This past Saturday, March 5, the senior recital of Keene State College’s Music Performance major Adam Rhan occurred in the Alumni Recital Hall in the Redfern Arts Center. Being a percussionist, Rhan performed on a variety of instruments. His first pieces for solo snare drum were an example of the precision produced from the studio of Keene State College professor Christopher Swist. The second, “Two Episodes for Solo Snare Drum,” composed by Anthony Miranda specifically showcased the dynamic and expressive playing Rhan is capable of.
KSC alumnus Nicholas Votruba said he played with Rhan while he was a student playing in the school’s jazz ensembles and that “[he] knew he was a great kit player…but his control on the first pieces was unbelievable.”
Following the snare drum pieces, Rhan moved to the timpani, and played three multi-movement solo pieces for the instrument. His selections included “Saeta,” composed by Elliot Carter, an eight-movement piece with many time changes throughout, intended to give a driving motion. Rhan played three selections from the piece as the composer’s notes direct.
This was the beginning of Rhan’s shift into more progressive and experimental selections to perform. After the final timpani selection he moved to xylophone to play a piece he composed himself entitled “Orion’s Belt”. His notes for the piece state “[it] is written in free form and the tempo is slow but can be interpreted by each performer.” This expressive experimentation with song structure was a theme throughout the new few selections he had.
Rhan played two pieces composed by Christopher Swist; the first a marimba piece titled “Prelude to Marimba” relied on player interpretation much like Rhan’s own work, but the second was an extremely experimental multi-instrument percussion piece played alongside an electronically recorded backing track.
This piece, “Transmission from a Music Box” was written by Swist for Craig Bitterman to perform at SUNY Buffalo in 1997, and it was the first time it had been performed in New Hampshire. The piece was a swirling mass of sound, produced from not only a variety of drums, but bells, congas and even crystal glasses filled with water. The piece was a showcase of imagination when applied to music, and Rhan passionately performed the over ten-minute long solo.
Audience member Stephen Doherty said “Transmission from a Music Box” was one of his favorite pieces, he was “really attracted to the complexity of the instrumentation and the depth of the piece…it was unlike anything I’ve seen performed by a percussionist before.”
Finally, Rhan moved to the drum set to play his last two pieces. The first was “Cherokee” by Ray Noble, an up-tempo jazz tune featuring KSC professor Scott Mullett on solo improvisational saxophone and Adam Jeffrey on bass. Rhan’s notes stated that the song is challenging for improvisation, but the flurry of notes from the ensemble was as tight as it was overwhelming.
Before his final piece, “YYZ” by the progressive rock band Rush, Rhan took a minute to thank the audience for attending the performance and said he hoped they were enjoying it, and to explain that “Rush [had] been a really big part of [his] life emotionally and musically since…[his] father took [him] to [his] first Rush concert when [he] was twelve.” This moment, he said, propelled him into the world of progressive music and inspired him as a musician.
Audience member Daniel Shecrallah said he thought it was funny Rhan said that because “[he] also fell in love with Rush because of [his] dad,” and “YYZ” was definitely his favorite piece because of that.
After a final thank you to his family, Rhan on the drum kit and fellow performers Mark McCarthy on guitar, Chris Robinson on bass and Hannah Benoit on synthesizer launched into a flawless rendition of the rock classic.
Rhan’s recital showcased not only his professionalism and talent, but the skill and hard work invested in KSC’s music department.
Matt Bacon can be contacted at email@example.com.