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A percussion concerto with legs

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Colin Currie
Colin Currie's favorite percussion instrument is the marimba. It's featured prominently in the concerto written for him by composer Jennifer Higdon.
Photo by Chris Dawes

It's a rare contemporary piece that gets dozens of performances around the world in the first couple years of its life, but that's the case for Jennifer Higdon's 2005 Percussion Concerto. 

The Philadelphia-based composer wrote it for Scottish percussionist Colin Currie. He's in Minneapolis playing it with the Minnesota Orchestra, in the second week of their Crash, Bang, Boom Percussion Festival. 

What's interesting about a percussion concerto is that, unlike, say, a piano concerto that features one solo instrument with the orchestra, Currie plays nearly 30 of them. He arrays them in two large "stations" about 40 feet apart at the front of the Orchestra Hall stage. 

Currie not only has to play all those instruments perfectly, but he has to choreograph his movements onstage, almost like a ballet dancer, moving seamlessly between stations. (He says he's never tripped!)

Currie spoke with Minnesota Public Radio's Brian Newhouse from the stage of Orchestra Hall. He talked about his career and shared some sounds from the huge variety of instruments used in the Higdon piece, including the haunting rosewood sound of his favorite, the marimba.