The Beast, Big Band to hold open rehearsal

Jan. 17, 2013 @ 03:48 PM

The members of the quartet The Beast have synthesized the elements of jazz and hip-hop in local performances, and on three recordings – “Guru Legacy,” “Freedom Suite” and “Silence Fiction.” Last year, the quartet was preparing for an appearance in Duke University’s Music in the Gardens summer series. “We said, we’ll make our Duke show different,” said Eric Hirsh, who plays keyboards in The Beast. “We said, we have all these great musicians [in the area] and we can write all these lush orchestrations of hip-hop songs.”
The quartet recruited nine instrumentalists for the summer concert, and The Beast and Big Band debuted in June. The response from the audience was so overwhelming that The Beast decided to record some of their songs with big band arrangements, Hirsh said.
The large ensemble will record next week in Durham, but listeners can get a free preview of the music during an open rehearsal Saturday at the Kenan Music Building at UNC.
The Beast, a Durham-based band, got its start when the four members of the band were at  UNC – Pierce Freelon (vocals and lyrics), Hirsh (keyboards), Stephen Coffman (drums), and Peter Kimosh (bass). Hirsh arranged and orchestrated The Beast’s songs for the large ensemble, and will lead a question-and-answer session with the audience at the Saturday rehearsal.
Hirsh sees the rehearsal as a different kind of music appreciation session. The audience will get to see the creative process in action. “Some of the arrangements are still in flux,” and the audience will see the musicians making some creative decisions about the pieces, Hirsh said. The musicians also are looking forward to interacting with the audience. In a concert situation, “even though we’re in the same room, there’s a fake barrier between us,” he said. “It’s validating for musicians to open up their craft and let people see what goes into it,” Hirsh said.
The process of arranging songs for big band, “hearing your own songs being brought to life in a different way,” has been “such a treat for us,” Hirsh said. When asked about arrangers whose work he admires, he mentions Vince Mendoza, who has worked with everyone from Bjork to Joe Zawinul, and Michael Abene, whom Hirsh called “a great big band arranger.” Hirsh also arranges for the band Orquesta GarDel. Some of the same musicians in that ensemble are in the Big Band. “I know what they’re capable of,” he said. “I think about them when I write,” he said of the arranging process.
Saturday’s session is also being held at UNC to make music students aware that there are opportunities to play music after they graduate, he said.
The members of The Beast Big Band are Al Strong, trumpet; Aaron Hill, saxophones and clarinet; Tim Smith, tenor sax and flute; Andy Kleindienst, trombone; Karen Galvin, violin; Jenavieve Varga, violin; Leah Gibson, cello; Keith Ganz, guitar; and Brevan Hampden, percussion.

Go and Do
WHAT: Open rehearsal with The Beast and Big Band
WHEN: Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.
WHERE: Kenan Music Building rehearsal hall, UNC campus