Barrage – Live in Portland

Live in Portland
by Carmen Miller

I read the press releases, and looked at the video tape, but seeing “Barrage” was very different than what I had expected. This group of young performers out of Canada put on a show that was vibrant, musical and creative! Anyone that has ever heard a symphony orchestra knows the power of chorused violins, but Barrage presents the violin, and its cousin the fiddle, in an entirely new context.

We attended the show at Portland’s Schnitzer concert hall, the first stop of the U.S. leg of their tour. The comparisons to ‘River Dance’ fall short. The way the players could pass a song from one violinists to another was polished and showed a lot of practice. More to my amazement was the way that they continued playing accurately and consistently while jumping up and down and dancing!

The performance itself is broken into acts and scenes with an intermission in the middle. Each scene features a different type of music; blues, traditional American, Occidental, a wide variety. The entire performance is loosely connected by the common thread of a story as told by the show’s two dancers, who are a violin and a fiddle respectively. Throughout the performance the dancers are an integral part of the music (as well as in-the-mix stage hands). Between the scenes the dancers carry on a dialog about them being twins although very different, the violin being “elegant” and the fiddle being “down home”.

The show is intricately choreographed, and the choreography often involves almost all of the performers (the drummer is the only performer that does not move around the stage at some point or aother). There are scenes where performers play one another’s instruments, where they play an instrument together, even an instance where they play instruments with the audience’s help. The scenes themselves, although separated by dialogue, are mostly musical interludes, and this makes the skillful choreography and performances all the more apparent.

On the whole I found it to be a very enjoyable experience, both from a musical as well as a theatrical view. If you are looking for virtuosity, pull out your old Jean-Luc Ponty. If you are looking for a great show filled with good music and dance performed by a group of performers that are obviously enthusiastic and skilled, go see “Barrage”.