Holy Trinity students to perform composition written for them


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Members of Jim McCarl's Advanced Percussion class rehearse for "Holy Trinity's free Christmas Concert on Dec. 9 beginning at 6:30 p.m.

photo by Carl Kotala

It’s a performance piece that no one else in the world has ever heard before … and you can hear it at Holy Trinity’s free Christmas Concert on Dec. 9 at the Scott Center for the Performing Arts in Suntree.

For the second year in a row, band director Jim McCarl’s Advanced Percussion class will perform a commissioned original piece composed by Brian Slawson, a Julliard-educated, Grammy-nominated artist and Brevard Symphony Orchestra principal timpanist.

“I think it’s awesome,” senior drummer Jordan Vines said of the piece, which is called “When You Hear the Drum.”

“It’s not (one of those) traditional, regular old Christmas tunes that you always hear. It’s something that … I’d go so far as to say old school, but it’s lesser known and really catches people’s ears.”

If that weren’t impressive enough, Slawson — who works with the students on a weekly basis in the classroom and through private lessons — specifically wrote certain parts of the piece for each of the 10 members of the class.

“He knows where their weaknesses are and where their strengths are,” McCarl said. “He’s composing that piece of music specifically for that person to push them in their education as well as meet them where they are. There’s nothing being put in front of the students that is too difficult or unattainable, but it’s also going to make them practice and it’s going to make them become better musicians in the long run.”

McCarl and Slawson met in the fall of 2013 when Slawson and his band performed at the Scott Center. McCarl, who had just started the Advanced Percussion class, asked Slawson to come in and work with the students.

That led to Slawson being commissioned to write an original piece called “Christmas Day” that was performed at last year’s concert. It has been published and is available for purchase world-wide.

“That piece last year was very melodic, and chimes and sleigh bells, very what you would expect from Christmas. An original tune,” Slawson said. “This year, I thought I’d take a couple of traditional (pieces), the real old French stuff — the chants and hymns from centuries ago — and I’d arrange it in more of a drum style.”

Senior Zoe Perkins, who will play the marimba, loved performing “Christmas Day” last year and is looking forward to showcasing “When You Hear the Drum” for the rest of the world and liked the way it challenges the performers.

“Certain parts, certain rhythms, will be a little tricky,” she said. “But other than that, I think it’s more of us trying to fit the pieces together and make it very musical that’s going to be the hard part. But I know we can do it. We’ve done it before.”

The event, which starts at 6:30 p.m., will feature performances from the school’s chorus, orchestra and band programs.

Slawson, who missed last year’s show, will be on hand to conduct his originally-written piece, and is excited to see the students perform.

“They’re going to shine,” he said.