By Mckenzie Moore
With music from around the world and a tightly-knit group of members, a musical group out of the North Fork Valley is still creating music and community in an instrumentation that many people may not be immediately familiar with.
Founded by David and Arlyn Alderdice in 2015, the Embodying Rhythm Marimba Ensemble has been performing throughout the community, most recently as part of Paradise Fest through the Paradise Theatre in Paonia.
The group consists of eight members (six of which are founding members) who started off playing traditional tunes from Zimbabwe before branching out to more genres, traditions and arrangements from all over the world. They meet once a week to rehearse their music, which they later share with the community.
“What we do with our band is we rehearse a lot, we’re musicians for music’s sake,” David Alderdice said. “We spend a lot of time coming up with new music, both original as well as our versions of traditional songs from around the world and modern covers. We only set up concerts whenever we have a really new thing to put out there, when we have new material and new songs, which is fun because whenever we do put on a show, people know it’s going to be something different than what they saw before.”
The group also features various other instrumentations to add to their sound, including alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, melodic glockenspiel, singing, guitar, mandolin, flute, drum set, trumpet, baritone horn and trombone.
“We just kind of stretch the envelope on what you can do with these instruments in as many genres as possible,” Alderdice said. “Either way, I think it challenges everyone in a really good way and gives everyone a creative freedom that they don’t always get.”
Alderdice said the group is more than just a few musicians getting together: it’s a family atmosphere in which everyone is able to build off of one another and share a mutual experience. After realizing the healing power of the group, they decided it was important to share it with the local community.
“It’s a family. We get together and we don’t have to talk. I could tell you what each person had for breakfast just by the way they play the music that day. We learn from each other, support each other, challenge each other,” Alderdice said. “It feels like it’s a disservice to the community to not share these healing sounds that we’ve been working on. This is making us better people, and it is a good, contagious thing, so it feels like we should share this with folks.”
Like many other artists, the marimba ensemble was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, with all of its concerts save for the virtual Paradise Fest being canceled and the recording of its second album being put on hold by at least six months. However, progress is still being made, with the group still writing music and looking for a place to record the album.
“It put a pretty big hold on what we’re doing, but we’ve also been writing new songs for our third album before we even started recording the second album,” Alderdice said. “I think once some of these venues start opening back up, people are going to be really excited to support live music and be part of that feeling again.”
The marimba ensemble recorded its performance for Paradise Fest outdoors at one of the members’ households in order to ensure social distancing. Alderdice said their participation in the event was not only a way for them to return to live performance, but also to support the Paradise Theatre after the venue was mandated to close down during COVID-19 restrictions.
“The Paradise Theatre is such a great local resource, for musicians and way more,” Alderdice said. “I feel like the Paradise is such a community-oriented venue that just keeping them alive for the community has been a really great experience, much less what the Paradise Theatre does for the local music scene.”
In addition to the mutual support (profits from Paradise Fest were split between the theatre and the artists), Alderdice said the event allowed the Embodying Rhythm Marimba Ensemble to reconnect with the audience, especially in a time when many people have been lacking access to live music.
“Part of what is healing about music is the coming together and community, the gathering. You can’t have a successful concert if the whole event of people coming together isn’t successful,” Alderdice said. “The internal healing aspect of the music, that doesn’t translate as well digitally but it still works for sure, especially when it’s a live performance and more people are kind of coming together and having that experience together.”
While the future of live events is still uncertain, Alderdice said the group will continue to make music and hopes to continue connecting with the community.
“I’ve definitely heard a few people mention the aspect of knowing that live music is still happening, being able to see some of the local musicians that they’re used to seeing on more of a regular basis, has been nice for people to feel like a bigger part of the community,” Alderdice said.
More information on the Embodying Rhythm Marimba Ensemble, as well as other ensembles and educational resources under the Embodying Rhythm umbrella, can be found at embodyingrhythm.com. The group’s recent performance can be found on the Paradise of Paonia YouTube channel.