To many, percussion is a unique part of music. From feeling the beats of a drum in your chest, to hearing the sounds of the vibraphone in your ears, percussion performances can be involved with more than one of the senses.
On Thursday, Dec. 8, the Keene State College Department of Music presented the Percussion Ensemble, which was directed by Keene State College Resident Artist Christopher Swist, as well as Music Lecturer and Percussionist Amy Garapic.
The performance started off in a non-traditional way to that of most ensemble performances, with all the spotlights off and the stage illuminated only by colorful swirling projections.
Four percussionists performed a piece titled “Mångata,” written in 2016 by Kyle Krause.
The title is a Swedish word for the “road-like reflection of moonlight on water,” something portrayed in the swirling lights that were used to illuminate the musicians.
The performance began with three different pieces performed by three different combinations of musicians and percussion instruments in the first half of the performance, then a short intermission, followed by three more pieces and an encore piece.
Each piece performed was unique, varying in style and composition, often employing everyday found objects as instruments, such as keys on a keychain, various tin cans and ceramic bowls and plates, alongside more traditional percussion instruments.
Swist said the sustainability of percussion is special. “Some people just don’t have money to buy instruments, so young percussionists in countries all around the world need to resort to [creating instruments out of found objects],” Swist said.
First-year Cailyn Brochey was the only female in the percussion ensemble and said the performance went “great.”
“Everyone gets super into it, they’re just having a good time,” Brochey said.
Brochey said she is drawn to the hands-on aspect of percussion and how she can get into the rhythm.
In each performance within the ensemble, the musicians were constantly moving between instruments. “It’s a lot of fun,” Brochey said. “It always keeps you on your toes, I’m never bored. You’re always busy and always going.”
Swist mentioned how this was not always the case in the past.
“In the far past, percussionists specialized more. You would have a cymbal player, a xylophone player and they really didn’t move around,” Swist said. “But in this era of multitasking, it’s pretty common.”
On using those non-traditional found items as instruments, Brochey said, “It’s more challenging than most would think, you really don’t think it’s that hard until you actually get to it, but after awhile it all becomes a lot of fun and you learn a lot from it.”
First-year Music major Siobhan Cooper loved the performance.
“It was a lot of fun. It definitely got me moving in my chair,” Cooper said.
In the last piece before the encore, in La Samba, a circa 1983 piece composed by Ray Obiedo, the percussion ensemble was joined by flautist Callie Carmosino.
During this piece, tin cans were passed out among the audience to make their own music with the ensemble.
“I was super impressed with the percussion ensemble. They always do a good job but this was a great concert.” Carmosino said.
Carmosino said working with the Percussion ensemble involved a lot of “goofing around” and fun, but ultimately the group pulled it together come showtime.
“It’s like a combination of having fun but also making great music,” Carmosino said.
Meridith King can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org