We're going to be moving a lot of gear in and out of the van" during those five days, Williams said.

One thing audiences can expect, he noted, is to leave the theater smiling at the end of the performance.

"We're doing a program that's very audience friendly," Williams said. "It's going to be a really fun concert. We're playing just about everything you can imagine -- steel drums, wind chimes, we're even playing on frying pans at one point.

"There's one piece we're doing ('Table Music' by Thierry DeMay) where the only instrument is a table," he added. "That's a very, very fun one."

Other songs will include "Afta-Stuba" by Mark Ford, a fun-filled groove-oriented work for three marimbists fighting over one marimba; "Trio per Uno," a powerhouse three-movement work by Nebojsha Jovan Zivkovic focused upon thunderous drumming; "The Songlines," a composition by Andy Narell that features the beautiful sounds of the Trinidadian tenor pan (steel drum); "Nola," a fun 1920's vintage ragtime xylophone composition; and "Natural Resources (what to do until the power comes on)," an audience interactive work by Ann Southam designed to make the audience laugh.

"One thing I love about percussion concerts is you never know exactly what you're going to hear," Williams said. "I love string quartets and woodwinds, but I know the sounds I'm going to hear at those concerts."

This percussion concert, on the other hand, will include "everything from pounding drum sounds to soft, whisper quiet sounds of metallic ringing," he added. "The sounds change completely every few minutes.

"We programmed this concert not to be academic in any way, shape or form... it's supposed to be fun."

Music series continues

Next up in the Classical Music Series will be the Excelsior Trio on March 19, while the final concert in the series will feature Colors of Brass.

Through funding provided by BTD Manufacturing as part of its Community Connections Series at the theater, as well as a gift from the Edwin & Clara Forsyth Engebretson Family Fund, tickets to each of the three concerts in the Classical Music Series will be offered at a cost of $10 for adults -- and free to all students "from preschool through college age," Stearns said.

"Classical music is wonderful," she added, "but we don't really have a large market for it here."

So hopefully, offering such affordable ticket prices will bring in crowds of not only percussion students and music students from around the area, but also those who have not had a lot of exposure to classical music in the past, Stearns said.

"I'm excited to see whether people will be interested in this and support it," she added. "We'll see how it goes -- if the community wants more, we would certainly be willing to do a small series like this again next year."

Tickets for Tuesday's concert, as well as the other two concerts in the series, are available at the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office at 806 Summit Ave., by calling 218-844-7469, or online at

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454