Brazilian drumming reverberates through College Park’s Old Parish House
By Kim Seif
As Maryland lifts pandemic-related restrictions, College Park’s Old Parish House is once again hosting in-person events, including a Brazilian percussion workshop in June and two similar sessions in July.
The events were hosted by the College Park Arts Exchange, (CPAE) in collaboration with EducArte.
EducArte is a local non-profit that promotes music and dance education programs in Maryland. Pablo Regis de Oliveira, EducArte’s co-founder and executive director, organized the workshops. He told the College Park Here & Now that he was excited to be planning in-person events again and appreciated having the Old Parish House as a venue.
“I’ve been driving by this building for so many years, and it’s nice to actually be doing an event here that’s for our community,” he said.
Regis de Oliveira also serves as program manager for the Prince George’s County Arts and Humanities Council, and through that work, he is familiar with CPAE’s typical roster of events. He said that the arts exchange, along with Mayor Patrick Wojahn and the College Park City Council, were very supportive of his plan to bring the workshops to the Old Parish House. He coordinated the sessions with Melissa Sites, CPAE’s executive director.
During the pandemic, EducArte held virtual events and classes.
“We were able to do programming where it was interactive — people could send messages, and we stayed very active,” Regis de Oliveira noted.
CPAE also stayed active during the pandemic, holding outdoor performances in neighborhoods throughout the city.
The workshops at the Old Parish House were led by André Coelho, a percussionist and pandeiro player originally from Rio de Janeiro, who now lives in the District. While in Brazil, Coelho was a part of a loosely organized samba and percussion group that practiced and performed together when they could — a music club, of sorts. Separately, Coelho also accompanied well-known Brazilian singers and musicians.
“We have such a privilege to have him here, and I figured let’s start a session where we can teach people about the history of [Brazilian] music and how to play,” Regis de Oliveira said.
Workshop participants learned about a number of Brazilian instruments, including the pandeiro, a hand drum that is one of the country’s most popular instruments, the Brazilian tamborim and the surdo, which is a large bass drum.
During sessions at the Old Parish House, Coelho demonstrated the proper way to hold and play each instrument. He also introduced participants to various rhythms and how to layer them to create a song.
Coelho also brought along shakers to play, along with household supplies to show participants how to make them.
There were more than 20 people in attendance at the session on July 17, all ranging in age and percussion experience. Regis de Oliveira said that while the event was geared towards adults, everyone was welcome. He said that he has received a lot of positive feedback from the city’s residents. He hopes to create a community percussion ensemble inspired by the workshops.
“I know a lot of people in the community who are drummers, professional or not professional, and they all enjoy this; it is a great opportunity to play in a non-professional, live setting,” Regis De Oliveira said.
Right now, these drumming sessions are scheduled for twice a month, but both Regis de Oliveira and Sites hope to offer them once or twice a week.
“So many people can come together, and everybody is learning different instruments. I just think it is ideal,” Sites said.
Sites also said that CPAE is planning other events at the Old Parish House.
The Old Parish House is the second-oldest building in College Park and has long been used as a venue for community events, classes and choir concerts. The building is owned by the city, which allows the CPAE to use it free of charge for events that are open to the public.
The Old Parish House is located on Knox Road; Sites said that the residential neighborhood location makes it an ideal venue for CPAE events.
“Part of the business of the arts exchange is to provide arts in the neighborhood to create a community feeling and let people get to know their neighbors,” she noted.
For more information on CPAE’s offerings, go to cpae.org for the latest information. You can follow the organization on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Stay tuned, also, to the Here & Now for monthly calendar updates.