NIU Percussion Ensemble plans fall concert, evening to celebrate sounds of Cuba, Burma

NIU Percussion: Embracing the World's Possibilties for Over 30 Years ...The Northern Illinois University Percussion Ensemble, directed by Gregory Beyer and Michael Mixtacki, with graduate assistants Nick Fox and Zane Cupec, will present its fall concert at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19, in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall of the NIU Music Building.

The concert is free, open to the public and accessible to all. There also will be a live, high definition webcast.

The concert will begin with a set of Afro-Cuban sacred rhythms and songs, featuring batá drums, chekeres and hand drumming traditions of the Lucumí people in Cuba.

Dovetailing the residency of the Clocked Out Duo, the Percussion Ensemble will offer a second performance of Australian composer Erik Griswold’s “Strings Attached.” In this delightful work, the performers’ sticks are attached to ropes, creating exciting visual “waves” that reflect the intensity of the musical gestures.

Special guest flutist Zach Weiss will be featured with percussion quartet on Anthony Pateras’ recent work, “Lost Compass.”

The first half of the program will close with a unique new work for very old drums. Earlier this semester the NIU Center for Burma Studies hosted an International Burma Studies Conference, attended by scholars from around the globe.

For the closing ceremonies of that gathering, the center’s director, Catherine Raymond, commissioned Professor Beyer to compose a new piece of music for a rare collection of antique bronze drums housed in the center’s art collection. The center’s previous director, Professor Emeritus Richard Cooler, formed the core of his scholarly work around these drums, in one article calling them “Magical Bronze Ponds.” Beyer’s new work, which he will perform along with four Percussion Ensemble students, is titled, therefore, “Five Ponds.”

The second half will feature freshman percussionist, Noel Henniger, the winner of this year’s xylophone rag contest, performing “Cross Corners” by George Hamilton Green. In honor of the 100th birthday celebration of John Cage, the percussion ensemble will perform his historic “First Construction in Metal,” commemorating this special anniversary year of such an influential and innovative composer.

John Bergamo, famous for his eclectic compositions influenced by world music, brings together the sounds of north India, Carnival rhythms from Cuba, and fusion jazz harmonies of Frank Zappa in “The Grand Ambulation of the B Flat Zombies.” This concert will feature a world premiere of David M. Gordon’s “Jigsaw Zither” for six berimbaus, performed by NIU’s own “Bau House” berimbau ensemble. The concert will close with a rumba called Oddié, played in a style called “Guaguancó.” Audience members will want to get up and dance to this uniquely Cuban party music.

For more information, contact Mixtacki at (815) 753-0871 or mmixtacki@niu.edu or Beyer at (815) 753-7981 or gbeyer@niu.edu.

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