Intricate rhythms and melodies flowed from the McIntosh Theater Saturday night as the University”s Percussion Ensemble performed their spring concert. The students played to a standing room only crowd that supplied each performer with energy. The musicians range from undergraduate to graduate students of percussion along with their director, Dr. Michael Udow. The works presented will also be recorded for a new University Percussion Ensemble CD.
The concert began with the introduction of Thomas Siwe. He conducted as a guest for the first half of the program. He worked at the University of Illinois for 29 years and also toured with the Boston Pops. Professor Udow described him as his mentor and credited him with the creation of a percussion literature course that all international curriculums are based on.
Johanna Beyer composed the opening piece, “IV.” Using blocks, gongs and snare drums, she structured the work like a pyramid. This short piece warmed up the both the performers and audience. The work “Ionisation,” by Edgard Varese, came next and is one of the most influential pieces of percussion music ever written. The use of sirens throughout the piece showed its many dimensions. The cymbal rolls and snare drum stood out in the ensemble and presented rhythm exploration well.
The first half of the concert ended with “Canticle No. 3,” by Lou Harrison. Dawn Kulak played the ocarina solo terrifically and Carrie Magin accompanied her well on the guitar. The complex rhythms and variations of the melody stood out and made this longer piece very enjoyable. The ocarina is not regularly used, and this interpretation showcased the instrument admirably.
After a brief intermission, the ensemble performed “Tambourine Paraphrase,” by Keiko Abe. This marimba quintet was a high-spirited piece that displayed each of the member”s talent. The faster sequences were kept light and precise. Next came “Rosewood Dreaming,” by William Cahn who is a member of the esteemed ensemble Nexus. This 20-minute piece showcased Brian Zator as the marimba soloist. Graduating with a master”s degree, he showed his versatile style of playing by becoming absorbed in the music. The dreamlike accompaniment resonated as Zator unrelentingly displayed his ability throughout the work.
The last piece of the evening featured Tomoko Azuma as the second marimba soloist. University doctoral student Roshanne Etezady wrote the work, “Feast of Famine,” and Azuma continued the extraordinary performances with her own to end the concert. With Mark Berry, Dan DeSena, Ako Toma-Bennett and Professor Udow accompanying her, Azuma showed her skill. Through the many loud crashes created by various types of metal instruments, she kept her focus.