The music that Millheim’s Kevin Sims writes and performs is complex, ornate and takes a patience that most pop-music fans no longer possess. And this is just how he likes it.
June is a pretty busy month for Sims and his eclectic act, starting Saturday night with a performance at the Bremen Town Ballroom in Millheim. The percussionist has been collaborating with local poet Abby Minor and Brooklyn composer Scott Wollschleger on a mini-opera entitled, “We Have Taken and Eaten,” and will also be showcasing this piece in Altoona and Williamsport in the coming weeks.
“The idea was to make a super-condensed opera for a solo performer, a percussionist in my case,” Sims said. “The text of the piece explores the role of creation and how origin stories play in our present and future lives. The music unfolds like a book of songs, played on percussion but also sung, spoken, and in one movement, accompanied by a trio of other players.
“This has been a fairly ambitious project,” Sims said, “It’s a long solo piece to perform, and I’m certainly not used to doing as much singing and speaking.”
Funded partially through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Project Stream program, the text of “We Have Taken and Eaten” is based on various poems found from an early account of the exploitable resources taken from the Virginia Colony. Again, not the subject your typical three and a half minute radio friendly song.
“There are mostly pros to this kind of slower and involved approach,” Sims said. “Similar to food, if you have the time and patience, it’s incredibly rewarding to make something from scratch. The challenges that we usually face were the fact that we didn’t really know exactly what it was that we were making for the first half of the project, seeing that it was something of a hybrid between an opera, a concert and a theater piece. But even there, part of the joy was seeing it take shape.”
Detailing and preserving how things came to be have wowed audiences since we lived in caves, and Sims has gone out of his way to ensure that he maintains the majesty of the story-telling.
“I think the combination of music with some kind of storytelling component has a big appeal,” Sims said, “There’s a ritual quality to it that is really compelling, where the music can amplify the words, and the words and movements can amplify the music. Maybe it’s because storytelling has such a draw to it and music can help slow down, emphasize and give different shape to the actual telling.”
Although “We Have Taken and Eaten” is far from traditional in almost every sense of the word, it still has the power to wow audiences. Sims knows exactly what he’s doing and it is always exciting to watch a virtuoso perform with such precision and passion.
“This sort of experimental music provides both an intimate and open atmosphere for audiences, and most people are really up for it,” Sims said, “I also think that the theatrical elements and the world that the singing and speaking creates will make it even more inviting. The music is a balance of sparse and meditative, dense and expressive. It’s a very meaningful and beautiful experience.”