ISA Marimba Ensembles Perform at Amsterdam Grachtenfestival

The Grachtenfestival is an eagerly-anticipated cultural highlight of the summer here in the Netherlands, drawing in thousands of music lovers from all around the world. The ten-day celebration of classical and contemporary music, held annually in August, is set along Amsterdam’s historic canal belt, giving musicians the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform with the most beautiful locations of Amsterdam as their backdrop.

While world-renowned musicians take to the various stages throughout the city, the Grachtenfestival also provides opportunities for young musicians to perform, allowing them to take those first steps into their professional music careers. This year ISA’s adult and student marimba ensembles got their “big break” when they were invited to perform at the festival.

Marimba Culture at ISA

The marimba, a percussion instrument with roots based in Africa, has become an important part of ISA’s musical culture. Music teacher Fabian Galli, the leader of both the student and adult marimba ensembles at ISA, introduced the marimba to Lower School music classes four years ago. Since then, marimba has become popular across the ISA community, growing from a classroom activity into two formal groups with a total of almost 75 student and adult members.

Galli describes marimba as a style of music which is “all around the world in many different cultures, with a very appealing and happy sound”. Little wonder then that this form of percussion has been such a success, as the international nature of marimba music perfectly embodies ISA’s mission to educate for international understanding.

Music teacher Violeta Vicario considers the “diverse and dynamic” nature of marimba. There are both teachers and parents in the adult group and the different perspectives of the performers enhance by the collaborative nature of the music which “allows us to hear what the marimba has to offer”.

Taking to the Marimba

After spending the summer apart, the ISA marimba ensembles came together for their first performance. The ISA performers, which features a dozen adults and a 20-member student group, braved the Dutch rain to entertain a large crowd of onlookers at Orlyplein at Amsterdam Sloterdijk station. The adults played four songs, including Clave; Rutendo; Txokotxata and Hidden Treasures, while the students played Isu Tauya Panno; Savannah; The Monkey and Mbube, to the delight of the crowd. ISA nursery teacher Eli Arenas Thomas, a member of the adult ensemble, believed that the rain made the setting even more “magical”.

Vicario described the sense of community within the marimba ensembles on the day of the performance, as “performers didn’t simply arrive and play; they each helped to set up the instruments and take care of them”. They also rotated positions after every song, so that each performer had the opportunity to play every instrument.

For teaching assistant Rosa Middendorf, the performance was the first time that she had ever taken to the stage to play marimba, having only been a member of the ensemble for three months. “My whole family came to watch me perform!”