Marching music: Brooklyn parades break out boom boxes and bike bells

Marching music: Brooklyn parades break out boom boxes and bike bells
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Get ready to make some noise!

On Dec. 21, Make Music New York will host a series of parades throughout the city that will get people from all walks of life creating music — even if they cannot play a single note.

The organization started the cold-weather counterpart to its popular annual summer music festival three years ago. As the chilly climate makes spending long periods of time outdoors with un-gloved hands difficult, Make Music Winter is on a smaller scale and leaves out a lot of traditional musical instruments. But it has the same aim in mind — to create innovative music projects that everyone can be a part of.

“Make Music Winter is a profoundly participatory event,” said Aaron Friedman, the organization’s president. “Each musical procession is open to any musicians — or, often, non-musicians — who want to be part of it.”

Indeed, for some happenings, you do not even know how to play an instrument or hold a tune — holding a radio or boom box is sufficient.

There are parades all over the city, but five will take place right here in Brooklyn. They will happen almost simultaneously on the G train, at Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and El Puente in Williamsburg.

Prospect Park will be the setting for “Blink,” a new piece for bicycle bells that is making its debut. Created by composer Merche Blasco, the work begins at Grand Army Plaza, from which point cyclists will wind their way through the park while a lead helmet will transmit lights that cue bicycle bells of different pitches to go off.

The event will also see a return of past works. “Peregrine” by Phil Kline is a take on the composer’s famous “Unsilent Night” parade through the East Village. In the same spirit, a parade of boom boxes will begin in front of BAM and travel through Fort Greene, with the score emanating out of the hand-held retro relic. “Winterize” also returns to the grounds of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this year. In it, baritone Christopher Dylan will perform his version of Schubert’s 1828 song cycle, “Winterreise,” while audience members carrying hand-held radios broadcasting the original piano music provide the accompaniment.

Not all events will have you braving the cold. In “Thru-Line,” string players will set up at each of the Brooklyn-bound G train subway platforms and perform the prelude from Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major” every time a train stops. And at El Puente, “La Trullita Navideña de los Sures” will feature an afternoon of carols and food.

Some parades will require more planning and musical skill than others. But there truly is something for even the least melodically gifted.

“In many cases, people can just show up and ring a bell, carry a boom box, bang on a copper pipe, sing along,” said Friedman. “Whatever the piece requires.”

Make Music Winter is at various locations around Brooklyn on Dec. 21. For the full schedule and to sign up for parades, visit www.makemusicny.org.