Clarinetist Takes A Solo Turn On Maracas

Mar 14, 2018

You’ll usually find Alcides Rodriguez in the woodwind section of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. This weekend, though, he’s putting down his clarinet and picking up percussion – as the soloist in Ricardo Lorenz’s Concerto for Venezuelan Maracas and Orchestra. Does the idea of a maracas concerto sound preposterous? GPB’s Sarah Zaslaw asked Alcides Rodriguez how a pair of shakers can hold the audience’s interest for a quarter hour.

Interview Highlights

On the tricky technique

“Even though shaking the maracas looks easy, it is actually difficult because you always have to deal with two sounds. Sometimes you want to make one sound but you make two, because of the rebound.”

On why he took up maracas in his 20s

“I grew up playing Venezuelan music since I was very young. But it wasn’t until I came to the States – it maybe had to do with being out of Venezuela, being a college student, the first semester is always difficult, you miss everything about where you come from – I said I wanted to learn the maracas. It was a way of distracting myself from the pressures, to forget about everything else.”

On the gourds for maraca bodies

“They grow on a tree, like a fruit. They can grow to the size of a watermelon. You have to harvest them at the time where they are at the right size; you have to really watch them. The gourd is bright green, and the inside has a white pulp. It’s very wet. If you drop it on the floor it just breaks. So you have to let it dry for a year.”

On dedicating his performances to the children of Venezuela

“Venezuela is going through a really tough time right now. The country is basically completely in ruins. It’s really hard for me to see everything that’s going on down there, especially people having such a hard time to find food and medical care. And obviously the people that suffer the most are children. I have a 17-month-old, a boy. I think when you’re a parent, things change, your perspective of life, and seeing children suffering affects me more now. That’s why I wanted to dedicate the concerto to the children of Venezuela, to create more awareness about what’s happening. Right now it’s a completely different country than the country I grew up in.”