Laura Hamel's percussion setup for the National Tour of A Christmas Story at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, California.
"This setup has transformed over the years since it was first played by Paul Hansen at its premiere in 2010 at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre and again in the original Broadway production in 2012.
The book originally calls for xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel and tubular bells. In the first year of the tour, tubular bells traveled along side a MalletKAT. But to make traveling easier, the tubular bells were put into the MalletKAT along with the other mallet instruments. Eventually, with the help of A Christmas Story’s past percussionist and now drummer, Brian Malone, the instruments were chained together to make the patch changes smoother. We now use every chain the MalletKAT will let us do at 128 patch changes. Along with the MalletKAT, we travel with two timpani and a variety of toys.
The use of the MalletKAT makes stick changes a lot easier, but a new challenge presents itself with the many pedals I have to keep track of. Between the substantial amount of timpani tuning, 128 patch changes and riding a sustain pedal, you end up tap dancing your way through the show.
This show is very fast paced. Once we start the overture, we don’t stop playing until we’re nearly 20 minutes into the show. Our longest scene, at the end of act two, is only three minutes long. Because of this, I have to move quickly to get set for each upcoming song. I have to keep track of two books, one on the timpani stand and the other on the MalletKAT. There are often times I need to turn the timpani book several pages ahead to prepare for a quick change in the next song or move a few instruments around to make the quick changes easier. Sometimes I find myself bouncing between the two books several times over the course of a few measures. The book also sometimes ask you to play a few instruments at the same time, having you pair glockenspiel with either sleigh bells or the TreeWorks Chimes.
With the setup constantly transforming, I’ve been able to add a few elements back in from the original setup. After talking to Paul Hansen, I decided to go out and search for a set of dragon style temple blocks. Fortunately, I found an old set from Steve Maxwell’s Vintage Drum Shop in New York City. Being around a hundred years old, they may be a little beaten and worn but they sound great. I picked these blocks because not only do they sound great, but they are easier to travel with than a five piece temple block set and I only needed these two pitches to pair with the wood blocks and jam blocks I had also picked out. With the many different blocks I brought, I created a range of timbres to cover the sounds of horse shoes, clocks, and knocking on doors.
At Paul’s suggestion, I also added a double barrel slide whistle, which he originally used in the show. By attaching two slide whistles together and tuning them about a minor third apart, you get a much more comical sound, which is perfect as it covers a sound effect for a very drunk Santa pushing kids down a slide in our show.
Overall, this book is one of my favorites to play. The story is magical, fun to listen to every night and I never get tired of it. Big thanks to Paul Hansen and Brian Malone for answering my many questions over the years."
- Timpani - 29” and 26”
- Grover 8" and 10" Wood Blocks
- LP Jam Blocks – Medium and High
- Trophy Alto Horn Train Whistle
- Metal Slide Whistles (2)
- Steve Weiss Classic Ratchet
- Alan Abel 6“ Triangle
- Miller Machine for Triangle
- Bell Tree
- Dragon Style Temple Blocks (Low and Medium)
- TreeWorks Chimes
- Black Swamp Tambourine with Brass Jingles
- Meinl Sleigh Bells with supplemental smaller sleigh bell set
- LP Salsa Cowbell
- Pearl Castanets with Long Handles
- Gong 14”
- MalletKAT Pro
- Roland Integra-7 SuperNATURAL Sound Module
- Aviom A-16D Pro Personal Mixer
- Vic Firth 7A Drumsticks
- Vic Firth T1 General Timpani Mallets
- Vic Firth T4 Ultra Staccato Timpani Mallets
- Promark DFP230 Dan Fyffe Medium Rubber Xylophone Mallets
- AKG C414 (2) for Timpani
- Sennheiser MKH 30 for Toys
- AKG C451 B for TreeWorks Chimes