Berimbau ensemble’s album up for 2018 Grammy Awards consideration

November 27, 2017 GMT

DeKALB – Four years ago, Afro-Brazilian berimbau musical bow players with Northern Illinois University ties began working on an album that was meant to showcase the instrument in a way it hasn’t been heard anywhere in the world.

Now, the berimbau ensemble, Arcomusical, has an album, “MeiaMeia,” that is up for consideration at the 2018 Grammy Awards in the Best World Music Album and Best Chamber/Small Ensemble Album categories.

Greg Beyer, head of percussion studies at NIU, said he was surprised to hear that the album was up for consideration for a Grammy in either category, since none of the ensemble members submitted the album.

Beyer said he’ll hear whether the album officially will be nominated Tuesday.

However, with more than 100 albums up for consideration in the Best World Music Album category and more than 300 in the Best Chamber/Small Ensemble Album category, Beyer said he’s keeping in mind that chances are slim of the album making it that far.

“If we get nominated, of course we’d be over the moon – we’d be thrilled, we’d be in relative states of catatonic bliss,” Beyer said with a laugh.

Dan Eastwood, an NIU alumnus and a member of Arcomusical, said he feels similarly in that he doesn’t want to get his hopes up.

“I think it will become a lot more exciting on [Tuesday], when we find out whether we’re nominated or not,” Eastwood said.

Beyer and NIU alumna Alexis Lamb composed pieces for the album from 2013 to 2015 as part of NIU’s Undergraduate Artistry and Research Apprenticeship Program and Lamb’s honors capstone project.

The album’s title, “MeiaMeia,” means “half and half” in Portuguese, since Lamb composed half of the pieces and Beyer composed the other half.

Lamb said it’s “humbling” to have the album in consideration for a Grammy.

“It’s exciting to know that people appreciate the album as much as we do, and that it’s speaking to as many people as we were hoping it would,” Lamb said.

The album’s pieces composed by Beyer and Lamb are meant to be played on the arcomusical, a specific type of tunable berimbau handcrafted in the U.S.

Arcomusical ensemble members Beyer, Lamb, Eastwood and NIU alumnus Kyle Flens performed on the album, along with NIU alumni Abby Rehard and Alexv Rolfe.

Members Raychel Taylor, an NIU alumna, and Ethan Martin, a master’s student in NIU’s percussion program, joined the ensemble in the past couple of years.

Martin said he has been thankful for playing in the ensemble as part of his graduate studies in percussion, since he never had touched the instrument until he came to NIU.

“It’s definitely been an educational experience, humbling and great to work with so many great people,” Martin said. “I feel grateful to be part of the whole experience.”

The album was recorded by audio engineer Dan Nichols, who leads NIU’s recording services within the School of Music.

Nichols won a Grammy last year as a recording engineer, along with NIU alumnus Matt Ponio as assistant recording engineer, for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance on Third Coast Percussion’s album “Third Coast Percussion | Steve Reich.”