Evelyn Glennie

Evelyn Glennie was born in 1965 near Aberdeen in Scotland. She grew up on her parents’s farm, with two brothers. At the age of twelve, she became interested in the snare drum. It was around this same time that her hearing began to deteriorate as the result of a neurological disorder. A few years later, she was eighty percent deaf; however, her Scottish stubbornness would not let her give up. She learned to feel the vibrations of the notes, and to distinguish between them with the help of different areas of sensitivity throughout her body.

Evelyn Glennie had one goal – to play classical percussion. Not at the back of the orchestra, but as a solo performer – an independent artist. However, quite apart from the fact that many people believed that both her poor hearing and her small, petite stature would prove an insuperable barrier, there was no established solo percussionist role to serve as a model. Evelyn’s inexhaustible energy swept all objections aside. In 1988 she won a Grammy for her first CD recording, Bartok’s “Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion”, conducted by Sir George Solti.

Over the following years she played with all the great orchestras of the world, appeared several times as a solo performer at the renowned BBC Prom concerts and recorded a dozen CDs. She worked with Brazilian samba groups, Japanese kodo drummers, Indonesian gamelan orchestras and with the Icelandic rock singer, Björk. She commissioned contemporary pieces for percussion, thereby constantly expanding her repertoire. Evelyn had achieved the heights at a very young age.

Now in her late thirties, she is in a new phase of creativity. She no longer has to prove anything to anybody. She listens now to what is within herself and prefers improvising through good feeling to a perfected technical style. The dimension of the individual beat is as important to her as a complete score. She values the fine shades of sound much more highly. She is an amazing performer with an instinctive understanding of the sensual enjoyment that makes for a good show. On her “Shadows” tour, dry ice drifts across the stage; coloured spotlights bathe the battery of percussion instruments in a mystical light.

Evelyn’s concert tours take her to Japan, Europe and, mostly, to the US, where she keeps a second complete set of percussion instruments. In between her tours she hatches new ideas in her sound studio at home, in the countryside north of London. She experiments with unusual instruments and everyday household objects. In this way, she invented the batonka, a sort-of plastic pipe marimba, and the simtak, a customized car exhaust.

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