|© David Wak|
by David Wak
"Anything you could hit that would make a noise would serve our purpose," says Lev Gartman.
On stage in the Angell Elementary School auditorium, seven U-M students stand behind a pair of folding tables as a group of Angell kids looks on. The onstage students are holding long, clear plastic tubes, which they tap on the table, making hollow-sounding notes. After pretending to fool around awkwardly for a bit, they launch into a fast, perfectly synchronized sequence of beats, until the delighted kids realize it's a silly version of the William Tell Overture.
This is Groove, and tubes and tables aren't the only odd instruments they play. The multi-talented U-M student collective's lively, entertaining performances feature skits, dancing, singing, and percussion pieces played on aluminum ladders, propane tanks, garbage cans, and other unlikely objects. And outreach programs like this in the public schools are just the tip of the iceberg--they also do two big concerts a year and perform at special events, including this year's U-M commencement.
Gartman, who founded Groove in 2003, calls it the "love child" of the English group Stomp and the New York-based Blue Man Group. One of Groove's first instruments was a xylophone made from a barricade that Gartman and a friend "borrowed" from a NYC street and took back to Michigan. They cut pipes to make the notes they wanted, attached them to the barricade, and played it with hammers. One of their first tunes was a version of "Hey Ya," the big hit by the R & B group Outkast.
Of all their strange instruments, perhaps the strangest is "Doc Oc," named for a Spiderman villain. Made of different lengths of curved PVC pipe, it has a harness that allows the player to carry it on his or her back. Played with handmade paddles made of wood and sponge, it makes a deep yet airy sound. It looks and sounds bizarre, yet cool.
Groove plays for audiences as small as the Angell School assembly,
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