Have you heard the one about the tragic bus accident? Four musicians and a drummer lost their lives! The suggestion here is that drummers are not really musicians, but nothing could be further from the truth, especially with regard to Tom Sharpe.
Sharpe is a well-schooled percussionist and composer. He is an alumnus of Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Academy and he has bachelor and master of music degrees from DePaul University. His day job is playing drums with The Dennis DeYoung Band (Styx), and Mannheim Steamroller.
Sharpe has just released his second CD of original compositions, “Lifting The World.” As a lifelong drummer myself I fell in love with this the first time I listened to it. The creative ear of a drummer is apparent throughout the entire piece in how Tom writes, arranges, and performs. It starts off with “World Speak,” which is straight out of the world of Percussion Ensembles Music, and it took me back to my college days as a percussion major. With the recording technologies of today Sharpe is able to play all the layered instruments that you hear.
Often CDs grab you by the ears and shake you all about shouting, “Listen to me!” Or they just scare you away. This CD welcomes you in with a warm embrace. If you give in to it and let it take you away, it will take you on a journey through heartache, adventure, euphoria, spirituality, dread, joy, victory and peace.
In the spirit of a true symphony it moves seamlessly from one piece to another with a recurring theme presented in variations with different voices by different instruments throughout. As if as an intermission, about half way through Tom injects another percussion only composition called “Counting Crosses,”which has a third world tribal island sound.
What I would describe as the Second Movement begins with a slow brooding piece that sounds as if something threatening is afoot or a difficult journey is under way. Like the first half, this second half of the symphony is filled with well written compositions that evoke emotional images throughout. There are multiple choral arrangements on the CD that are amazing, especially in “Lifting The World Part 1” and “The Cathedral Is Where You Are.”
The finale of the symphony restates the major themes of the symphony and it cleverly ends on a final note that does not resolve, but instead leaves you wanting more.
Besides the obvious influences of the masters of classical music, I hear the influence of a handful of contemporary artists. Among them are Pink Floyd (The Wall), Peter Gabriel (Secret World, plus), and the drumming of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann (Grateful Dead).
In a world filled with publicity fueled instant stardom, most of which burns brightly for a moment and vanishes rapidly like a flash bulb, it’s refreshing to hear a true talent produce such a deep and emotionally charged piece of music. This is not a CD filled with pop, rap, hip-hop, jazz, blues, rock and roll or even country. This is a symphony composed by Tom Sharpe. You can’t even dance to it (well, maybe), but it will take your breath away.
Have you heard the one about the drummer who wrote a symphony? It’s a good one. You ought to give it a listen.
Nick McCabe is the editor of Front Row Photo. LINK
Bryan Robb: Engineer / Producer
Jeff Elbel: Fetted and Fretless Bass Guitars
Jennifer Page: Violin
Amanda Nelson: Cello
Hank Horton: Concert Double Bass
Nikki Lapwing: Voice
Theresa Brooks: Bassoon
The Elmhurst College Choir under the direction of Susan Moninger
*courtesy of Tom Sharpe publicity