For many, music is more than just possessing the talent to perform—it’s about the ability to keep in rhythm with your accompanying performers and to make the audience understand what you feel. That is what the Keene State College Concert Band accomplished during their performance on Nov. 1. The concert band’s performance, highlighted a talented percussion ensemble, started off with a bang. The first piece performed for the audience, “Music for Pieces of Wood” by Steve Reich, featured five musicians playing claves and wooden dowels that produced a clicking sound when struck.
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Described in the program as creating a “kaleidoscope” sound, the KSC musicians Kenneth Ballou, Maria Franciosa, Josh Hanauer, Adam Rhan and Jim Tomaszewski banded five individual pieces of wood together to create a steady yet changing beat. The players’ dedication and concentration led to a brilliant recreation of Reich’s original composition.
The second piece performed, “Foundry” by John Mackey, immediately captured the attention of the audience. The upbeat song brought to mind the industrial world of the down-trodden metal worker. It filled the Main Theatre with bangs, heat and metal. Created by Mackey to represent a “steel-factory” type sound, the Concert Band created these sounds with astonishing accuracy. At times one actually felt as though they were standing among factory line workers.
The Concert Band then performed a version of “Ireland: Of Legend and Lore” by Robert W. Smith, conducted by Assistant Director Travis Corcoran. Smith’s piece brings to mind the green fields of Ireland and chooses to spotlight wind instruments to bring the magic of the country alive.
“More Cowbell” by Scott McAllister followed, echoing the playful sounds of its namesake, a Saturday Night Live skit starring Will Farrell and Christopher Walken. Using eight cowbells, the percussion ensemble added a little “something else” to the rest of the band. The band also played a composition contrasting the other pieces; “Sheltering Sky,” by John Mackey, is described as a piece full of longing and serenity. One gaze across the audience offered validation to this claim as was is obvious that they soaked up the peacefulness of “Sheltering Sky” and its soft, flowing notes.
A quick intermission followed “Sheltering Sky,” allowing the band to rearrange their instruments for the next two pieces, and giving the audience time to reflect on how beautifully the band had performed the previous pieces. Once the lights went down, a drastic change occured. Instead of the standard setup for band, which typically includes wind instruments in front and percussion in back, the percussion has been set up in front which results in their sound being the most illuminated. The first piece the percussion ensemble plays is “Z Conversion” by Minoru Miki. It features Kenneth Ballou, Josh Brennen, Jimmy Caltrider, Maria Franciosa, Jeff Hall, Josh Hanauer, Sean St. Germain and Aaron Taub. Conducted by Professor Christopher Swist, the piece invokes eerie, yet celebratory feelings. It has a ghostlike, singular sound unlike the other pieces.
The finale of the performance, “Concertino for Four Percussion and Wind Ensemble” by David R. Gillingham featured four of the Concert Band’s percussionists; St. Germain, Rhan, Brennen, and Taub. Rhan, who is a freshman, was required to learn “Concertino for Four Percussion and Wind Ensemble” within a week due to replacing another soloist who had been injured. Rhan said of his performance, “It wasn’t insanely difficult. I had it for a little under a week so it was doable, I just had to focus on it.”
Brennen, who is a sophomore percussionist, said, “I think I did very well. I really liked ‘Concertino for Four Percussion and Wind Ensemble’ because of the soloist piece I got to play.” The piece begins slowly with deep, unassuming notes which steadily build up to a combination of wind and percussion laden with intensity. The piece alternates between soft, twinkling harmonies and deep, meaningful crashes of drums and timpani. The piece twists around playful sections of chimes, marimba, and xylophones. The audience sat in quiet appreciation as the music builds, ending with a high, and dramatic trumpet riff.
Overall, KSC’s Concert Band pulled off an awe-inspiring tribute to the Percussion Ensemble. James Chesebrough, associate professor of music, said of the performance, “I am just hoping that the players and audience had as much fun making the music as me.” Upcoming performances from the KSC Music Department include Brass Day and the Brass Guest Artist Recital on Nov. 10 and 11 (recital at 3 p.m.), Guitar Orchestra and Latin American Ensemble Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m., and Orchestra performance Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Megan Scott can be contacted at