Soren Frantz / Photo Editor

Cowbells, bongos, drums and other instruments took center stage this past Thursday as the Percussion Ensemble presented “Clave! A Survey of Afro-Cuban Rhythm & Style.”
The ensemble was directed by Keene State Resident Artist Christopher Swist alongside Co-Director Amy Garapic and featured music written by Amadeo Roldan, Peter Garland, Swist himself and others. The works performed were “Ritmica No. 5” and “Ritmica No. 6” by Amadeo Roldan, “Variations on a Ghanaian Theme” by Daniel Levitan, “Apple Blossom” by Peter Garland, “Transferencia” by Glenn Kotche, “Little Sunflower” by Freddie Hubbard, “Afro Blue” by Mongo Santamaria, “Phase Dance” by Pat Metheny and “Dave” by Swist.
According to Garapic, the Ritmicas meant a lot to her. “My favorite part was probably rehearsing and performing the Ritmicas. They are just historically very important to the percussion ensemble because they were the first note-taking pieces, so the fact that we have them and are able to perform them now is really special. I performed those as a freshman in music school so to be able to come back and conduct those and teach them to my students was really fun,” said Garapic.
Ensemble member Christian Terry said improvisation was a part of many songs. “I love percussion ensemble. It’s one of my favorite concerts of the semester because you never know what’s going to happen; a lot of it is improvising. For instance, the ‘Afro Blue’ ( [I] love that piece), when I’m playing piano every time is different including the lengths, notes and chords,” said Terry.
There seemed to be a story behind many of the other songs as well. Swist said “Apple Blossom” was a meditation about nature changing over the seasons. Swist also said “Transferencia” was a more American piece written for a drum set. The final piece “Dave,” written by Swist, paid homage to the late jazz musician Dave Samuels.
This last piece was greeted with loud applause from the audience. “It had a lot of jazz band sounding stuff and I love jazz band so it was great to hear that,” said first-year music education major Michael Vlachos. Vlachos also said, “I’ve never personally gone to a percussion ensemble concert, which is pretty unique because you don’t think percussion can make so many sounds like that, but they do.”
Sophomore environmental studies and political science major Casey Brown was drawn to this show because of its uniqueness. “I was really interested. I had never heard a percussion ensemble so I was excited to find out more about it,” said Brown.
The musicians thought this was a nice change of pace as well. “It was something different. I normally play big band jazz and combo jazz but this had a lot more rhythmic stuff in it so it was really fun playing different music,” said sophomore ensemble member Christopher Stimson.
The concert served as both a hello and goodbye. “This performance was really special because it was the last night for a couple of our seniors and it was the first concert for some of our incoming freshmen, so for me it was an exciting experience to see those young performers have their first concert in the percussion ensemble,” said Garapic.
Terry said it was a bittersweet experience. “I’m happy with everything I’ve done but I really wish I could do more. I’m a little sad but I know next semester and the semesters from there on will be just as great and I hope we can set the stage for future musicians to have their time here,” said Terry.
According to Garapic, the show was not without the challenges of people getting sick during the year, putting the music together and striking a balance between musicians of all levels. Terry also said a lot of hard work went into this show. “We rehearsed every Tuesday and Thursday for about an hour and 45 minutes. We practiced a lot and we would also do separate rehearsals with two percussion teachers at times”
The full Percussion Ensemble includes Andrew LeCuyer, Nathan Nelson, Alexander Vance, Dylan Giordano, Christian Terry, Cora Dykens, Jordan Scott, Christopher Stimson, Cailyn Brochey, Paulryan Chipman and Nicholas Lee. The concert was held in the Redfern Arts Center Alumni Recital Hall on Thursday, November 14, from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
Cristian Valentin can be contacted
at cvalentin@kscequinox.com