Keene State music department’s brass sections took center stage at the Alumni Recital Hall on November 21.
The Saxophone and Brass Ensembles performed a joint concert in front of a live and virtual audience. It was the first time each of the ensembles had performed in front of an audience in two years.
The Saxophone Ensemble consists of six members, all KSC students. For this concert, they performed alongside director Craig Sylvern.
Sylvern described the saxophone repertoire as “eclectic.” In the development of the performance repertoire for the Saxophone Ensemble, Sylvern said he was committed to implementing elements of diversity and equity. The ensemble played music by several African American composers from around the world.
“It’s my attempt to play music from underserved communities,” Sylvern said.
Opening the Saxophone Ensemble’s concert repertoire was a transcription of a Russian choral piece titled “Salvation is Created,” composed by Pavel Tschesnokoff.
“It’s written for the church, but the composer lived in Russia during the Russian Revolution, and this was the last sacred piece he ever wrote because he wasn’t allowed to do that after the Communist takeover,” Sylvern said.
The ensemble played three movements from “Lyric Quartette” by American composer William Grant Still, also known as the Dean of African American Composers. Still lived and composed his work during the 20th century, Sylvern said.
The Saxophone Ensemble finished their portion of the program with “Heliotrope Bouquet,” by Scott Joplin, a 19th century African American composer. Joplin is known as the “King of Ragtime.”
Sylvern said he particularly enjoyed working on the piece “Tapas” by American composer Marc Mellits. The Saxophone Ensemble performed four of the total eight movements from “Tapas.”
Sylvern said he came across the piece last year at NASA: no, not that NASA. Rather, it was a yearly conference for the North American Saxophone Alliance.
“It’s a little bit different than what we’ve done in the past,” Sylvern said. “[Mellits] has an interesting style that he repeats things over and over and they sort of evolve as they go along, but they have very driving rhythmic content to them.”
Before the Saxophone Ensemble played its final piece of the evening, Sylvern acknowledged senior Claire Fifield, who played her final performance with the ensemble that night. Fifield did not respond to The Equinox’s request for comment.
The Brass Ensemble closed out the concert with its repertoire. Directed by music faculty Seelan Manickam, the Brass Ensemble opened with a piece titled “Celebration of Brass.” Manickam did not respond to The Equinox’s request for comment.
After the first two pieces, the Brass Ensemble left the stage to make way for the Brass Quintet, a fivemember ensemble consisting of students from the larger ensemble. The quintet performed three pieces together, all of which were self-directed.
For the final piece of the evening, the full Brass Ensemble returned to the stage. Celebrating the 20- year anniversary of the first “Harry Potter” film, they performed a piece titled “Quidditch” by American composer John Williams.
For more information about concerts, recitals and other events, visit the Redfern Arts Center website.
Caitlin Howard can be contacted at