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French percussionist Adélaïde ‘dances’ with the marimba

Adélaïde Ferrière,

Snow Concert Hall is once again making its mark on the Canberra music scene with its programming of an exciting, young, French percussionist to open the 2024 season.

Adélaïde Ferrière, the winner of more than 15 international prizes, has performed in halls like Philharmonie de Paris, the Opéra National de Paris, the Salzburg Mozarteum, London’s National Portrait Gallery and the Luxemburg Philharmonie.

Known for the dancerly quality of her performances, she leaps from instrument to instrument like a prima ballerina. She is besotted with the marimba, the melodic wooden percussion instrument played through Central America but now a standard feature of classic ensembles in Europe.

It’s Ferrière’s first time in Australia.

“Snow Concert Hall invited me, so I’ll do three concerts in Australia,” she tells me by WhatsApp from Paris, “I get to see the country – I’ve always wanted to. I can combine work and a holiday.”

Apart from Canberra, she’ll be performing down the coast at Kiama and Ulladulla. I assure her she’s picked the right places, but it is no coincidence that Kiama is the home town of Snow’s artistic director, flautist Ana de la Vega.

In the Canberra concert she’ll perform solo percussion, including works by Debussy and Bach, and she declares an interest in the work of Greek French avant-garde composer Yannis Xenakis.

There are many compositions written for percussion instruments, she notes, but her heart is in the classics.

“I’ll be mainly performing classical works transposed to the marimba, including Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, celebrating its hundredth birthday this year, and Handel’s passacaglia,” she says.

She will also play a new piece by an American composer which she performed just two months ago in Denmark.

“I used to play the piano so I can bring its classical melodies and harmonic lines into my performances, making it a combination of both.”

“Quite a lot of percussionists used to play the piano, this is quite usual in Europe,” she tells me. In the case of her favourite instrument, the marimba, it needs to be remembered that it has a close relationship to keyboards.

While it may have its origins in Africa and the Americas, she says it has been a familiar instrument in Europe for over 30 years and is considered a solo instrument in the classical music world.

When I first heard marimba, I really fell in love with the richness of this wonderful instrument, with its connection with gesture and movement,” she says.

“I did a lot of dancing when I was younger, so there’s a strong element of choreography in both my classical and contemporary performances.”

The marimba also relates well to jazz, she says, and along with the vibraphone, also appears in popular dance music.

Ferrière‘s career is mostly as a soloist, although sometimes she performs with orchestras, and she’s always on the move.

When she returns from Australia, she’ll be off to Amsterdam for a marimba festival, then will be performing in a percussion and organ concert in Paris, followed by engagements in Latvia, Italy and Norway.

Adélaïde Ferriere, Snow Concert Hall, Canberra Grammar School Monaro Crecent, Red Hill, February 23. Bookings here


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Helen Musa

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