It was a dreary Sunday afternoon and all the attitudes in my house matched the cold and rainy weather outside. The kids whined about having to leave the toy islands of their rooms, my husband, clad in his Cardinals sweatshirt, protested against the inhumanity of missing the Pittsburg game, but somehow I managed to pull the brood out to witness the Louisville Leopard Percussionists' Big Gig.
The Brown Theater’s lobby was packed with families and supporters--a true testament to the talent that waited behind the curtain. As we claimed our seats, immediately my husband pulled out his Iphone to check the score of the game. Like fireflies in a dark field, other men did the same, babies cried, snack wrappers crinkled--it was the typical audience of a children’s music recital. But that is where typical ended.
Fifty-five children, grades 2-9, cycled on and off the stage in an inspiring, foot-tapping, well-organized performance that gave some of the big-name bands I’ve seen at the Brown a run for their money. The Louisville Leopard Percussionists perfected Leonard Bernstein, Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Dizzy Gellespie, as well as covers from The Jackson Five, Smokey Robinson, and Queen.
Syncopated rhythms and solos were performed with such ease and proficiency I had to keep reminding myself these were kids. Interspersed between the music, the emcee spoke of the magnitude of what LLP is able to accomplish, “These kids aren’t born musicians; they’re just kids. If you’re a teacher, parent, contributor, passion and expectations lead to the greatness you see here.” He read quotes from the student musicians that reiterated the power music has had on their lives and the impact LLP has had on their confidence. One child commented that just because they are kids, doesn’t mean they have to play lullabies, “We can play some really hard stuff and we’re really good.”
The most impressive feat was the unbelievably original compositions ranging from “Matter” a performance that used only found objects, water jugs, and step to “Unlucky Larry’s Ordinary Day” a story created by LLP about a man that falls into a pothole, then is faced with battling aliens on his way to work. The story was read by two dynamic elementary students and then performed with percussion--amazing.
After the first half, I was hooked, ready to donate and sign my kids up next year. I now understand why the 2007 HBO Family Channel created the documentary The Leopards Take Manhattan: The Little Band That Roared, why they are able to play all around the country including New York City and Chicago, and why they have collaborated with nationally acclaimed professionals. The Louisville Leopard Percussionists are a sight to see if you are a native to this town whether or not the Cards are playing on a dark, rainy Sunday afternoon. Time well spent. A true Louisville Original.
Photo courtesy www.louisvilleleopardpercussionists.com