Barrage 8 to perform at San Juan College
FARMINGTON – The way Tony Moore sees it, the group Barrage 8 fills an important gap for a specific group of aspiring musicians that has almost no one to look up to.
“Bach, Beethoven and Mozart died 300 years ago,” he said, explaining that if you’re a teenager playing in your school orchestra and you find yourself searching for a charismatic role model, “There’s nothing to grab hold of. We grab that passion that’s already there.”
Moore is part of the creative team that came up with the concept for Barrage 8 and put the group together. Barrage 8 — which will take the stage Thursday, March 31 at San Juan College — is made up of eight 20-something musicians who play a wide variety of high-energy music on instruments ranging from violin, viola, cello and bass to guitar, mandolin and piano, all while performing physically demanding choreography to the accompaniment of a drummer/percussionist.
The idea is to take a classical chamber ensemble and turn it on its head. As Moore explained, the performers who make up Barrage 8 — Charlotte Crosmer, Eve Panning, Kyle Pudenz, Davis West, Caitlin Whitehouse, Kathryn Severing, Trace Johnson and Heran Yang — don’t have the luxury of camping out behind a music stand and concentrating on sheet music.
“It’s two hours of energy,” Moore said of the group’s shows. “It’s a calorie cruncher. You can’t do enough to ingest the kind of energy you need.”
The upshot of that, he said, is that most of the cast members have voracious appetites.
“There are a lot of Big Macs that go down after every show,” he said, laughing.
Barrage 8 does perform material by classical composers, but it also performs songs from across the popular spectrum. An 18th century composition might be followed by a grunge rock tune or some Bruno Mars uptown funk. But each of those tunes will be given the distinctive Barrage 8 treatment.
“There are no stylistic barriers to the music we play,” Moore said.
Approximately 30 percent of the Barrage 8 set list is made up of originals, while the remainder was written by others. But Moore balks at calling those cover tunes, insisting that the group’s unique arrangements bring a different sound to even the most familiar piece of music.
“It’s something new and something old at the same time,” Moore said.
The group is the successor to a smaller ensemble, Barrage, that toured the world from 1996 to 2012, performing approximately 3,000 shows in 27 countries. Moore described Barrage 8 as a more ambitious version of that group, one that features a larger, bolder sound and takes the former’s crowd-pleasing approach to performance a step further with a strong visual component — a large, flashy LED lighting wall at the back of the stage.
“It does lend another sensory level to the experience,” Moore said. “It’s cool for us, and it’s a little bit more of a comprehensive approach for us. That added level of production really helps us.”
Earning a spot in the Barrage 8 cast comes only at the end of a long road, Moore said, explaining that being a technically accomplished musician isn’t enough.
“There’s a lot of great players (out there), but what we need more than anything is the right attitude,” he said.
The eight cast members in the new show took to the stage for the first time on Jan. 6 only after undergoing a months-long audition, interview and training process, Moore said. The performers were secluded in a compound in the woods in western Canada for 12 hours a day beginning in September and were trained step by step. They began by playing notes, then moved into choreography, learning the basics of movement and stretching.
Learning to play hurt is part of the bargain, Moore said.
“You will get injured,” he said, acknowledging the physical demands that go along with being a member of Barrage 8. “And if you don’t know how to deal with your injuries, like a dancer does, you’re not going to make it.”
Moore said he and the other members of the creative team were more than happy with the talent they assembled for the new show, but one thing they were unsure about was whether the individual performers would become a cohesive unit, adapting to specific roles and complementing each other.
“It’s very much like a sports team,” he said. “There are people who have a natural inclination toward some things and those who don’t. Some are more effervescent and outgoing. Before a show, you have some who are chatting, talking nonstop, and some who are just staring at their gear, very focused on minute details.”
Moore and his co-creators knew that such disparate personalities don’t always get along well, especially when they’re on the road for an extended stretch.
“You don’t know until you get them in a situation and put them under the pressure of shows” how they’ll react to each other, he said.
As it turns out, that wasn’t an issue. Moore said the group's chemistry has been wonderful, and there has been no turnover so far.
Plans call for Barrage 8 to tour just as extensively as its predecessor. The group already has done a European tour and is now making its way through the western United States. Its swing through Arizona and New Mexico includes a grueling six-shows-in-seven-nights streak, the kind of travel and performance pace that only youthful performers can maintain for very long. It’s no surprise that the average age of cast members is 24.
“It’s a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle,” Moore said, referring to the breathless pace and not a party atmosphere, while noting that most of the members of the original Barrage could only perform with the group for a year or two before moving on.
The demands of such a schedule have a way of keeping the performers focused on their jobs, rather than exploring some of the temptations the road has to offer, Moore said.
“The good thing is, they don’t have time to develop nasty habits,” he said, laughing. “We’re kind of in that sweet spot where the nature of the job forces them to toe the party line.”
Most of the members of Barrage 8 are graduates of master’s programs in music, Moore said, and that kind of life experience and professionalism has given them the tools to handle this lifestyle well.
“They’re not just a bunch of wild childs,” he said. “They come at it with a mature perspective.”
Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.
If you go
What: Barrage 8 concert
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 31
Where: The Henderson Fine Arts Center Performance Hall on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington
Tickets: $20 for adults, $18 for students, $15 for seniors and $12 for children 12 and younger at sanjuancollege.edu/silhouette
For more information: Call 505-566-3430