Jake Wiebe on the drum

Sardis drumline goes international

Sardis secondary's drumline will be performing in China over 10 days in March.

Sardis secondary’s drumline is China bound.

From March 12-22, Chilliwack’s famed high school band will be performing all through Beijing, Shanghai, and surrounding areas.

Conductor Bruno Gagnon isn’t sure what kind of reaction they’ll receive.

“I hope I don’t get thrown in jail; I’m a little unorthodox,” he laughed. “I don’t know, maybe they’ll hate it, or maybe they’ll think it’s crazy and love it.”

What’s not to love?

Last Friday, when the school was dark from no power, and when most students had already ventured home, the drumline musicians remained in the school practicing, just as they do on most weekends and holidays.

In the near black studio, with their toms, snares and bass drums in practice form, they produced a beat that filled your ears and pounded on your chest, that had shivers crawling up your spine and wide-mouthed smiles glittering your face. Typical drumline style.

But for China, the band is switching things up a bit.

In addition to its usual funked up beat, the drumline will also be incorporating traditional Chinese culture out of respect for the country.

The first number is a jasmine folk song where the cymbals will open up like a jasmine flower. Later, the band will “funk up the beat” for that same song. It will also be putting its stamp on a traditional lion dance, featuring a white lion.

“We’ll do what Sardis does best,” said Gagnon. “We’ll jack it up a bit and hopefully they’ll like it.”

Gagnon is currently in negotiations with country officials for permission to play at the Great Wall of China, the Bund waterfront, and under the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. He also hopes to play at the Beijing Contemporary Music Academy.

“It’s going to be a challenge to play in China because they don’t like crowds gathering,” he said. “But we’re working on it… hopefully we’ll make a name for ourselves in China and be invited back.”

Started by Gagnon four years ago, the drumline has been on quite a run.

They’ve played the Olympics, major sporting events, several parades, were hired by the PNE, and more.

Just this year the band was hired, at $3,500, to perform an after party for Seaspan after it was awarded an $8 billion ship-building contract. It was also hired by international tennis tournament the Davis Cup, also at $3,500, and by Holt Renfrew, at $1,000, over the Christmas holidays to feature 12 drummers drumming. The band also performed in the Grey Cup parade, the Macy’s Day parade in Seattle, and in front of the Seattle Seahawks crowd.

“The response to the band in North America has been phenomenal,” said Gagnon, who hopes to generate the same response in China.

“We’re a unique band, and I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction we get in China, but you never know what kind of response you’ll get until you do it.”

With just over a month before departure, the band is in major fundraising mode. The cost per student is $2,000, plus cost of visas, cost of equipment cases and equipment preparations.

A one-hour benefit concert is being held at Sardis secondary on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m., proceeds of which go 100 per cent to student travel costs.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the school.

For more information, call Sardis secondary at 604-858-9424.



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