Mass Ensemble entertains with eclectic performance


The group’s performance includes music and other art forms. Mass Ensemble’s manager describes the group as using a combination

of art, music and architecture.

By Austen Tate/ Special to The Malibu Times

The five-person Mass Ensemble mixed music and other art forms, while using the elements of nature and sound in a two-hour breathtaking performance on Friday in front of a crowd of 200 people at the Wright Organic Resources Center.

The eclectic group’s show included yogic dance, polygamous circled drums, harps and guitar, including the Earth Harp, which creator William “Billy” Close calls the “world’s largest stringed instrument.”

At sunset, families gathered around in the grass, playing and feeling airy after eating fresh organic foods, and awaited the performance. The sweet, earthy songs of the harp and the soothing words of singer Jesca Hoop accompanied the beating drums and Indian-inspired dances by Andrea Brook into a magical, healing experience. The view of the ocean and mountains emanated beauty and grounded the sound of Mother Earth, passing good vibrations through the people. To the west side of the circle, chimes hung from a tree, which grew out of the middle of a rock and blew gracefully through the wind. Percussionist Richard Sherwood put all his body and rhythm into his drum set. The musical tunes generated ambient, upbeat, worldly, country rock sounds in a peaceful way.

Close played the Earth Harp, a rare instrument that has similar qualities to a cello. The front looks like the front of a sailboat. (Close has a sailing background.) The enormous strings of the brass wire instrument were connected to different points of adjacent mountain peaks. The mountain itself becomes the bridge of the instrument. In a natural environment, the wind plays the Earth Harp.

Close said after the show, “The act of playing the instrument is like a dance and creates interesting movement.”

Other versions of the Earth Harp were also used, such as the Winged Harp, which formed a higher pitched sound. Since the strings were shorter in length, the winged harp gave off a chirping sound, akin to the vibration of running your hand on glass. Musician Cameron Morgan played the Aquator, an intricate four-necked combination of guitar, sitar, cello and ace. The concert was a rare opportunity for Close and Brook, a married couple who reside in Malibu, as they were able to play closer to home. The couple partnered to conduct the classical, elegant Earth harp, using clamps and white gloves gripped by resin at the tips of their fingers and tuning the blocks with their hands. The base of the instrument sat on the stage and depending on the length, resonating different pitches.

Mass Ensemble has grown in the past two years, performing in theaters and performance centers. In past performances, Brook has brought aerial dance aspects onto the stage, while playing the Earth Harp in the air. Dave Cohen, Mass Ensemble’s manager, described the group’s performance as a combination of art, music, and architecture. More information about upcoming events for Mass Ensemble visit