Friday, September 23, 2011

Drum Circle

I put in a full day painting the Mennello Museum mural. Angela Abrusci helped with painting most of the day. I'm learning as I go and it actually helps to relate my thought process to the people who assist me. We also had two middle school aged assistants. Libby Rosenthal put out ice cold water and granola bars for everyone who helped paint. About mid-afternoon I found myself alone with the wall again. As it got dark, I packed all my art supplies into my truck.

Although I was exhausted from painting all day, I decided to go to Orlando Brewing (1301 Atlanta Avenue) to sketch a drum circle. I believe this is a monthly event which coincides with the phases of the moon. I had never been to this drum circle. When I arrived a bit early, there were just a few people seated in the parking lot setting up their drums. I realized I hadn't eaten anything all day. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich from a food truck parked in front of the brewery, then I went inside to order a beer. I always feel invisible standing at a bar waiting to order. The bar maid was having a long discussion with a couple at the far end of the bar. I sat down and took a bite of the grilled cheese. Oh, it was so good. Let her take her time. I ordered a Pale Ale that was brewed there. Outside I found a spot to sit near a spotlight on the side of the building. I used a wooden pallet as a table. A grilled cheese washed down with a delicious Pale Ale is heaven.

The parking lot was surrounded by beer kegs on palettes stacked three stories high. Wood was piled in a fire pit and ignited. People kept arriving with drums. A woman named Sybille introduced herself. This was her first time to the drum circle. Moments later I called her Libby. She laughed saying, "You must be dyslexic". "Libby is Sybille backwards" she said. I'm terrible with names. Moments later a young man walked by with a drum. He said, "Hi Sybille." She said, "Hi". She turned to me and confessed, "I can't remember his name, It's something simple like Mike." She went over to hug him. After speaking with him for a while, she walked past me and said, "He's Jim." I laughed saying, "You were close!" "No I wasn't" she replied. I laughed.

The drumming started sporadically at first with Appalachian styled call and responses of rhythmic beats. As it grew darker the air filled with improvised resonant rhythms. A train roared close, its horn punctuating the ongoing orchestration. It was hard to tell where the train stopped and the music began. A man stood by the fire, his arms raised in supplication as he arched his back and gazed up at the sparks rising towards the stars. There was a wild crescendo. Belly dancers began to dance around the fire their belies glistening. Sybille was dancing with them. A male dancer leaped over the flames. Lauren E. Lee swept out with a hula hoop spinning from her hips up to her neck and back down. She spun and rotated her hips in perfect unison to the beat. One of the belly dancers threw her flip flops off so she could feel the ground beneath her feet.

A young man sat in a trance with his eyes closed for well over an hour. He swayed ever so slightly to the beat. A friend of his crouched down beside him. The friend just stared at him probably wondering when he would be noticed. After half an hour of staring, he touched his friends sleeve and was acknowledged. With the sketch finished, I relaxed and felt heavy. There was no way I was about to dance. I realized I had left my pet cockatoo alone all day alone. On the drive home I left the radio off. The ebb and flow of the drum circle was still echoing in my head. My clothes smelled of fire and sweat. When I got home, I was to tired to sleep.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


Pack Rat Bill said...

Tom, great sketch and story! Had no idea this was taking place and want to see one. Thanks!

Jesse said...

Hi I am Jesse Rogers and I run the Drum Circle at the Orlando Brewery, didn't even know this had been done would have loved to have known it was happening at the time. Great Sketch by the way really like it. If there is anyway I can get a copy of the JPG image would like to maybe use it for our Cover Picture for the Orlando Drum Circle Group on Facebook. you can contact me at