Winnipeg Free Press

“Troupe welds percussive sounds” 

Concert Review 

★★★★★ out of five 

By GWENDA NEMEROFSKY 

While the rest of us cycle, run or push weights to keep in shape, Gregory Kozak and his unique percussion group ScrapArtsMusic get an impressive workout  every time they step onstage. 

Simon Thomsen. Greg Samek, Christa Mercey and Spencer Cole joined Kozak for a breathtakingly athletic performance at Thursday night’s penultimate WSO New Music Festival concert named for the ensemble. AN audience heavy on young people thrilled to the sights, sounds and moves of this truly original  group that shows there are no limits to the musical imagination. 

Vancouverite Kozak co-founded and created ScrapArtsMusic in 1998 with Justine Murdy. Kozak, self-described as “a percussion virtuoso with a talent for welding,” designed and built the 145-plus instruments the quintet plays, composed the music and choreography. Murdy handles lighting, instrument and costume design –- black outfits with armbands, which could double as supportive braces for the percussion boot camp. 

Using industrial scrap and everything from artillery shells, accordion parts and brass sheets to balloons, dishwasher hoses and bagpipe reeds, Kozak just may have single-handedly performed a million acts of green. Who knew that scrap yards and dumps were treasure troves for the makings of new and marvellous musical instruments? 

The group mesmerized the audience from the opening number Whorlies, named for the instruments they used  – lengths of bilge hose spun around to produce eerie humming notes. The faster they spun, the higher the pitch. 

The action never stopped throughout the 85-minute show – the troupe quickly rolling out instruments and setting them up in different configurations. Dry ice wafted smoke across the stage and innovative lighting formed effective silhouettes of the artists as they leapt, twisted, turned and attacked their instruments. 

Dancing, hollering performers vigorously beat drums made from irrigation hose and plumbing coupling joints. 

By now you’re getting the idea of the uniqueness of this entire concept. Kozak is a kind of mad scientist when it comes to instrument invention. 

But as impressive as all the instruments were, the performers themselves stole the show with their cheerful and technical prowess. High kicking, virtuosic and adrenaline-packed, this was an event in itself — one we won’t soon forget. 

ScrapArtsMusic WSO Music Festival 
Centennial Concert Hall, Feb. 5 
Attendance: 889